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Bangor, Northern Ireland sailor Mikey Ferguson and Finnish airline pilot Ari Hussela finished the famous 4350-mile coffee route ocean race, the Transat Jacques Vabre offshore race, from Le Havre to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil, on 15th November. But not without incident writes Betty Armstrong.

As Afloat reported previously, the race was a first for the Ferguson and Hussela partnership and as reported in Afloat previously, the airline Captain is the first-ever Scandinavian skipper in the Transat Jaques Vabre. They were competing in the IMOCA class in Ariel 2, formerly known as Dee Caffari’s AVIVA, owned by Hussela.

After a good start on 27th October, and not far into the race when they were off Guernsey, a small hole appeared in the mainsail when they were taking in a reef. Under canvassed they got out of the channel safely and entered the Bay of Biscay. With the wind going forward they sail delaminated and fell to pieces and they had no means of fixing it.

”To think that after 48 hours into the race one half of my head was thinking which Port has the closest airport or should we just retire and sail under jib back to France. The other half was thinking let’s see where this journey could take us, Cascais? Madeira? Or the Canary Islands?”, says Mikey Ferguson.

They chose to keep going and Mikey felt that it would be good to get Ari out of his comfort zone and push the boat harder. They had to start with the spare main and knew there was a risk but the priority for Ari was to secure a position in the Vendee Globe ranking by stacking up the miles. “I could not be happier that we did the impossible”, says Huusela.

They finished on 15th November and it felt like a win to Hussela. Their time was 18 days 23 hours 7 mins 14 seconds, coming in at 26th in the IMOCA class.

Airbus A350 Captain Ari became the first Finnish and first Scandinavian ever to complete this legendary race. He started sailing when he was 24 and has a dream of taking part in the Vendee Globe. Ferguson (36) has been involved in this project for a year and a half. He has been a competitive dinghy and keelboat sailor from a young age and has worked in the sailing industry for nearly 20 years.

And Royal Ulster members can look forward to hearing of Mikey’s adventures at the Club night on 5th February next year.

After 14 days at sea and with the IMOCA podium decided, PRB and Charal are fighting for 2nd and 3rd place in the Imoca category of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2019. It's a race with continuing Irish interest as two solo sailors battle it out both approximately 900 miles behind the leader. Joan Mulloy from County Mayo as Afloat reported here and Mikey Ferguson in County Down here are neck and neck in 25th and 26th place according to rankings here.

After Apivia coasted to a moonlit victory in the IMOCA class 15 hours earlier, the Bay of All Saints witnessed one of the closest podium finishes in the history of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre in glorious sunshine on Sunday. PRB held off Charal to take second place by just six minutes and 18 seconds, little over a mile after both had covered over 5,000 from Le Havre since the start a fortnight ago.

Kévin Escoffier and Nicolas Lunven on their 60ft monohull, PRB, built in 2009, but upgraded with foils in 2018, had the latest-generation foiler and red-hot favourite at the start, Charal, breathing down their necks all the way long the coast of north-east Brazil. The gap closed to just over a mile, but as it went soft – an unstable 6-8 knot westerly, in the approach to the Bay of All Saints, Charal’s advantage evaporated and they could not find a way past.

The 39-year-old Escoffier, from one of the most famous sailing families in France, must have drawn on all of his experience, as a winner of the Volvo Ocean Race last year, the Jules Verne Trophy in 2012 and of the 2005 Transat Jacques Vabre in the Multi50 to hold on.

Not for nothing is this biennial double-handed race heralded as the longest and toughest transatlantic race in the calendar.

For Jérémie Beyou, the winner of this race in 2013, and Christopher Pratt the last three days have marked a great comeback from sixth place and evidence of the speed of their boat, but it was not the podium place they were hoping for.

As close as this chase was, the race will be remembered for their spectacular stall in the Doldrums – one of the most extraordinary in the history of offshore racing.

