The 13th edition is off!
Clean start! As scheduled, the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet set sail this Sunday 5 November at exactly 12:35 UTC from the foot of the Cap de la Hève, just off the cliffs of Sainte-Adresse. In a medium W to NW'ly wind of around twenty knots and rough, choppy seas, the 37 competing duos set a course for Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, some 4,350 miles away. At the helm of the Maxi-Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel got off to a safe start.
The weather for the first few hours of racing promises to be bracing and the Edmond de Rothschild duo won't have the luxury of a period of wait-and-see before they get down to action! Indeed, though the exit from the English Channel is likely to be behind them by tomorrow morning, once Ushant is in the wake of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild conditions will deteriorate ever further until a cold front rolls through on Monday night through into Tuesday in the Bay of Biscay.
In the English Channel, the angle and strength of the wind and the sea state might appear ideal for powering up, but Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel have opted to tackle this start of the race with an altogether different mindset coloured by a more long term vision: Around twenty knots, 1.5 to 2-metre waves and probably a long reach as far as Ushant with a few changes of headsail on the cards, On paper, conditions will be favourable for immediately racking up an average speed of around 40 knots. However, amidst the maritime shipping, the proximity of the coast and the negotiation of the TSSs, we don't think it would be a reasonable or clever policy for the start of a race.
The last boat to leave the dock in Le Havre, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild cast off at 09:30 UTC. Three hours prior to the race start, Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel shared their final thoughts with us.
Sébastien Josse, skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild: Conditions are rather favourable for going fast, but our objective isn't about getting a record. Primarily the focus is on getting to Bahia as best we can and in the first 2 days it'll essentially be a question of hunkering down as we don't yet have much experience in such conditions. It's the Maxi's first race. We know we're going to encounter conditions we haven't really had in training, but it's all about trust and we'll try to go about things in the right way. I'm happy to be doing this first race with Thomas as we share a mutual trust and he's totally tuned in, he has a lot of experience to fall back on, he's very serious and very focused. It's his first start on a big boat and I'm quite confident that we can step up to the plate.
Thomas Rouxel, co-skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild: The start is going to be pretty complicated with all the other boats. We hope the zone will be nice and clear. Once we've crossed the line, we should make the Etretat mark on a single tack so that's good. We're quietly confident. We'll set off gently and in principle we'll be sailing pretty close-hauled so we won't be flying on the initial tack. We won't attack from the get-go so it'll be safer. The routing is indicating around 8 days to Bahia and we should pass offshore of Ushant in the middle of the night and the Azores the day after so it'll be quick. I'm very lucky to be doing my first Jacques Vabre on a boat like this and I'm very pleased to be here as I've been wanting to do the Transat Jacques Vabre for a long time. It's a great race so I'm going to try and savour this time and give my all.