Weather gods promise record finish on eve of Transat Jacques Vabre
President Macron visits village and wishes skippers good luck
• Under 8 day finish possible for Ultime; Class40 talk of 14 days
• Records and races mark a great weekend in the Atlantic
• Skippers unloading food
The weather gods have smiled on one of the great weekends for offshore sailing. Gone was the sun of the previous week, as a more northerly wind blew through the Normandy harbour of Le Havre followed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who toured the race village in the evening. The 38 boats and 76 crew Transat Jacques Vabre will begin casting off their mooring from the Bassin Paul Vatine at 08:15 UTC tomorrow (Sunday) and head out towards the start line in front of the Cap de la Hève for the 13th edition of this bi-annual double-handed transatlantic race.
Actually, 37 boats will file out to meet the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, which at 23m wide 50cm, was too big to get into the dock.
Twenty knot north-westerly winds and coastal currents will greet them as they cross the line at 12:25 UTC and head 15 miles along the coast to round the compulsory mark at Étretat. Then they will be out into The Channel where a wild Atlantic ride awaits them. If they can avoid the 45-knot wind-against-wave boat-breaking conditions, the four classes –Ultime (3boats), Multi 50 (6), Imoca (13) and Class40 (16) – will plunge south to the finish in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil at record-breaking speed. The latest routing for the favourite Ultime is under eight days, which would smash Groupama 2’s at-the-time astonishing 10day 0h 38min time, when the race last went to Salvador in 2007. The official routing for the Multi 50s is saying 10½ days, 13 for the Imoca and 17½ for the Class40. That would be five days quicker than the 2007 time, but incredibly the talk on the pontoon is of a 14-day finish. That would be a quantum leap. So confident is much of the fleet that they could be seen removing bags of food from their boats.
These are winds for it. November in the Atlantic is always lively, but this is a genuinely extraordinary weekend for offshore sailing and that is why , two former participants in the Route du Café chose to start their record attempts today (Saturday). François Gabart, the Ultime winner in 2015, left on his solo round-the-world attempt on his trimaran Macif, while Yves Le Blevec has taken on the challenge of a reverse solo round-the-world trip on his multihull, Actual.
The Volvo Ocean Race boats will also be joining them with Leg 2, Lisbon to Cape Town also starting tomorrow. Meanwhile the Mini Transat 6.50s have already been out there since last week.
“We’re all happy because the wind is here and that’s a really good sign because I think we’re going to have a very fast trip to Salvador de Bahia this Transat Jacques Vabre,” said Sam Davies, British co-skipper of Imoca contender Initiatives Cœur, who sent a good luck message to all the boats on the Atlantic.
“We’re looking forward to tomorrow because it is going to be a great send-off. I think the Imoca class record is going to be broken. Our routing is looking like less than 13 days and maybe even less than 12. I’m not if we’ll manage to keep that pace up, obviously we’ve got to get through the Doldrums and you never really know what that’s going to throw at you and that can add at least 12 hours. But we’ve removed bags of food to make Initiatives Cœur lighter because we’re confident that we’re going to be quicker than we thought.”
Attention: Scallops and 50-knots ahoy!
“(after a tricky start) in the English Channel there’s the usual shipping, apparently it’s scallop fishing time, so there’s lots of boats. Then as we get towards Ushant, we’ve got to get through a ridge of high pressure, then set off into south-westerlies which will be getting stronger very rapidly and then we’ve to got to tack through the usual famous cold front upwind from the Bay of Biscay. On the forecast we’re seeing 50-knot gusts and 5-metre seas. It’s not going to be easy but hopefully the pain will be over quickly and once we’re on starboard tack we’ll be able to ease the sheets and start going really fast.”
Alex Pella, co-skipper, Arkema (Multi 50)
“We have the Transat weather now, not the Spanish. It could be (record weather). We have seen after the front that we’re on one gybe down, down, down. We don’t know the forecast for 10 days but it looks like lots of pressure and that we’ll fly down after Cape Verde – it could be very fast. That’s good! The less time you are in the water the better, less problems. It could be 11-12 days, we have food for 14 because we prepared last week, but maybe we can take out a couple of days.
The first two or three days are going to be lively. We’ll have wind for the start of the race and from here to the point of Brittany is reaching with 25 knots and these boats are really fast in those conditions. After that the wind will drop down and we have a ridge of high pressure to cross, a tactical, strategy moment, then after that we need to catch the front of the depression and for us that should be the moment to stay calm because maybe there will be a lot of activity in this front with rain and big clouds and 35-40 knot north-westerlies, and when we catch this wind we’ll have the waves against us for at least six hours. That’s the moment to stay calm and preserve the boat and the crew.”
Thomas Ruyant, co-skipper Malizia II (Imoca)
“It’s going to be technical and lively. The conditions will be very varied, which means a lot of sail changes. You’ll have to make the right choices, because changing a sail costs you. We’ll have to anticipate things well. In the forecasts today, we’ll have a very strong front, gusts of more than 45 knots, big seas in the Bay of Biscay. I’m happy to be going with the same weapons as my competitors. We have a great machine, and are super ready.”
Read the forms guide here:
by Transat Jacques Vabre