Fifty three days before the start of the two handed race across the Atlantic, the Transat Jacques Vabre the summer of rest, preparation and maybe a little training is over and it is now time to get down to the serious business of preparing for the upcoming race. Immediately there is a chance to check in and measure up, and to score points on the IMOCA Globe Series with the Défi Azimut. Fourteen duos will compete in the Défi Azimut - Lorient Agglomeration off the port on the bay of Morbihan, a good opportunity to fine-tune the optimisations and changes and to accumulate precious miles before the big one, the double-handed transatlantic race. The Défi Azimut starts next Wednesday and offers a variety of different races
Ironically for a class which races round the world and in the most inhospitable waters of the planet, most of the skippers will be racing from home and except during the 48 hour offshore, most will stay home and sleep in their own beds. This 11th edition runs between Wednesday and Sunday and while it is a full on regatta it is suffused with good humour.
Jean-Marie Corteville who is manager of the company Azimut which founded the race insists the good humour is all part of the event.
“Before the Transat Jacques Vabre, all the competitors are busy with their preparation. The Défi Azimut allows you to take a minute off to go racing and to breathe, to remind yourself what its all about.”
On Wednesday, it's time for speed "runs". Competitors must set the fastest time on a course of one mile, usually reaching. Each boat has four runs. They will all try to beat the record of Armel Tripon, who won him last year aboard L’Occitane en Provence, now the new Bureau Vallée 3 skippered by Louis Burton.
The next day starting from Lorient-La Base, the "48h Azimut" will kick off. Sailors will have to race a loop in the Atlantic. In addition to the two skippers, a mediaman will be on board to bring the race to life from the inside. The race this time is wide open as Jérémie Beyou is absent this year and has won the last two editions. The event ends with a timed sprint round the Groix island, the ‘Chrono Tour de Groix’, fully crewed looking to beat the record held by Vincent Riou since 2015 (1h08min10 sec).
Alongside the races, a series of conferences and seminars are run around the buouyancy of the French offshore racing industry. But above all the race is an opportunity to have a last warm-up lap before La Transat Jacques-Vabre.
Among the competing teams, the favourites must be the Charlie Dalin-Paul Meilhat duo, winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race.
"We will be facing competitors for the first time that we have not even seen yet," says Dalin second overall in the Vendée Globe. “But we will take full advantage of this evet to continue fine-tuning the boat and our settings. "
But the level is already very high including Thomas Ruyant-Morgan Lagravière (LinkedOut), Nicolas Troussel-Sébastien Josse (CORUM L'EPARGNE), Louis Burton-Davy Beaudart (Bureau Vallée 3) and even Sébastien Simon-Yann Eliès ( Arkéa Paprec). At the same time, Damien Seguin and Benjamin Dutreux have paired up (APICIL Group), Samantha Davies races with Nicolas Lunven (Initiatives-Cœur) as well as Romain Attanasio and Sébastien Marsset (Fortinet-Best Western).
This year, Jérémie Beyou will not be there, his 60-foot Charal is currently back in the yard for a repair to some damage caused by a collision with an object on the return delivery from the Fastnet. Vendée Globe winner Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV), has other obligations and will not make the trip and neither does Giancarlo Pedote who is occupied in Italy with his his sponsors.
Among the exciting new firsts during the four days, there will be the first racing miles of the new 11th Hour Racing’s 11.2 (Verdier design), the first boat to have been designed for The Ocean Race
In addition, four duos will compete in their first official regatta: Clément Giraud-Erik Nigon (Compagnie du lit- Jiliti), Manu Cousin-Alexia Barrier (Groupe Setin-4myPlanet), Arnaud Boissières-Rodolphe Sépho (La Mie Câline-Artisans Artipôle) and Isabelle Joschke-Alain Gautier (MACSF). And now Défi Azimut counts for the first time as an event on the 2021-2025 IMOCA Globe Series championship: at the end of the 48H Azimut, the overall winner gets 14pts.
11th HOUR RACING 1 : Justine Mettraux (SUI) - Simon Fisher (GBR)
11th HOUR RACING 2 : Charlie Enright (USA) – Pascal Bidégorry (FRA)
APIVIA : Charlie Dalin (FRA) – Paul Meilhat (FRA)
ARKÉA PAPREC : Sébastien Simon (FRA) – Yann Eliès (FRA)
BUREAU VALLÉE : Louis Burton (FRA) – Davy Beaudart (FRA)
COMPAGNIE DU LIT-JILITI : Clément Giraud (FRA) – Erik Nigon (FRA)
CORUM L’ÉPARGNE : Nicolas Troussel (FRA) – Sébastien Josse (FRA)
FORTINET – BEST WESTERN : Romain Attanasio (FRA) – Sébastien Marsset (FRA)
GROUPE APICIL : Damien Seguin (FRA) – Benjamin Dutreux (FRA)
GROUPE SÉTIN – 4MYPLANET : Manu Cousin (FRA) – Alexia Barrier (FRA)
INITIATIVES-CŒUR : Samantha Davies (GBR) – Nicolas Lunven (FRA)
LA MIE CALINE-ARTISANS ARTIPÔLE : Arnaud Boissières (FRA) – Rodolphe Sépho (FRA)
LINKEDOUT : Thomas Ruyant (FRA) – Morgan Lagravière (FRA)
MACSF : Isabelle Joschke (FRA) – Alain Gautier (FRA)