In Salvador de Bahia, Brasil the last of the IMOCA fleet of the Transat Jacques Vabre are due to finish. The duos’ arrivals more or less coincide with a time period at which there is almost exactly one year until the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe and so what can be learned from this timely edition of the biennial Transatlantic classic from Le Havre to Salvador?
Certain favourites emerge from the fleet, others arrived disappointed. Some racers cement their status in the race for qualifying miles, others had their race compromised by damage. All in all this marks a good point to run the rule over the fleet before a winter preparaing for the next two Globe Series races, the Tansat CIC and the New York-Vendée race in the spring of 2020. A few will be content with their learning and their work over the Transat Jacques Vabre but for most it is the measure of how far they have to go.
A Race of Many Parts.
The first part of the race was dominated by the Charal duo Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt. But the Doldrums proved unusually tricky and Beyou and Pratt sadly saw their 100-mile lead evaporate in the sweltering heat of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. As they became snared in the zone of variable, unsettled light winds, so the door to the southern hemisphere was opened for Charlie Dalin and Yann Elies who were fortunate to just escape and quickly build a lead.
The near perfect performance of Apivia underlined the high quality of the preparation of the MerConcept team. For Dalin his first offshore race with the new Verdier design comes at a time when the newly launched IMOCAs are increasingly complex and require more and more sophisticated preparation. Another freshly launched IMOCA which impressed was the new Verdier design Advens for Cybersecurity of Thomas Ruyant sailing with co-skipper Antoine Koch. Despite a stop at Cherbourg at the start of the race to repair an autopilot failure Ruyant and Koch recovered to finish in fifth, passing almost the entire fleet.
Kevin Escoffier sailing with La Solitaire winner Nicolas Lunven on PRB, again, proved his significant potential on PRB finishing second on a highly VPLP-Verdier design which was designed for the 2012 Vendée Globe as also did Sam Davies and Paul Meilhat on Initiatives Coeur in seventh. Even if they will not line up on the next Vendée Globe it is worth noting the excellent performance of 11 Hour Racing, the former Hugo Boss, being sailed by American Charlie Enright who is running a team towards The Ocean Race and sailed with the vastly experienced Pascal Bidégorry who took fourth. Fabrice Amedeo and Eric Peron (Newrest Arts & Fenêtres) finish at last in 9th position in reward of their sensible race.
West Is Not Best, This Time
Before the start the big question was whether to go west, get around the low pressure and into the favourable winds earlier or to stick south down the Portuguese coast where the trade winds looked guaranteed. This time the western option did not work out. The depression faltered and moved off course, the Azores anticyclone moved accordingly and the route south for those in the east proved most profitable. Indeed those in the west had to more or less line back up with the group which had stayed east, losing many miles and sailing more distance. Among them Louis Burton and Davy Beaudart (Bureau Vallée 2), Yannick Bestaven and Roland Jourdain (Maître CoQ), Arnaud Boissières and Xavier Macaire (La Mie Câline - Artisans Artipôle), Alan Roura and Sébastien Audigane (La Fabrique), Stéphane Le Diraison and François Guiffant (Time for Oceans), Boris Herrmann and Will Harris (Monaco's Malizia 2 - Yacht Club) and Giancarlo Pedote and Anthony Marchand (Prysmian Group) all paid a heavy price for going west.
Three teams had to withdraw. Clément Giraud and Rémi Beauvais (Fortil) could not start because of a fire on board before the start. Isabelle Joschke and Morgan Lagravière (MACSF) damaged their keel after grounding just after the start, having to retire into Lorient. Alex Thomson and Neal Mac Donald (Hugo Boss) hit something in he water off the Canaries and badly damaged their keel system of their brand-new IMOCA. After cutting the keel free the crew was able to sail the keel-less boat 800 miles to Mindelo in the Cape Verde islands. But there is a major project ahead for the British team. But the worst news is really for Joschke who did not finish last year’s Route du Rhum either. In the race for selection miles she and Giraud are the bottom of the rankings.
Sébastien Simon and Vincent Riou (Arkéa-Paprec) really struggled and have lessons to learn after they broke two foils, one before the start. And Giancarlo Pedote on Prysmian Group will have to analyze why one of his foils broke.
The race within the race for non-foiling daggerboard IMOCAs
Although the best of the non foiling IMOCAs proved competitive early on in the Transat Jacques Vabre in terms of raw speed they were not able to match the newer foiling boats. That said
Banque Populaire X of Armel Le Cléac'h and Clarisse Crémer were sixth, losing out in the last few days. Behind them, Jean le Cam and Nicolas Troussel (Corum l'Epargne) were thirteenth just ahead of Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme (Apicil Group). Pure (Romain Attanasio - Sébastien Marsset) and V and B - Mayenne (Maxime Sorel - Guillaume Le Brec) finished within a few hours. Worth highlighting is the 20th place of Benjamin Dutreux and Thomas Cardrin (Water Family) considering they had very little preparation time.
It was more difficult to rivalize for the older boats, like Campagne de France (Miranda Merron Halvard Mabire), Pip Hare Ocean Racing (Pip Hare – Ysbrandt Endt), Ariel 2 (Ari Huusela – Michael Ferguson) and Vers un Monde sans SIDA (Erik Nigon – Tolga Pamir).
The race for miles is still relevant
Of the 37 candidate entrants for the next race, 18 are now assured of their place on the start line, subject to finalizing their budget, and for those who have not completed the Route du Rhum completing a qualification course for the owners of a new boat and the competitors who finished the last Vendée Globe.
For others, the race for qualifying miles continues. Five sailors have enough miles to ensure they can’t be overhauled by sailors near the bottom of the miles ranking. Boris Herrmann, Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin), Stéphane Le Diraison (Time for Oceans), Alexia Barrier (4myplanet) and Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) can look forward to the spring of 2020 with some certainty. For the others the two Transatlantics will hold the final key to them being one of the thirty-four Vendée Globe entrants. So, between sailors who want to test their machine before the November’s start to the ultimate solo racing test around the world, and those who now need to finish these races, the next two IMOCA Globe Series races promise to be fascinating.