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Pam Lee and Tiphaine Ragueneau, the Irish-French duo, who raced the Atlantic under the Cap pour elles initiative, crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre off Fort-de-France, Martinique on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon at 12:24:40hrs local time (16:24:40 hrs) UTC) to complete their race in 29th place from a record fleet of 44 Class40s which started in Le Havre on 29th October. The Class40 race across the Atlantic had a pitstop in Lorient for a week to avoid a huge storm in Biscay.

Their elapsed time is 21d 23h 1m 13s and they finish 3d 10h 39m after the Class40 race winners.

Having to return to Lorient for a quick sail repair cost them around six hours of lost time and meant they were playing catch-up from the second start. Then a series of torn sails slowed the girls. They lost their workhorse A2 spinnaker at the Canary Islands and so progressively dropped out of the group they were racing hard against. After spending more than five days repairing it, after only five or six hours use the sail tore again. And then finally the A6 spinnaker, which had become their substitute downwind sail, also expired last night.

On the dock in Fort-de-France, drenched in Champagne Lee, from Greystones south of Dublin, Ireland, recalled, “At the start we unrolled the J1 to go upwind and basically it started to come apart and so we had to go back in. And so we started six or eight hours after the fleet. We caught up but we have had a succession of torn sails. The thing is the sails come with the boat and they are older and we don’t have a budget to buy new. There was a moment last night when the clew came off the A6 spinnaker and I thought ‘oh well, I can’t trim that any more.’ So we have had the A4 up since the Canaries, that is 15 days. We were in with a good group and we know we could have kept up with them, Nestenn and La Manche, and so we were in our hustle, we had caught up. The A4 thing was hard because we were not able to play with that group at all and that was hard mentally. And then it went and finally the A6. The result is one thing, yes, but our objective was to finish the TJV and we have done that. So all of those things are achieved and so we just have to come back and do it better next time.”

Lorient-based Lee, a pro sailor and technical specialist who had five delivery Transatlantics on cruising yachts and Class 40s under her belt, and ex match racer and veterinarian Ragueneau, went through a rigorous selection process to be chosen for the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race’s Cap pour elles initiative which aims to support up and coming female sailors who want to go ocean racing.

Their selection was confirmed just over nine months ago and while they have had professional help and support from the likes of Anne Combier - who is team manager for Yannick Bestaven’s Vendée Globe winning Maître CoQ programme - the initiative provides the competitive Lift 40 Class40 boat and some initial funding - and facilitated ENGIE’s support. But ultimately, it was down to the girls to find the final tranche of money, which allowed them to take the start. They brought on board Brittany Ferries and DFDS ferries just a few weeks before the race began.

And so today, having completed the course and overcome all the adversity that has come their way on the Atlantic, as well as on land in the months leading up to the start, they had every good reason to be proud of all their achievements.
Their success was about much more than bringing the boat across the finish line, but of dealing with setbacks and at the same time hopefully inspiring a next generation of female ocean racers who are maybe already thinking of applying for Cap pour Elles 2025!

“Since the start of the project until now, we have had to face many difficulties but we can be proud of ourselves,” Lee told the noisy, partisan crowd on the dock today in perfect French.

“We are very happy to have finished because the last few hours have been trying, physically and mentally,” added Lee’s French counterpart Ragueneau. “We had broken many things on board, we had no more water. It was time for us to get finished.”
“The last few months haven’t been easy, this transatlantic hasn’t been easy but we’re here,” smiled Ragueneau.

The two women shared their special moment on the dock knowing how they have supported each other through some dark hours and come through smiling, having learned so much for the future.

Ragueneau said on the pontoon: “We both have very beautiful images as memories. We've been sailing downwind for about ten days, with incredible speeds, magnificent sunsets and sunrises. The sunrise yesterday morning was particularly beautiful! But what strikes me most is how our sails have been torn apart one by one (laughing)! We had to overcome that while remaining motivated and united. There was always one of us cheering the other one up. Between us this was a real voyage of discovery. We didn’t know each other at all before this Cap pour elles and it so it is even something of a challenge in itself to spend three weeks at sea together. But it worked out well between us!”

