An eye-popping spectacle offshore of Le Havre!
In line with the long-term forecast, the weather conditions were simply perfect this Sunday at 12:27 UTC for launching the 15th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre. The fleet of 79 boats set sail in a NW’ly breeze of 15-20 knots, whilst the five competing Ultimes, including the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, literally took off towards Antifer and the cliffs of Etretat at the far end of the coastal course that kicks off the race. A veritable feast for the eyes!

In short seas, with a medium wind from the perfect direction, increasing to strong in the gusts, the 32-metre giants were able to show off their true potential at the start of this Coffee Route 2021. Keen to get back into competition mode after more than two years without any race clashes, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier treated us to a fabulous start by crossing the line at the head of the fleet. They rounded the Normandie mark, the first compulsory passage point, in 1st place

A few minutes before casting off, the duo on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was in good spirits as they responded to a Q&A session before bidding farewell to the large crowds in Le Havre who had gathered this Sunday morning around the Vauban and Eure basins.

Franck Cammas: “For the first few hours of racing, we’ll have around twenty knots of breeze. If all goes to plan, we shouldn’t have to put in any manoeuvres until the first mark at Etretat, which makes things easier because this mark is very close inshore. After that, we’ll launch onto a beat, tacking towards Cherbourg in a breeze that is set to build to around 25 knots as we approach Barfleur, then we’ll have 2 changes of tack at Barfleur before turning to make for Ushant. At that point, the wind will drop away fairly quickly after Guernsey. However, at Raz Blanchard there will still be quite a lot of breeze pushed along by the current, which will increase the apparent wind. Next, the wind will ease again as we pass Ushant. This zone will be fairly complicated, but we should be clear of it by around midnight. If we fall into the light patch of air, we’ll have to distance ourselves from the direct route in search of breeze. Conditions are not due to be hard for this start phase, which is not a bad thing for exiting the English Channel, but all in all we’re expecting things to be a bit random with light airs.”

Charles Caudrelier: “We’re feeling quietly confident, we’re well prepared and conditions aren’t overly boisterous. It’s a little stressful as the weather situation is not clear and the initial decisions we’ll have to make may be key for the rest of the race, so it’s important we don’t make a mistake. The first few days may be pretty decisive. The first boat to hook onto the breeze lower down may well get a sizeable lead. After that though, there are plenty of other things going on, including the doldrums and so on… I don’t envisage that the fleet will be bunched together as they hit the breeze. I believe that gaps will open up fairly swiftly. We’d have preferred a slightly more boisterous forecast in our battle against the new boats, which are a little less tried and tested, as we really relish such conditions with the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, but I think that all the boats are going to be fairly versatile. We’re happy to get back into competition mode, especially in light of the fact that the line-up is even denser this time, with some new boats and some very good crews.

Order at the Normandie mark (Etretat)
1. Maxi Edmond de Rothschild // Franck Cammas & Charles Caudrelier
2. Banque Populaire XI // Armel Le Cléach et Kevin Escoffier
3. SVR Lazartigue // François Gabart & Tom Laperche
4. Actual // Yves Le Blévec & Anthony Le Marchand
5. Sodebo // Thomas Coville & Thomas Rouxel

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