Charal was 120 miles ahead of Apivia when they entered the Doldrums at around 07:30 on November 5. At times they completely stopped as Apivia redirected 50 miles east and flew by, almost without pause. Every time they had looked like finally escaping the clutches of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, they were sucked back in.

Apivia’s early acceleration in the trade winds meant that even when Charal was out of the Doldrums on November 8, they continued to lose miles, peaking at being 302 miles behind at the 19:00 (UTC) ranking on November 8 – a total loss of 422 miles.

America’s Charlie Enright with French co-skipper, Pascal Bidégorry, finished fifth on 11th Hour Racing as the boats stacked up in the Bay of All Saints in quick succession. Britain’s Samantha Davies is not far behind in seventh and has closed to within 10 miles of Banque Populaire, but with only 34 miles to the finish.

Arrivals

Kévin Escoffier and Nicolas Lunven, on PRB, have finished second in the IMOCA class of the 14th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre after crossing the finish line in the Bay of All Saints in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil on Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 16:04:42 (UTC), 14 days, 03 hours 49 minutes and 42 seconds after leaving Le Havre, Normandy, France on Sunday, October 27 at 12:15 (UTC).

PRB covered the theoretical course of 4,350 nautical miles at an average speed of 12.84 knots but actually sailed 5,035 nautical miles at an average speed of 14.82 knots. It finished 15 hours 41 minutes and 42 seconds behind the winner, Apivia.

Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt, on Charal, have finished third in the IMOCA class of the 14th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre after crossing the finish line in the Bay of All Saints in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil on Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 16:11:00 (UTC), 14 days, 3 hours 56 minutes and 0 seconds after leaving Le Havre, Normandy, France on Sunday, October 27 at 12:15 (UTC).

Charal covered the theoretical course of 4,350 nautical miles at an average speed of 12.83 knots but actually sailed 5,116.17 nautical miles at an average speed of 15.05 knots. It finished 15 hours 48 minutes and 0 seconds behind the winner, Apivia.

Class40: The leading trio escapes

In contrast to Charal’s fate in the Doldrums in the IMOCA, Crédit Mutuel has held its healthy lead of 54 miles over Britain’s Sam Goodchild on Leyton. Now in the south-east trade winds, Leyton has carved out a 70-mile lead over Aïna Enfance & Avenir. The rest of the Class40s are still stuck in the Doldrums.

“We’re beginning to have the unpleasant feeling of being the butt of a joke that has lasted for three days now, Valentin Gautier said from Banque du Léman, adding that they seen the maxi trimaran, Gitana on the AIS…doing 18 knots in the Doldrums! “Mostly, we’ve been calming our nerves by saying that it's the same for everyone, except that now, that's not the case! Our friends in the west, who we’ve been hunting, seem to have passed through without much trouble, and us hunters have become the hunted without even realising it.” told this morning in a message from the sea Valentin Gautier aboard Bank of Leman, which also adds to having seen the AIS maxi trimaran Gitana ... 18 knots in the Doldrums!

Only 7 Class40s were still sailing in the north-east trade winds today – they still have the Doldrums awaiting them. The fleet stretches for 1,000 miles from Crédit Mutuel to Terre Exotique to the south of the Cape Verde islands.

Damage: Arkea Paprec completely foiled!

Without their port foil after damaging it in the delivery to Le Havre, Arkea Paprec, in 5th position at the exit of the Doldrums has now suffered the breakage of its starboard foil. They are in ninth and dropping. “We got out of the Doldrums reaching on a port tack, with 16-20 knots of wind, flat sea, so we said ‘these are our conditions, let’s go, it’s time to put our foot to the floor’,” Sébastien Simon said. “We were starting to think the podium was possible but two hours later the foil broke, without warning. So, we’re in a sailing without foils. There’s not much left of her.”

The now keelless IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss that has retired from the Transat Jacques Vabre Offshore Race after striking an underwater object is heading for the Cape Verde Islands.