Lee said: “We have experienced some magnificent moments and some incredible adventures. We tore up our entire spinnaker, our J1. Overcoming that together is a lifetime memory. We got along very well. Sometimes one of us was a little grumpy but it alternated (laughs). The energy we brought to this throughout the project helped us complete this race. Not everyone could have gotten through all this. The future? I have no idea at all. Maybe do the Transat Jacques Vabre again but with three spinnakers this time! But seriously we both want to continue offshore racing, Tiphaine more in Figaro and me more in Class40. And why not sail together again?”

Published in Class40

Ireland’s Pamela Lee of Greystones, sailing with Tiphaine Rageneau on the Class40 Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries, finished 29th in class today (Sunday) at Martinique, having leapt back into the race despite an enforced return to Lorient for an emergency sail repair.

Italian teams have dominated the top places in Class40 crossing the Atlantic, with Alberto Bona and Pablo Santurde del Arco on the Italian Mach 40.5 IBSA crossing the Class 40 finish line in fourth place on Friday (Nov. 24th) in the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, with their aggregate time of 18 days 21 hours 22 minutes and 47 seconds securing them third place overall.

Ireland’s Pamela Lee of Greystones, sailing with Tiphaine Rageneau on the Class40 Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries, finished 29th in class in the 2023 Transat Jacques Vabre Source: Race TrackerIreland’s Pamela Lee of Greystones, sailing with Tiphaine Rageneau on the Class40 Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries, finished 29th in class in the 2023 Transat Jacques Vabre Source: Race Tracker

When added to Ambrogio Beccaria's winning Musa 40 Alla Grande PIRELLI, Italian boats take an unprecedented first and third overall, but former Mini-Transat double winner Ian Lipinski of France, did a real Lazarus act by recovering so well from a dismasting in the short sharp initial leg from Le Havre to Lorient that he and Antoine Carpentier (Crédit Mutuel) finished second in the second leg in Class40 when they crossed the finish line in Martinique at 1343hrs local time (1743hrs UTC) on Thursday 23rd November.


Their race time was 19 days, 16 hours, 2 minutes and 36 seconds. They sailed the theoretical route at an average speed of 8.57 knots. Out on the water, they actually sailed 5305.48 miles, averaging 11.24 knots. Although they dismasted on the first leg, their aggregate elapsed time includes an allocated time equivalent to that of the last-placed finisher on the first leg plus six hours.

Lipinski, a double winner of the MiniTransat, said, “When we dismasted, we thought the TJV was over, but they told me there was a possibility. We sailed to make sure the mast would hold up. During the first day, we kept it cool because we wanted to be sure. There was a huge amount of work from the team and the class. Finishing second here is a sort of thanks to all those who helped us. It wasn’t down to much. After dismasting it probably led us to go south. I remember before on this race, it got boring, but here it kept changing. It wasn’t boring. It wasn’t like it was normally. We didn’t understand what our rival was doing unless the weather forecasts were wrong. As for the winners, they won the first and second leg. We couldn’t do anything against them.”

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Italian skipper Ambrogio Beccaria and French co-skipper Nicolas Andrieu sailing the all-Italian Musa 40 Alla Grande PIRELLI took first place in the highly competitive Class40 race on the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre two-handed race when they crossed the finish line off Fort-de-France, Martinique in beautiful morning sunshine at 08:01:36 hrs local time (12:01:36 hrs UTC).

The elapsed time for the 4045-mile course is 18 days 12 hours 21 minutes and 55 seconds. In a record-sized fleet of 44 boats, which started from Le Havre on 29 October but paused in Lorient for seven days to sit out a huge storm on the Bay of Biscay, Beccaria and Andrieu were also first to complete the stage to Lorient.

Beccaria, who is an Italian-trained marine engineer and Andrieu, an aeronautical engineer who is director of R & D with Béyou Racing, have led for much of the race except for when a group broke to the north a week ago. But the Italian-French duo stuck to their guns and have prevailed. The second-placed Class40 boat was around 50 miles behind as Alla Grande PIRELLI was crossing the Bay of Fort de France heading for victory.

