The locals in Le Havre have always known how to give sailors a warm welcome, especially at the heart of the Bassin Paul Vatine, where those competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre build up their first memories of the race, or rather the pre-race atmosphere. As the autumn depressions sweep across the French coast, the beginners and the more experienced sailors exchange ideas, examine the grib files and try to solve the world’s problems. Everyone will remember these moments because a Transat Jacques Vabre has a significant bearing in a sailor’s life.
His first participation has a special place in the heart of the skipper of the MOD70 Edmond de Rothschild. “It was in 2003, a year before my first Vendée Globe,” Sébastien recalls. “I’d just taken over the monohull VMI. My aim was to learn to helm an Imoca singlehanded and I was lucky enough to have alongside me Isabelle Autissier, whose career path on the subject is exemplary. I had left the Figaro circuit burning with enthusiasm. I thought you could hoist a spinnaker in five minutes…! Isabelle taught me a great deal, particularly in terms of the weather and the special handling required on these boats.”
Charles made his grand entrance onto the Transat Jacques Vabre scene back in 2005. The services of the recent winner of the Solitaire du Figaro were then sought by Yvan Bourgnon, who needed someone to second him aboard the 60-foot Orma trimaran Brossard. “I sailed on the boat for a year with a nice crew. We were leading the way in the Orma class at the time. It was great and I felt a great sense of pride doing it. Unfortunately the boat broke in two on exiting the English Channel and the adventure ended there.”
The best memory
In 2007, Charles returned to the scene with a monohull this time, teaming up with Marc Guillemot aboard the 60-foot Imoca, Safran. “I was lucky to be part of a very fine team with a very high-performance boat. We dominated the start of the race and, following a light patch in the middle we finished second, less than an hour astern of Michel Desjoyeaux. It’s one of my best racing memories.”
A humdinger of an edition
In November 2009, the storm raged offshore of the Bay of Biscay. To make Puerto Limon on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, some opted to adopt a northerly route and tackle the depression head-on. Among them Safran boasted the Guillemot-Caudrelier pairing at her helm once again. They were followed by Kito de Pavant and François Gabart (Groupe Bel), as well as Sébastien Josse and Jean-François Cuzon (BT). In furious seas, the roof of the monohull BT broke under the force of the waves. The boat began taking on water and the sailors were airlifted to safety by helicopter. It’s still a painful memory for Sébastien.
Further to the West, Safran came out of the gale at the front of the pack. “The challenge of this option was to come out the other side. We quickly felt that we had control of the race, but we were afraid of breaking the boat and losing everything,” Charles admits. “Groupe Bel was pushing hard behind and we were under pressure right the way to the finish line. It really was a fine victory. I remember it being a tough race but a superb experience.”
With just days to go until the start of the 2013 edition, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier still feel a bit like rookies despite all that has gone before. Indeed, aboard the multihull fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, the two men are tackling their very first transatlantic race aboard a multihull. A sizeable challenge awaits them, on what will be a demanding course as far as Itajaí, Brazil, with a flood of new memories to rack up along the way!