Ross Daniel, the Technical Director of Alex Thomson Racing said: “Alex and Neal are safe and making good progress onboard Hugo Boss. They are now around 300 miles away from the Cape Verde Islands, sailing with caution at around 10 knots. They have both managed to get some sleep and are focused on getting safely to land.

“Members of the Alex Thomson Racing technical team have arrived in Cape Verde and are preparing for the boat’s arrival. Further members of the team will make the journey in the coming days in order to meet Alex and Neal, and to facilitate the boat’s safe arrival.

“Our current routing has the boat arriving by Friday morning. We are in regular communication with our skippers and are monitoring the boat’s progress around the clock, as we will continue to do until Hugo Boss is safely into port”.

Published in Offshore

At lunchtime Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre starting horn was sounded and the 118 skippers in their 59 multi-coloured offshore boats weaved across the start line in front of Cape de la Hève, beating into 12-14 knots of north-easterly wind. Among them are two Irish skippers Joan Mulloy from County Mayo as Afloat reported here and Mikey Ferguson in County Down here. The Irish co-skippers are neck and neck in 26th and 27th place according to rankings here.

The biennial double-handed 4,350-mile race, the longest and toughest transat in the sailing calendar, will take them to Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.

Already the race is dishing up a fair amount of drama with the news at 06:50 (UTC) this morning, while leading the Class40 fleet, British skipper, Luke Berry and his French co-skipper, Tanguy Le Turquais, informed the race management their Class40, Lamotte - Module Creation, had dismasted. The two skippers are doing well and are safe on board the boat.

At yesterday's start, Both IMOCA and Class40 fleets were tightly bunched, but line honours appeared to go to Bureau Vallée II (IMOCA) and Aïna Enfance and Avenir, the Class40 favourite.

The Route de Café is a marathon not a sprint, but the start along the coast is never simple, especially when the blood is up and adrenaline flowing in front the crowds lining the pontoons, channel, beaches and coast. Not to mention the live TV audience. And, of course, the choppy shallow sea with plenty of current against them as they race the 16 miles of coast to round the Region Normandie buoy off Étretat. The fastest among them should take a little under three hours before they turn to head west towards Cotentin under spinnaker.

There should be an intense downwind race in the Channel overnight when the wind will continue to strengthen. Through that time and the morning, as they all exit the Channel, it will be decision time as to whether to go east, west or further west. That could provide an early test of the different trajectories the latest generation foiling IMOCA may take, although Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has said his priority is finishing not winning, especially after being helicoptered to safety when his boat capsized four years ago. Britain’s Samantha Davies, in an older boat but with hugely upgraded foils on Initiatives-Cœur, is keeping an open mind.

“Once we’re west of Ushant then we’ve got to make a decision,” she said. “I don’t want to make a decision yet because it’s not clear enough and sometimes if you decide in your head you influence yourself when you’re making further decisions.

“We’re pretty open at the moment, (laughs) we’re going to have all the sails out on the deck to work out which one we’re going to use. We are at one with Initiatives-Cœur and super happy to be finally at sea and heading for Brazil.”

The small Class40 have the same dilemma.

“Do we go west fully, for me there is still an option, but it’s a bit of a tricky one,” Luke Berry (Lamotte – Module Creation) said. “We’re still waiting for the info from our weather routers - you’re allowed a weather router before you start - so, we’ll make our decision sometime tonight. It’s not a (Class40) group decision, there are some that are going to go their own way and we’re not here to follow the others, but we’re not going to do lone cowboy either. It’s going to be more of downwind race out of the Channel, but it’s do we go up into the Celtic sea or not?

Britain’s Sam Goodchild, one of Berry’s main rivals, on Leyton, says that the risks and rewards are not clear.

“We don’t think we have to make our decision until tomorrow morning,” he said. “We’ve got all the ideas in our head, we don’t know what the risks and the gains are yet, it’s not as straightforward as if you go west, you break or you win, and if you go south you’re safe.”

There were emotional scenes on the pontoon before departure as the said goodbye to their friends, family and partners, except perhaps for Miranda Merron and Halvard Mabire, who are partners on both land and sea.