Beccaria’s biggest success to date in Class40 was finishing second behind Yoann Richomme on last year’s Route du Rhum, but this season he and Andrieu won the Normandy Channel Race, the Malouine Lamotte and he was second on the Défi Atlantique race from Guadeloupe to La Rochelle via the Azores, sailing with Alberto Riva and the co-designer of his boat Gianluca Guelfi.

He follows in the wake of legendary Italian ocean racer Giovanni Soldini who until now is the first and only Italian to win the 40 footer class on this race doing so on the 2007 edition with compatriot Pietro d’Ali into Salvador de Bahia Brazil.

From a non-sailing Milanese family, Beccaria really took to sailing on family holidays in Sardinia and really took to racing when he got a Laser 4000 for his 18th birthday, going on to become national champion. As a young trainee naval engineer he rescued and rebuilt a Pogo 2 which he raced the Mini Transat on before finishing third overall in the 2019 race in the whole fleet on a standard Pogo 3, winning both legs the production boat division.

When studying at La Spezia he met up with Guelfi and they became firm friends. When he decided to campaign in Class 40 he called on his friend and they built at Eduardo Bianchi’s new facility in Genoa.

Down to earth Beccaria, 32, is intent on demystifying and normalising solo and short hand ocean racing. He is renowned for a typical passion for risotto and carries a pressure cooker on Alla Grande Pirelli. When times get tough or an opportunity arises, he his well known for conjuring up his favourite dish.

Their race time was 18 days 12 hours 21 minutes 55 seconds. The duo sailed the theoretical 4045 miles between Le Havre and Fort-de-France at an average speed of 9.1 knots. Out on the water, they actually sailed 5381.51 miles averaging 12.11 knots.

First reactions from Ambrogio Beccaria and Nicolas Andrieu

Nicolas Andrieu: “It feels great, but above all there is a feeling of relief, as the competition was so intense with the boats close to us and those far away. That was a lot of pressure to bear for 17 days."

Beccaria: “Given the information we had about ten days ago, the southern option seemed the best bet, but we knew it wasn’t sewn up. There was some luck involved. Having chosen that option, the best thing for us was to aim to finish first in our group, and secondly do the best we could. Sometimes, it was hard to juggle with that. We felt like keeping our close rivals in check, but we told ourselves, there was a bigger picture."

Ambrogio Beccaria: “Even if we knew a few hours ago, we were set to win the race, you don’t want to say that. So, crossing the line is a weight off our shoulders. The time passes by quickly, as there is always something to do. At the finish we have an excellent knowledge of the boat. She is a good all-rounder. She doesn’t have any weak points and performs well whatever the conditions. It’s nice to have two good skippers, but a good boat is essential.”

“We got to know each other in this race. Nicolas is very sincere and remains relaxed even in the toughest moments. That gave me a lot of energy. It raised the standard and became a strength for us.”

“We got to know each other in this race. Nicolas is very sincere and remains relaxed even in the toughest moments. That gave me a lot of energy. It raised the standard and became a strength for us.”

“It was difficult in Italy for ocean racers to find sponsors in Italy, but they supported us and that was very important. In Italy, we don’t have the ocean, so we work in France. As there is a winner from Italy, I hope there will be people discovering that and competing in the future. When I was young, I didn’t know about this possibility. Maybe in the future, other sponsors will join in.”

Ireland's Class 40 entry in the race, Pamela Lee from Greystones Harbour sailing with Tiphaine Ragueneau is lying 29th in the 37-boat fleet still racing with 700 miles to sail to the Martinique line.

Published in Class40
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When they broke the finish line of the 30th-anniversary edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre off Fort-de-France, Martinique in the inky darkness of this Sunday morning at 0202hrs local time, (0602hrs UTC), Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière (For People) won the IMOCA race. (subject to Jury).

Their elapsed time for the 3750 nautical mile course from Le Havre to Martinique is 11d 21h 32m 31s. Their average speed for the theoretical course is 13.17 knots. They actually sailed 5425 nautical miles at a speed of 19 knots.

