Autumn storms, the Transat Jacques Vabre seeks a way through
In Le Havre this morning, during the briefing gathering together all the competitors in the Transat Jacques Vabre, Race Management stated that it would postpone its decision until tomorrow, Saturday, with regard whether or not to delay Sunday’s scheduled start at 1302 hours. Indeed a series of cold fronts are rolling through the English Channel at a rate of one every 24 hours, leading to strong winds (an established 25/30 knots) and heavy seas. As experienced sailors, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier understand just how harsh the elements can be at the starts of these autumnal transatlantic races. For the time being, the duo aboard the Multi 70 Edmond de Rothschild don’t wish to put any more pressure on themselves than necessary and trust in the Race Committee, which will have to pick a way through these systems to launch a start in acceptable weather conditions.

Start date subject to Saturday’s decision: the Edmond de Rothschild duo is ready for action

On Sunday, 25 to 30 knots of westerly breeze are forecast, gusting to 35. With a coefficient of 97 and the tide on the ebb at midday, heavy seas over tide are set to sweep across the Baie de Seine at start time. Such conditions aren’t conducive to easy handling for the 44 boats competing in this 11th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Ready for take-off

“Surprisingly I’m not that worried and I’m still managing to distance myself a little from the pressure of the start,” Sébastien Josse explains confidently. “The Race Committee knows what it is doing, it’s up to us to be patient. The boat is ready, as is the crew, and until the decision about our sentence is made, there’s no point in getting ourselves het up before time!” Enthusiastic about what awaits, the skipper of the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is even casting his mind forward to the more distant future. “After Cape Finisterre, the weather is forecast to be great. The zone of high pressure seems stable over the Azores and the tradewinds are in position along the coast of Portugal. It’s fantastic!”

“All that remains is to load the fresh produce (Corsican parmesan, coppa (dry-cured pork) and cooked pork meats) and we can cast off,” Charles adds with a smile. “In the mornings, I’m a bit stressed when I awake, but that’s par for the course before this kind of event. It doesn’t last; I go for a run and the feeling’s gone! However things pan out we’ll have 24 to 36 tough hours to exit the English Channel and make headway to the South. That’s the name of the game with these races and we’re prepared for it.”

2-phase multihull start planned initially

This race gathers together four classes of boat: 40 and 60-foot monohulls and 50 and 70-foot multihulls. The organisation is keen to encourage bunched arrivals in Brazil. As such, given the differences in speed between the boats with one or three hulls, Race Management had planned to launch the start of the monohull race on Sunday and to make the multihulls return to port after a preliminary coastal course across the Baie de Seine. The Committee then wished to delay the ‘true’ multihull start by a few days, according to the weather. The ranking for this prologue, which was set to span some forty miles or so between Le Havre and Étretat, would then count towards the overall ranking as the Multi50s and Multi70s will set sail for the Atlantic according to the order and finish time of their initial coastal course.

Reminiscent of the Mini Transat

However, Race Management must adapt to the endless string of lows, giving the impression during this morning’s briefing that a general start involving all the class could be in prospect from Monday. Like the organisers of the Mini Transat 2013, whose departure from Douarnenez was delayed by over ten days and whose fleet are currently on a stopover in Spain to let a gale blow through off Cape Finisterre, the organisers of the Transat Jacques Vabre have to favour the safety of their sailors primarily. For the competitors, this situation obviously isn’t that comfortable but it is what one would expect for this time of year!

The next skippers’ briefing will take place in Le Havre tomorrow, Saturday, at 1100 hours.

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