Top ten at midnight France time

Class 40

  1. Leyton, Sam Goodchild / Fabien Delahaye
    2. Lamotte - Module Creation, Luke Berry / Tanguy Le Turquais
    3. Aïna Enfance & Avenir, Aymeric Chappellier / Pierre Leboucher
    4. Credit Mutuel, Ian Lipinski / Adrien Hardy
    5. Crosscall Chamonix Mont-Blanc, Louis Duc / Aurelien Ducroz
    6. Beijaflore, William Mathelin-Moreaux / Marc Guillemot
    7. Entraide Marine-Adosm, Charles-Louis Mourruau / Estelle Greck
    8. Banque Du Leman, Simon Koster / Valentin Gautier
    9. Linkt, Jorg Riechers / Cedric Chateau
    10. Made In Midi, Kito De Pavant / Achille Nebout

Multi 50

  1. Solidaires En Peloton - Arsep, Thibaut Vauchel-Camus / Fred Duthil
    2. Primonial, Sebastien Rogues / Matthieu Souben
    3. Groupe Gca - Mille Et Un Sourires, Gilles Lamire / Antoine Carpentier

IMOCA 60

  1. Banque Populaire X, Clarisse Cremer / Armel Le Cleac'h
    2. Groupe Apicil, Damien Seguin / Yoann Richomme
    3. Arkea - Paprec, Sebastien Simon / Vincent Riou
    4. Corum L'epargne, Nicolas Troussel / Jean Le Cam
    5. PRB, Kevin Escoffier / Nicolas Lunven
    6. Malizia Ii - Yacht Club De Monaco, Boris Herrmann / Will Harris
    7. Initiatives-Cœur, Samantha Davies / Paul Meilhat
    8. Bureau Vallee 2, Louis Burton / Davy Beaudart
    9. Prysmian Group, Giancarlo Pedote / Anthony Marchand
    10. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson / Neal McDonald

Full rankings

Published in Offshore

A look at the only Female duo made up of the international pairing of French woman, Alexia Barrier and Irish sailor, Joan Mulloy (4myplanet). The only all-female offshore pairing in this Transat Jacques Vabre, which starts this Sunday, intends to get 120% out of their venerable old IMOCA.

Seven women are competing in the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre in the IMOCA category. Among them, we find Alexia Barrier and Joan Mulloy aboard 4myplanet, an emblematic boat, which has set sail on six voyages around the world (four times in the Vendée Globe and twice in Around Alone).

“We bumped into each other, without really knowing each other”
“I met Joan in the 2017 Solitaire du Figaro. I was racing and she was preparing a boat. We saw each other again in the Monaco Globe Series. We bumped into each other, without really knowing each other,” explained Alexia. “Joan called me up early in the year to find out whether she could race in the Rolex Fastnet Race with me. I said to myself that it would be a good idea to do the whole season sailing double-handed together, including the Transat Jacques Vabre. I didn’t have enough funding to be able to do the Fastnet Race, but here we are in the Jacques Vabre.”

Mutual respect
“In the Solitaire du Figaro, Joan was always the person who would be working late and who wanted to help everyone. She had incredible energy,” added Alexia Barrier. “That impression was confirmed when I sailed with her. Joan always a certain zest. She is extremely professional and sails really well. We are both optimists, never giving up and never getting angry. We soon settled in well together. My task is to pass on as many hints as I can, so that she can do her best on a boat that she doesn’t know that well. Joan understands things quickly. I’m learning a lot at her side too. English-speaking sailors have a more methodical and neater approach to sailing.”

Joan Mulloy also has a lot of respect for her co-skipper in the Transat Jacques Vabre. “Alexia works really hard on her project and never stops,” she said. “I’m really lucky to be with her on a well-tested boat that is very reliable. I shall learn a lot. Alexia is always very calm aboard the boat. Even when things get tough, we remain upbeat and continue to joke around on board. That is a good sign.”