From a record entry of 40 boats, which started from Le Havre on Tuesday, 7th November, French duo Ruyant and Lagravière retain the title they won together in the same race two years ago.

Ruyant, 42, who originates from Dunkirk has become known as the king of Transatlantic racing secures his third consecutive IMOCA victory after also winning the Route du Rhum solo race from Saint-Malo to Guadeloupe one year ago.

French duo Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière (For People) who won the IMOCA race on the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre early this morning into Fort-de-France, Martinique. They are the first duo to have ever won the IMOCA division, the class which competes every four years for the Vendée Globe, in consecutive Transat Jacques Vabre races Photo: Jean-Marie Liot / AleaFrench duo Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière (For People) who won the IMOCA race on the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre early this morning into Fort-de-France, Martinique. They are the first duo to have ever won the IMOCA division, the class which competes every four years for the Vendée Globe, in consecutive Transat Jacques Vabre races Photo: Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

Since the windy exit of The Channel after the start For People has been among the pacemakers at the head of what is the most competitive IMOCA fleet ever assembled. Whilst Swiss flagged (Justine Mettraux and Julien Villion) led thanks to a brave break to the north, separating nearly 1000 miles from the main peloton, Ruyant and Lagravière took the lead four days ago in the fast downwind conditions, showing a consistent speed edge which has earned them a winning margin of some 55 miles.

This is Ruyant’s sixth Transatlantic race victory since the ocean racing bug bit him more than 20 years ago when he restored a Mini 650 which he found in a car park in Dunkirk. His first major success was the Mini Transat in 2009 which was followed by the solo Route du Rhum in 2010 on a Class40. The Transat AG2R 2018 in the Figaro 2 was his third victory, the prelude to his three IMOCA successes.

Though he was one the two pacemakers early in the Indian Ocean on the last Vendée Globe Ruyant’s race was severely compromised by losing his port foil. He fought on to take fifth, his race inspiring his sponsors and his group of business supporters in his native north of France to very quickly decide to build him a new IMOCA.

In choosing a new design partnership, architect-skipper Antoine Koch collaborating with the Finot Conq, Ruyant’s racing stable TR Racing have clearly developed a very fast design in For People, the near identical sistership Paprec Arkéa being set to take second place in the hands of Yoann Richomme and Yann Eliès. Theirs has been the quickest boat in the downwind trade winds conditions. TR Racing welcomed the integration of Brit Sam Goodchild in February this year, his sponsors Leyton and Ruyant’s Advens joining forces. Goodchild sails Ruyant’s 2021 race-winning boat with the designer of the top two boats Antoine Koch, and is on course to take third.

Goodchild observed a few days ago, “Thomas is just great on these Transatlantics, it is no coincidence that he has won them all, the Mini, Class40, the AG2R, he knows how to push this boat well and designed it with Antoine, so they know what they have and it was built to improve on the weaknesses of this boat. They are a very good duo and Morgan really knows how to make the boat go fast. So they have experience, talent and a good boat. They have the deadly combo of all three!”

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In heavy rain at the end of a day which had been interspersed with squalls and long calm periods, Thibault Vauchel-Camus and Quentin Vlamynck (Solidaires en Peloton) crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre off Fort de France, Martinique today at 19:07:47hrs local time (00:07:47hrs UTC Friday) to take first place on the Ocean Fifty race.

Their elapsed time for the 4200 nautical miles course from Le Havre to Martinique via Lorient, passing the Cape Verde Ile de Sal to starboard is 11d 11h 22m 47s. Their average speed for the theoretical course is 16.54kts. They actually sailed 5432.58 nms at a speed of 19.78kts.

The French duo have led the race since just before Cape Finisterre but were also first to cross an intermediate finish line off Lorient after the racers were required to make a six days stop there less 24 hours after the race started from Le Havre to sit out a huge storm on the Bay of Biscay.

Their victory is the biggest ocean racing success for a co-skipper pairing who teamed up this year on the 2020 launched Romaric Neyhousser design which was previously raced by Vlamynck for two seasons until his team’s long time sponsor stopped in March.

