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2015 Transat Jacques Vabre - St Michel-Virbac retires

Transat Jacques Vabre 2015

One week on from the start of this 12th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre and of the 42 starters there have now been 16 abandons.

Latest to formally announce his retirement from the race today was the three times winner Jean-Pierre Dick. Arrived in Madeira with co-skipper Fabien Delahaye, Dick confirmed today that they will not return to the race. He wants to have complete confidence in his new IMOCA 60 before he races again, he said, today. Whether that is in the upcoming solo race from St Barths to Brittany or next year, will depend on the evaluation, advice leading to consequent repairs and reinforcement which can be accomplished in Madeira.

Meanwhile a technical team attached to AT Racing were reported to be heading out to recover the new Hugo Boss which Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill were rescued from yesterday, 60 miles off the Spanish coast. Kito de Pavant and Yann Reginau also reported their retirement today in Cascais, citing irrepairable key sails, and electronics.

The rate of attrition in this race, 38%, is higher than the ‘normal’ figure which is closer to 25%. But the causes of these abandons are diverse. Of the five new, latest generation IMOCA monohulls which started now only the class leading Banque Populaire VIII is still on course. Safran, Edmond de Rothschild, St-Michel Virbac are all retired as will Hugo Boss in time. All of these boats were short of hard racing miles, and as Dick pointed out, are nearly new prototypes which nowadays evolve to become the machines they need to be.

“Boats designed today are too fragile. But we work now with the designers on Version two. Along with my partners we are frustrated not to finish. But these are racing prototypes. We knew that we had a lot to learn with this generation of foiler boats. So we are already working towards the future.”

Half of the damage occurred before the third depression which capsized Prince de Bretagne, the Ultime while the Multi50 FrenchTech Rennes St Malo hit a submerged container around the same time. Some damage was due to wear and tear, almost certainly Le Bateau des Métiers by Aerocampus (IMOCA 60) and probably Spirit of Hungary which was dismasted yesterday afternoon. Skipper Nandor Fa confirmed they were sailing in ‘dream conditions’ 14-17kt trade winds, both in the cockpit when their mast came down. SMA damaged their keel fin in what they believe to have been an impact of some kind, whilst Maitre CoQ and Adoptunskipper.net both suffered standing rigging failures.

Entering into the Doldrums today the two Ultime multis are trading the lead. Sodebo Ultim, Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias returned to the lead today with about 100 miles to go before the first signs of an asthmatic SE’ly trade wind. There is less than 1.5 miles between Sodebo Ultim’ and MACIF and with more than 2000 miles to go, it is too close to call.

In the IMOCA 60s Banque Populaire VIII holds a margin of 21 miles over PRB and 33 over Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir. The leading three skippers are looking closely at the fortunes of the two Ultimes south of them, crossing at 30 W as that is almost certainly the same exit door from the Nothern Hemisphere that the leading IMOCAs will take. Behind the leading trio Le Souffle de Nord and Initiatives-Coeur are six miles apart, 240 miles behind the lead trio. They, then, have 150 miles of cushion over the third tier which spans sixth placed Bureau Vallée to Sam Goodchild and Eric Bellion in ninth on Comme un Seul Homme Stand as one.

Class40 has a tiered structure too. Le Conservatuer have 50 miles on second. Brazil’s Zetra, Eduardo Penido and Renate Araujo are sailing a great first Class 40 ocean race in sixth, Pip Hare and Philippa Hutton Squire a solid eighth. But between sixth and ninth there is 58 miles.

From the crews:

Jean-Pierre Dick, skipper St Michel-Virbac: “’I am very disappointed but we must move on positively. We will go straight into a boat building process be able to sail safely and at 100% potential. Boats designed today are too fragile. We work now with the designers on Version two which is more consistent with the program. With my partners, we are frustrated not being able to finish the race but that’s part and parcel of this game. These are racing prototypes. You need to update and evolve these prototypes. We knew we had a lot to learn with this new generation of foiler. And so we are already working to the future. ‘

Nandor Fa, skipper Spirit of Hungary: “We were sitting outside in our seats with Peter, having our meals and talking. The sun was shining, we weren’t cold anymore, everything was good. We were just discussing how to pass Madeira. There was a huge crack and from my seat I could see the boom disappear from the picture. I immediately knew what happened. I dropped the bowl and by reflex pushed the middle button on the keel controller. By the time I stood up, everything was in the water. Half of the boom was on the deck and on the cabin top. The bottom three metres of the mast was laying on the deck, then a big crack again, and everything was in the water, hanging on the halyards. Both of us jumped for tools, we mainly needed knifes and the iron saw. We knew that the most important was to cut everything off to save the boat. Peter had his camera on his head. I was working in the front, trying to saw the carbon stays off, but they were too thick so the saw was stuck, constantly pulling me as the boat was dancing on the waves. Peter was coming to help me when a bigger wave arrived and knocked the boat. Peter tried to catch the rail, which wasn’t there anymore. He fell off the deck in front of my eyes, his right foot stuck in the stay, I caught the left one and pulled him back. He hurt his leg very bad. Are you in one piece? – I asked. He nodded, he must have had serious pain. The camera with all our footages are on the way down to the bottom of the 4000m deep ocean. A minute later we continued cutting and we managed to get rid of everything, when I saw the A7 still hanging at the back. I tried to pull it back, wanted to save this beautiful brand new sail that we only used for four hours but on the other side it was pulled by the whole mast and it was pulling stronger. So I cut it off too, with bleeding heart.

We saved the boom, it is in perfect condition, and we have some ruins of the mast left.

My whole life was changed in only one hour. It changed everything for the following months, maybe years

by Transat Jacques Vabre

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