A shared desire to do the Vendée Globe
Aboard 4myplanet, Alexia Barrier is well placed to be able to compete in the 2020 Vendée Globe. That is not going to be possible for Joan Mulloy, but the Irish skipper fully intends to take part in a future edition of the non-stop solo round the world race. “Last year, I took part in the Monaco Globe Series with Thomas Ruyant, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find the funding to continue on an IMOCA,” she explained. “Competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre is an excellent opportunity to allow me to continue to progress and move towards my goal of taking part in the Vendée Globe.”

“Sailing to the best of my ability”
Competing on the oldest IMOCA in the fleet (launched in 1998), Alexia and Joan fully intend to get the most out of their boat. “We have a shared goal which is to sail to the best of our ability and that of the boat,” confirmed Alexia. “We want to finish in Salvador da Bahia without any regrets and ideally leave five or six IMOCAs behind us. On paper, we have the slowest boat, but if we make the right choices and sail intelligently, we can have a great race.”

Transat Jacques Vabre begins in Le Havre on Sunday 27th October

Published in Vendee Globe

#Offshore - A record 46 competitors have confirmed entry for the Transat Jacques Vabre 2019 with seven months yet to go till the start.

The numbers are already close to what organisers expected in January would be the full fleet to set out from Le Havre for Brazil this October — and entries are still open for another 12 weeks till Friday 12 July.

Despite promises that the previous race would stage a new dawn for multihulls like the Multi 50, much of the fleet will comprise IMOCA 60s but there will also be a sizeable contingent of Class 40s.

“The double-handed race allows well-prepared and seasoned amateurs to mix and measure themselves against the most recognised professional skippers,” says Class 40 president Halvard Mabire.

Published in Offshore

Alex Pella, the world-record breaking sailor, said today (Wednesday) that the Transat Jacques Vabre offshore 2017 will mark the emergence of a new future for multihulls. With all eyes on just how fast the latest 30-metre Ultime to launch is – Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will be making its debut in Le Havre, Normandy on the start line on Sunday - Pella, co-skipper of the Multi 50 Arkema, believes the class will shine in this 13th edition of the "Route du Café".

“When we arrived last Friday and I saw the fleet, I said ‘wow’ because for me it’s the first time that there’s such a fleet in this class,” Pella said. “Normally, when I’ve been here in another class, I’ve seen only two or three good boats. But now I think this race can change the future of the class. Now, the future of the multihulls is the Ultime class and Multi 50 because there’s a really big difference between them.”

Pella knows a thing or two about multihulls - he was part of the incredible team on IDEC 3 that smashed the Jules Verne round-the-world record in January. He is not campaigning for the class either - this is his first race in a Multi 50 and he was a last minute replacement in August after Karine Fauconnier was injured in training. It is more the view of an experienced sailor – Pella, from Barcelona, turns 45 on Thursday – who can cast an eye across all four classes and 38 boats here. Another crowning glory was becoming the first Spaniard to win a transoceanic single-handed race when he won the Route du Rhum Class40 in 2014.

His co-skipper, the equally experienced, Lalou Roucayrol agreed. “There has been a big change within the Multi 50 class,” he said. “We wanted to get professional and the class introduced not just foils but rules on materials that mean all the boats have to be modern and competitive now.”

Skippers presentation by Serge Herbin, Multi 50 Arkema, skippers Lalou Roucayrol and Alex Pella, during pre-start of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2017, duo sailing race from Le Havre (FRA) to Salvador de Bahia (BRA) in Le Havre on October 28th, 2017 - Photo Jean-Marie Liot / ALeA / TJV17
There are six Multi 50s here, five competitive and four with foils all vying for victory. At just over 15 metres - half the length of Ultime - have a budget that is more accessible to those starting out in multihulls. Roucayrol revealed that Arkema spent €1.5 million to build the boat he launched in 2013, and spend €800,000 a year on the campaign, of which €200,000 has gone on their Mini 6.50 boat this year. The Ultime is a big step up, with budgets around six times that.