Vlamynck is an ex Mini650 racer who sailed in the colours of Lalou Roucayrol and was very much mentored by the former Ocean Fifty racer and boatbuilder since he left school. He won the Ocean Fifty Pro Sailing Tour two years ago and finished a very close second on last year’s Route du Rhum on this boat.

Vauchel-Camus grew up in Gaudeloupe and was runner up in 2019 in the three boat Ocean Fifty class on this race. He was previously a top Class40 racer who won the Transat Bakerly and finished fourth on the last Transat Jacques Vabre in the Ocean Fifty class.

Widely tipped as the pre-race favourites, their collective experience in the challenging Ocean Fifty multihulls especially showed during the very windy opening section to Lorient as well as preserving their well proven, well prepared boat through a major front on the Bay of Biscay which saw three of the six starters forced to abandon between 8th and 9th of November.

Their victory lays to rest the disappointments for both skippers. Vauchel-Camus was leading last year’s Route du Rhum solo race to Gaudeloupe when he capsized off Portugal. And Vlamynck lost out on victory last year’s Route du Rhum by only 18 minutes. Despite his excellent result his team lost their sponsor after 10 years of support thereby terminating the project and requiring them to find a new owner of the boat in the Solidaires en Peloton team;

“We are very happy with a job well done on a great boat by a super partnership and after all that we have had going on before, it is at last. It was the hardest course to keep pushing.” Enthused Saint Malo’s Vauchel Camus on Fort-de-France’s victory pontoon, drenched by the heavy late evening downpour.

Vlamynck, who has sailed in the Multi50/Ocean 50 class for ten years and helped in the original conception and design of the winning boat added, “It is good. It was not easy. We did so much work before the race. And a year ago I capsized when I was in first place, so I was a bit more nervous, but we tried to sail calmly and reasonably.”

Vauchel Camus, who called his co-skipper ‘super coach’ acknowledged, “Quentin knows the boat so very well and he has the capacity to maintain the intensity, especially on the second stage – which seems strange to say on a Transat Jacques Vabre . The game was very open with a high level. It is about having a good rhythm and pushing hard, that’s why we have a lead of a hundred miles or so, always trimming and staying on top of the job list.”

Brought up in Gaudeloupe where his parents had a riding school, but learning and pursuing sailing through holidays with his grandparents in northern Brittany, Vauchel-Camus continued, “ It is something I have been pursuing for a long time. The Route du Rhum is important in our world for me especially being Gaudeloupean at heart so this is one of the ocean races I have always wanted to win, so it is great to finally succeed. It is incredible. But we sailed well, we did not do anything crazy and to win a Transatlantic on a multihull is special. I am very happy.”

Vlamynck concluded, “The last couple of days have been hard but after Madeira we slept quite well. But there were big squalls which meant we had to pay attention. On our boat we stayed sensible, stuck to our rhythm and the game was to put as much distance on our rivals, to keep pushing the boat and lose nothing. Thibault has worked hard to keep improving the boat since last year. I know the boat by heart. I was involved in the conception of it with Lalou who I have been with since school and with Romaric and I was there for all the building of it. And so I had two good season with it, winning the Pro Sailing Tour and with a good second in the Route du Rhum and then missing sponsor we offered the boat to Thibault and immediately we had a good feeling between us. And I have such a good feeling with this boat which goes so well as we saw on the Route du Rhum. Sailing with Thibault over these 10 days or so has been a super experience. “

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French duo Armel Le Cleac'h and Sebastien Josse sailing Maxi Banque Populaire XI crossed the finish line of the 16th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre off Fort de France, Martinique at 18h19 local time (23h19 UTC) this Sunday evening to win the ULTIM division for 33m multihulls (subject to Jury verifications).

The biennial, double-handed classic 'Coffee Route' Race - which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary - started from Le Havre, France on Sunday 29th October and took the five-strong ULTIM class on a 7,500 miles course south to round Ascension Island before turning back northwards to skirt the South American coast and finish in Martinique.

