In a few weeks skippers planning to compete in the next Vendée Globe will take to their freshly primed IMOCA monohulls. Two major races are on their itinerary this spring: The Transat CIC from Brest - Charleston and the New York - Vendée (Les Sables d'Olonne) Transat.
These two key solo races represent an important opportunity to line up against the competition and for some to complete requisite qualification racing miles in order to finally cement a place in the Vendée Globe fleet. At just a few months before the pinnacle event, the stakes are very definitely high.
The Transat CIC Brest - Charleston (starts May 10)
This is the oldest, original Transatlantic races, the race who gave birth to the Tabarly legend. But this race which traditionally has always gone from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island has evolved. Now the start is in Brest and the finish in Charleston. The north Atlantic course offers a very stiff challenge, quite different to Autumn's passages to Brazil or Guadeloupe for example.
The usual choice is between two radically different routings. To the north, the orthodromic (shortest most direct route) usually yields cold headwinds, heavy seas and even the possibility of a few icebergs near the route. By choosing the much more southerly routing, the solo sailors can expect more favourable, reaching wind angles and a more manageable sea. But it is a route said to be 20% longer. For the foilers especially the issue is whether the speed gain in the south compensates for the increased miles sailed. And at this stage in the quadrennial build up to the Vendée Globe, so close to the start, skippers want to avoid any potentially boat- breaking conditions and may choose the conservative option.
This first transatlantic will be an opportunity to check in with the fleet and for observers to see who the favorites are likely to be and to get a feel for the performance of skippers race testing their new raceboats such as Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence) or Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG Mori). And for others it will actually be the baptism of fire in IMOCA solo racing mode, those skippers including Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X), Benjamin Dutreux (Water Family), Kevin Escoffier (PRB). And Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) in particular needs to finish these races to qualify herself having abandoned both the Route du Rhum and the Transat Jacques Vabre.
There will be 17 solo skippers at the start of this east to west 'outwards' Transatlantic. On the strength of his win in the Transat Jacques Vabre with Yann Eliès Charlie Dalin (Apivia) maybe establishes himself as a favourite but for sure the leading contenders should include Thomas Ruyant (Advens for Cybersecurity), Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur), Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ), Boris Herrmann (Malizia II – Yacht Club de Monaco) and Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group)…
New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) starts on the 10th June.
This second edition of the newer, more recently established Transat New York -Vendée should comprise 24 starters. As well as the 17 skippers from The Transat the seven addtional racers will include Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Nicolas Troussel (Corum L’Epargne) and Sébastien Simon (Arkéa Paprec). This west to east race follows a faster course which is more downwind and reaching, realistically more akin to what the solo racers can expect on long sections of Vendée Globe, and so it is a more useful speed test for skippers and their boats.
Skippers like Miranda Merron (Campagne de France), Manuel Cousin (Groupe Setin), Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Pip Hare (Pip Hare Ocean Racing) and Maxime Sorel (V and B – Mayenne) are doing both races to maximise the racing miles they sail. Others have chosen just the faster east going race to Les Sables d'Olonne, like Stéphane Le Diraison (Time for Oceans), Romain Attanasio (Pure), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest - Art et Fenêtres), Conrad Colman (Ethical Power), Pip Hare (Pip Hare Ocean Racing) and Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil).. Erik Nigon (Vers un Monde sans SIDA) will return to take his place on board his boat after having entrusted it to Clément Giraud for The Transat CIC. The only skipper missing so far for the The Transat is Thomas Ruyant . However, entries are not yet closed and by June things change.
To be able to qualify for the start of the Vendée Globe you also have to prove the boat and skipper partnership is reliable and competitive. So Clément Giraud, Nicolas Troussel, Armel Tripon, Isabelle Joschke and Kojiro Shiraishi have to complete at least one of the two preseason races to validate their registration. This might be seen as additional pressure just a few months from the Vendée Globe.