But those extra Euros may be felt in the first few days of racing, which are already promising to typically bracing North Atlantic weather in November. The weather and routing chatter on the pontoons began in earnest yesterday and 35-40 knots was being predicted after the start on Sunday.

“I think we’re going to have to cross a big front there’s going to be potentially 35-40 knots downwind the other side of that,” Britain's Phil Sharp (Imerys, Class40) said. “That’s what when we get really offshore west of Ireland - and it looks like we’re going to have to head west to look for this northerly wind, to avoid headwinds. When we hit that we can escape south - and we’ll be escaping very fast. We can surf at up to 25 knots and that’s fast enough when you’re on a boat like this.”

Pella at first affected to say that such pontoon chatter is “pollution” - “I haven’t been looking at the forecast all the time,” he said. “There are two people on the team checking. We haven’t done a real briefing. The other thing is that in these kind of races, North Atlantic (strong wind) starts are as usual, as these sounds of the pontoon, for me it’s pollution, people are nervous. This is the race where you have the Channel, the point of Brittany, the front, traffic and cold.” But he did concede that the Multi 50 are more vulnerable in these conditions, even with the foils – “by comparison IDEC 3 it passes over the waves very well,” he said.

Later he admitted that it might be better for them to push out of the starting blocks to get ahead of the front. “To win the race, you have to finish the race and to break things at the start is stupid,” he said. “But if you see the forecast it looks like it’s better to be in the top positions at the beginning because the front is coming from behind. You can makes plans, but you have to take the decision when you’re there.” It is hard to keep a sailor from his routing.

Published in Offshore

The 13th edition of the offshore Transat Jacques Vabre will kick off on Saturday, October 28, 2017, around the Bassin Paul Vatine (marina) in Le Havre, for a week of festivities that will mark the 500th anniversary of this maritime city. On Sunday, November 5, 2017, the competing skippers will cross the starting line of the longest transatlantic route to a legendary coffee port, Salvador in the state of Bahia in Brazil.

  • The start of the Transat Jacques Vabre will be November 5th
  • An historic coffee route: Salvador in the state of Bahia in Brazil
  • A 4,350-mile course
  • Four classes, four winning duets

Salvador is the capital of the Bahia region, north of Rio. It is a city with an active port because of its position and easy access to the Bay of All Saints, the largest natural bay on the South American coast and the second largest in the world. The Transat Jacques Vabre will be welcomed at the foot of the Pelourinho, an historic quarter registered as a UNESCO world heritage site, in the port of Salvador.

“The 2017 edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre marks the return to an historic and iconic coffee region, which has already hosted several finishes of the race, and celebrated in the style the winners of our ‘Route du café’ from 2001 to 2007." Xavier Mitjavila, President of JDE France and the Transat Jacques Vabre organisation.

"In 2017, the Transat Jacques Vabre will once again be an unmissable event for all Havrais (the people of Le Havre), who have held this race close their hearts for over 20 years. It will close the festivities of the “A Summer in Le Havre, 2017” event, running from May 27 to November 5 and organised to celebrate our 500th anniversary. We invite all inquisitive travellers to (re) discover our city and its port through a rich, festive, multidisciplinary and multifaceted programme. In 2017, it is Le Havre and nowhere else that is the place to be.” Edouard Philippe, Mayor of Le Havre and Député (elected representative) of the Seine-Maritime department.

Le Havre - Salvador de Bahia: 4,350 miles
After a week of festivities around the marina, the competitors of the 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre will leave Le Havre and head out towards the coffee port of Bahia (Brazil). After passing in front of the cliffs of Etretat, the competitors will take a direct route towards the Brazilian port - after having crossed the Doldrums.