The elapsed time for the Banque Populaire XI duo is 14 days 10 hours 14 minutes 50s. They sailed the theoretical course at an average speed of 21,66 knots.

They actually sailed 9263 nautical miles on the water at an average speed of 26,75 knots.

Banque Populaire XI has led since Ascension Island and was never overtaken since the most southerly mark of the course. When Le Cleac'h and Josse finished their nearest rivals, second-placed SVR Lazartigue (Francois Gabart and Tom Laperche) were just over 180 nautical miles behind. On his seventh challenge, it is the first time the 2016-17 Vendee Globe winner Le Cleach has triumphed on the Coffee Route race, whilst Josse won the 2013 Multihull race as skipper of the MOD 70 Edmond de Rothschild, sailing with Charles Caudrelier.

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Class 40 and Ocean Fifty were back in full race mode some eight days after the initial start from Le Havre a week past Sunday; 46 duos aboard their Class40 monohulls and Ocean Fifty multihulls returned to the Transat Jacques Vabre race course from Lorient yesterday Monday morning heading for Martinique.

The pairs set off in fairly typical late autumn weather with 2.5m high waves and a 20-knot WSW'ly wind. The breeze was peppered with many squalls to deal with, some bringing in heavy rain and gusts of 35-40 knots.

Pamela Lee of Greystones had a setback with damage to her #1 jib on Enngie-DFDS_Brittany Ferries but is expected to re-join the racing after 2-3 hours effecting repairs in Lorient

So, conditions were very much as might be expected at the start of the Coffee Race. The fleets of six trimarans and forty monohulls which crossed their lines at 1030 and 1045hrs local time, respectively, are going to find it very hard work to get to the trade winds.

There was a damp, early start for those who took to the pontoons to bid farewell to their crews.

On the water, conditions were immediately tough and physical as forecast, with a low pressure coming in sharply.

At 1030hrs, the Ocean Fifty multihulls got underway with Viabilis Océan (Quiroga-Treussart) the first to cross the start line, A quarter of an hour later, it was time for the Class40 monohulls to get back into the race via a course that will take them past Porto Santo in Madeira. The wind eased off to 15 knots, but a huge squall on the horizon came blasting through.

Published in Class40

Following the passage of storms Ciaran and Domingos, a suitable weather window is set to open, which will allow all of the record fleet of 40 IMOCAs to start the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre two handed race to Martinique on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the six Ocean Fifty multihulls and Class 40 fleet will resume their race Monday from Lorient, where they were stopped to avoid the storm-force winds and big seas.

The ULTIM fleet left last Sunday on schedule. Outpacing the huge storms they are today approaching the Doldrums.

It's almost a week since the start of the 16th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre started last Sunday in Le Havre. This period was spent with the race direction and race management teams watching closely for an opportunity to restart the race for the all the boats which had their races put on hold.

“The sea will have calmed significantly in the Bay of Biscay as in the English Channel,” explains Christian Dumard, the race meteorologist. “The general westerly flow continues from the Atlantic but the starts should be completed in manageable conditions. A new front does look set to come in and hit the Atlantic coasts from Wednesday but we are seeing wind sof 30-35 knots which is much less violent than these recent storms.”

The programme is as follows:

Class40 and Ocean Fifty: The race will restart in Lorient on Monday morning (6th November)

Monday at 1030hrs local time, the six Ocean Fifty will set sail on the second leg between Lorient and Fort de France leaving the island of Sal (Cape Verde) to starboard. This 4320-mile long course will mean that the duos will have to dive south as soon as they are out of the Bay of Biscay. Their speeds should allow them to get away from the front moving into the near Atlantic on Wednesday.

At 1045hrs local time on Monday, the Class40 boats will set sail on a 3500-mile long course to Fort de France. “They will have to leave the island of Santa Maria (Azores) to starboard. This more direct route will mean that the monohulls will have to cross the front, but unlike Storm Ciaran, the winds will not be as strong and there are many more opportunities to avoid them, including in the Bay of Biscay,” explained Christian Dumard. “The first boats will leave the pontoons in Lorient at eight in the morning,” added Francis Le Goff, the Race Director. “The start line will be set up between Talud Point in Lorient and a mark positioned offshore at a distance of around one mile with a buoy in place for both classes. To avoid the worst winds and the deep low forecast for the 11th-12th, we have put in place a mark that the sailors will have to pass to take them to the South. That is to say Santa Maria in the Azores for the Class40 boats and a waypoint in the south for the Ocean Fifty boats that we are working on with the Race Directors based on the latest weather forecasts, and which won’t limit the skippers’ options too much.”