“This transoceanic course from North to South is more demanding than a East to West transat, it requires the skippers to have sharp strategic and tactical qualities, good meteorological training, excellent physical conditioning to maintain top speed in the trade winds…and also a lot of patience to cross the Equator. Lying at 12°56’ South, Salvador de Bahia is in the tropics, it’s hot, but not too hot thanks to the trade winds, which is the dream for the sailors, who’ll finally be able to unwind after all the days of stress spent at sea.” Sylvie Viant, Race Director of the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Four classes, four winning duos
Class40, Multi50, Imoca and Ultime boats are expected on the starting line off Le Havre. Each class will see its winning duo and those chasing welcomed and celebrated to the sounds of samba and Brazilian rhythms.

La Transat Jacques Vabre in figures
- Opening of the village, October 28
- Start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, November 5
- 24 years old, 13th edition in 2017
- A 4,350-mile course, four classes, four winning duos

Published in Offshore
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In something of a carbon copy repeat of his success in 2013, gliding across the same finish line, Vincent Riou (FRA), sailing PRB with co-skipper Seb Col (FRA) finished first IMOCA monohull in the 5400Nms Transat Jacques Vabre when they took their winning gun at 12:52.24 (UTC) (+5hrs local time) today.

The duo’s elapsed time for the theoretical course is 17d00h22m24 after leaving Le Havre on Sunday 25th October. Their computed average for the course is 13,22kts. In reality they sailed 6034Nms at an average of 14.78kts.

It is the winner of the 2004-5 Vendée Globe, Vincent Riou’s seventh Transat Jacques Vabre and is his second back to back IMOCA class win in this biennial coffee route race.

They best the 2013 reference time by 19mins and 23 seconds. Sailing in 2013 with Jean Le Cam the PRB co-skippers set the inaugural benchmark for this new course, finishing in Itajaí, southern Brazil, at 17d and 41mins. In 2013 PRB actually sailed less distance on the water, 5771 miles.

Riou’s 2010 launched VPLP-Verdier design won the 2013 race even after a short, express pit stop in Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde Islands to make a rudder repair. After winning the 2013 Transat Jacques Vabre Riou had to withdraw in the early stages of the 2104 Route du Rhum solo Transatlantic.

His boat is reported to be the lightest and most optimised of the competitive 2011 generation VPLP-Verdier designs. After having to retire from the Vendée Globe in 2102 when he hit a metal buoy off South America and sustained hull and rigging damage, Riou paired up for the 2013 Transat Jacques Vabre with Jean Le Cam partly as a footnote to their history together, Riou rescued Le Cam from his upturned IMOCA off Cape Horn. But this year, one year out from the next Vendée Globe start, Riou chose Col a partner to learn from, to help improve the small details of boat speed and tactics. Col sails on many different cutting edge grand prix monohull classes. This is the first IMOCA Transatlantic for Seb Col.

Riou and Col lead out of the English Channel and held a strong position slightly to the south of the group which sailed west towards the arriving depression. PRB was snared momentarily when they erred too close to the centre of the low, allowing Yann Eliès and Charlie Dalin on Queguenir-Leucemie Espoir to escape slightly. But by the latitude of Gibraltar they shared first and second. PRB took the lead again in the light airs of the Azores anticyclone but as soon as the top group of four were into the N’ly trade winds Banque Populaire VIII of Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly was quicker by one or two knots in 18-19kts of breeze and they took the lead.

PRB made another small gain at the Canaries, setting up to the east of Banque Populaire just after fourth placed Paul Meilhat and Michel Desjoyeaux diverted towards Guadeloupe with technical problems.
Entering the Doldrums there was just four miles separating PRB from leaders Banque Populaire VIII but it was Riou and Col who emerged first into the S’ly trades. Their margin grew quickly and by Recife they were 36 miles ahead. That margin stayed similar all the way until last night when they extended on the initial approach in to Itajaí.

Of the 20 IMOCA class starters eleven abandoned racing with technical problems.

Published in Offshore
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With SMA now abandoned from fourth place the breakaway group forming the vanguard of the IMOCA fleet is lead by Banque Populaire VIII which is just over 20 miles ahead of PRB, Vincent Riou and Seb Col with Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir, Yann Elies and Charlie Dalin at 36 miles behind. Then there is a 280 miles gap back to Ruyant and Hardy. Bellion and Goodchild are ninth with 11 of the 20 starters still actively racing in the direction of Brasil.

In Class 40 the leaders are lengthening their stride too, Le Conservateur now 56 miles ahead of V and B but the top four boats are still within 100 miles of each other.

But, perhaps contrary to some expectations, the closest match on the race course is the duel between the two leaders, Sodebo Ultim' and Macif. Since 0430hrs this morning they have been pacing each other at near identical speeds 27-28kts, making around 530 mile days. Francois Gabart and Pascal Bidegorry still have the upper hand, five miles up on Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nelias.

The attrition rate continues:

* Hugo Boss crew helicoptered to safety

Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill, skippers of yacht HUGO BOSS in the Transat Jacques Vabre set off their emergency beacon this afternoon at 13.25UT. The Spanish Coastguard was informed and sent a rescue helicopter to their location 82 nautical miles from the Spanish coast.

Update: Alex Thomson and his team are back onboard HUGO BOSS which is now in a stable situation. Alex's IMOCA 60 is undergoing the necessary checks in order to tow her back to La Coruna, Spain.

* Technical problem on board the Ultim Actual

At 0400hrs UTC Friday morning, Yves le Blevec, skipper of the Ultim Actual and his co-skipper Jean-Baptiste Vaillant, informed the Race Management of the Transat Jacques Vabre that they have technical problems. Actual was sailing in manageable conditions, reaching in 20-25 knots at the latitude of Gibraltar.

Actual now route towards the European mainland making a speed of 7 knots in a W -SW'ly wind. Both co-skippers are well.

* Technical problem aboard Adopteunskipper.net

Nicolas Boidevezi , skipper of the IMOCA 60 Adopteunskipper.net competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2015, has told his shore team they have a technical problem with the bottom of the starboard running backstay . The safety of the two skippers is not compromised right now . Nicolas and co-skipper Ryan Breymaier (USA) head towards a haven. The problem occurred as the boat was in 12th position after four days and a half of racing.

* Technical stop in Madeira for JP Dick and Fabien Delahaye.

Jean-Pierre Dick and Fabien Delahaye contacted their team to report two structural ribs have broken in the front of the boat by the middle of the sail locker. The duo aboard St-Michel Virbac are now routing towards Madeira.

* Creno - Moustache Solidaire en route to Spain

Following the breakage of a starboard spreader, Thibault Hector and Morgan Launay have secured their rig and decided to sail to Spain to make a repair. In a sustained wind of 30-35 knots SW'ly and high sea, a stainless fitting broke but the crew was able to quickly change tack to save the rig. But as the wind is veering NW Creno Moustache-Solidaire will be able to make a course towards La Coruna and Vigo in the next hours. The duo expects to quickly repair to return to the course.

* Eric Holden and Morgen Watson, O Canada, are heading to Vigo, Spain

Since yesterday Eric Holden and Morgen Watson have been struggling with a damaged mast track on O Canada. They are heading to Vigo, Spain where they hope to fix the problem.

* Spirit of Hungary (IMOCA 60) dismasted

This afternoon a little after 1700hrs UTC the IMOCA 60 Spirit of Hungary was dismasted while they were 65 Nm north of the island Madeira. They were in 15 knots of northwest wind. Nandor Fa and Peter Perenyi are well and warned the Race Direction they are on their way under engine to Madeira.

* Arthur Hubert and Valentin Lemarchand on the Class40 SNBSM Espoir Competition expect to make a pit stop in Madeira. They duo are now missing a part of the mainsail mast track which was ripped off. And so that prevents them from being able to hoist their mainsail above the second reef. They will have to take a minimum break of 12 hours in Madeira, according to Class40 class rules before they can resume racing after making repairs.

Published in Offshore
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