Two boats have officially retired in the Class40 class (Movember and Acrobatica). Three boats are undergoing repairs (Crédit Mutuel, Sogestrans-Seafrigo and Dékuple) and they have said they intend to set sail again on Monday. As for P-Rêve à perte de vue, the crew has not officially retired, but the boat is still in the harbour in Le Havre. “At this point, we cannot give a precise figure for the number of boats that will set off again. We will discover that at the last moment depending on how repairs have gone,” added Francis Le Goff. “It is important to stress that the start line will remain open for another 72 hours after that.”

IMOCA: big departure Tuesday November 7 at 9:30 a.m. from Le Havre

The 40 IMOCAs will start from Le Havre on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m local time. They will leave the Paul Vatine basin from 4 a.m. and the sea lock gates will be open at 4:45 a.m. until 6 a.m. The IMOCA’s 3,750 mile course also leaves the island of Santa Maria (Azores) to starboard as do the Class40s. “They will hit the front leaving the Channel on Tuesday evening and Wednesday night with 35 knots from the South/South-West and seas not exceeding 4 meters” according to Christian Dumard.

As per plans for last Sunday, there will be full photo and video coverage and it will be broadcast live on the networks. “In collaboration with Race Management and the classes, we have calibrated everyone's courses and timings according to the weather windows to prioritize the safety of sailors and boats. That was the prerequisite. At the same time, we have done everything possible to ensure that the start of this superb fleet of 40 IMOCAs benefits from the best possible media coverage and we have no doubt that once again, the images will be superb.” concluded Gildas Gautier, co-director of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre.

ETA arrivals in Fort-de-France in Martinique of the 4 classes:

  • ULTIM: between November 12 in the evening and November 13 in the morning
  • IMOCA: November 17
  • Ocean Fifty: November 18
  • Class40: November 22
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After passing Madeira, out of a high-pressure ridge and speeding up in the trade winds on Thursday (2 November), the five Ultims on the Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre to Martinique are now into good weather with pleasant seas.

The leaders are speeding south to the Cape Verde islands, which they were expected to pass on Friday (3 November).

Armel Le Cléac'h and Tom Laperche on Maxi Banque Populaire XI, which gained the lead yesterday off Madeira, is still in front clocking up speeds of around 35 knots and extending their lead.

In conditions that are ideal for higher speeds, the duos on are working hard to get the most out of their machines, which continue to impress everyone as they make their rapid passage down through the North Atlantic. In these trade winds, they can rely on the autopilot.

The chase is on as they head towards the doldrums, which they should reach on Saturday (4 November) on their way towards the islands of São Pedro and São Paulo, almost exactly in the middle of the Atlantic on the axis between the north-east corner of Brazil and Sierra Leone in Africa.

“The sun is coming up. It’s nice, as we are in our T-shirts with the little fan going in the bunk,” said Anthony Marchand aboard Actual Ultim 3. “We have 1.5m high waves with at least 20 knots of wind getting up to 25-27. The boat is speeding along at full pelt, dancing around and slamming down violently, which is her normal behaviour.” In spite of the relatively straightforward conditions, however, they need to be on high alert.

Stress at high speed

“There is a stressful aspect to this,” said Marchand, who has the support of Thierry Chabagny to keep up the pace set by the boats ahead, which are all capable of higher speeds because they are newer than their boat which was previously the first maxi tri Macif.

“Just now, we reached a peak speed of 40-45 knots. Everything vibrates and creaks. You can feel that the boat is working hard. She raises herself up on one float from time to time taking us high up on one hull. This means a lot of trimming and quite a bit of stress. We settle into the watch seat. We have a wheel, which we keep turning to control the trim. We are under autopilot and we take care of the altitude we fly at.”

In third place in the rankings, the pair on SVR Lazartigue — which lost the lead off Madeira — are still hard at work. At this point in the race to Martinique, with the gaps widening and narrowing as the Ultims advance, it is all down to the little details.

In permanent contact with Jean-Yves Bernot and their weather team in Concarneau, François Gabart and Tom Laperche — who are now just over 90 miles behind the leaders on Maxi Banque Populaire XI — have plenty to do. Particularly as Sodebo Ultim 3 is ready to pounce, too, very close in terms of distance to the next waypoint slightly off to the east.

“François and I are seeing each other more often, as the watches are shorter, so that we can stay alert,” said Laperche, who admitted that in this race where speed is all, finding a precise trajectory is the key factor. “At the moment, we are having a lot of discussions with the routers. We’re talking about the trade winds, how they vary. People often think that in the trade winds it is easy, and you don’t have to do much, but when they are variable, you need to gybe and manoeuvre.”

The tracker shows that aboard the blue giant, they were busy Friday morning tacking away to get in line with those in front as they head for the Cape Verde islands, in order to avoid the wind shadow and stay in the north-westerly winds blowing at around 20 knots.

712 miles in 24 hours

The fleet is clearly so much more closely matched than before. And now tactical plays are key, with the crews maintaining speeds of 30-35 knots without any apparent problems.

Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël would not disagree, as they are keeping up the pace in second place aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. It is now a matter of dealing with attacks from those behind, while trying to cope with Banque Populaire XI getting away from them after covering 712 miles in the last 24 hours. Chasing and being chased at the same time, they have put their foot down on the gas.

Looking ahead to the Intertropical Convergence Zone that they should all be entering on Saturday more towards the west, this Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre is so far going smoothly for the five Ultim boats as time slips by with each passing island.

After Cape Verde, on Sunday (5 November) they are expected to pass São Pedro and São Paulo, the Brazilian islands in the middle of the Atlantic, which are quite close to the Equator. Yet more proof of just how quickly these flying maxi-multihulls are sailing.

All of the 90-boats fleet in the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre were kept safe and secure through Storm Ciarán, which ravaged the Brittany coast and the English Channel with gusts of over 80 knots on Wednesday night (1 November).

On Thursday morning (2 November) the winds eased off and as the tide dropped the seas around the docks in Lorient La Base, allowing skippers and technical teams from the Class 40s and Ocean Fifty classes there to be able to carry out a full check of boats and their mooring lines ahead of another storm expected Saturday (4 November).

In Le Havre, where the 40 IMOCAs are securely tied up in the Paul Vatine basin, a chop was whipped up to nearly a metre by the storm-force winds in the enclosed docks. The winds peaked in Le Havre at the end of the morning.

“We remained very vigilant especially when the dock gates opened between noon and 1.10pm, with a one-meter surge, which caused the pontoons to rise by that much. Fortunately, the wind dropped at the same time and there was no damage,” race director Francis Le Goff said.

All day, race direction continued to work on scenarios for a new start in collaboration with Christian Dumard, meteorologist for the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre.

Le Goff said: “The possibility mentioned yesterday of seeing the IMOCAs set off on Sunday is now no longer possible, in particular because of the strengthening of the westerly wind, which is going to impact heavily on the coast around Le Havre.”

Added to this is a time constraint with the gates of the Le Havre basins closing at 3.30pm for sunset at 5.30pm that day. So no start on Sunday.

The decision-making process was shared by the IMOCA class sports commission which represents the 40 duos entered in this class. The race direction team is working on a starting scenario, the first option at the moment being Tuesday 7 November at the very beginning of the morning, with an IMOCA exit out of the docks the morning open gate (from 5am to 6.15am). Other scenarios after this date are also studied. The preferred option for the course now is a direct route to Martinique.

“For the Class40 and Ocean Fifty, for which nothing was already considered possible before Monday, there is no change. The goal is always to go at the first opportunity, in collaboration with the classes, for next week,” Le Goff added.

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