Video courtesy Transat Jacques Vabre.
Itajai – Finishing into Itajai in the south of Brasil at 15h 03m 57s (local, 17h 03m 57s UTC/GMT) on a humid, overcast afternoon, Sebastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier on the MOD 70 Edmond de Rothschild were a picture of relief and happiness when they crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre first, with their persistent rivals Oman Air-Musandam in second place, approximately 60 miles behind them.
The French duo set a reference time for this new 5450 miles course from Le Havre to Itajai of 11 days 5 hours 3 minutes and 54 seconds. Despite this being the longest course yet, set for this 11th edition of the race which follows the ‘coffee route’, some 1080 miles further than Salvador de Bahia, Josse and Caudrelier’s time compares very favourably with the best multihull benchmark set to Salvador of 10 days and 38 minutes, averaging 19.18 kts, set by Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin in 2007. Edmond de Rothschild averaged 20.07 kts for the theoretical course of 5450 miles but actually sailed 5952 miles for an average of 22.12kts for the first long ocean passage by a MOD 70 sailed double handed.
Edmond de Rothschild add this success to winning the summer’s tour of Europe, the fully crewed Route des Princes, which proved valuable learning for Josse and Caudrelier.
They lead this race continuously since the start back on Thursday 7th November, coming under greatest threat from their rivals Oman Air Musandam, sailed by Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall, when the Franco Irish duo cut their lead right back when they made a better passage of the Doldrums, working to the east of Edmond de Rothschild.
Although both MOD 70s proved very evenly matched throughout the course, Josse believes the mental advantage of leading off the start line, out of Le Havre, formed the foundations of their ultimate success:
“I think it was important to win off the start line. Mentally you take that advantage, we know that Sidney and Damian are very strong sailors and we knew they would be there to take any advantage they could.”
Getting the balance right – staying sufficiently close to the edge to be fast at all times – was one of the key assets for the winning duo, being able to operate consistently well whilst under the constant stress of knowing a mistake would terminate their chances of finishing the race. Josse pointed to the hard winter of training which really taught them the limits of the boat and revealed that the pressure only ceased with the finish gun.
“It was complicated compared with the monohull because you have that bulb under the keel, when you have a problem you put the autopilot on, the boat goes straight. In the multihull there is stress the whole time. There is never five minutes to make a cup of coffee. I took plenty of soup and coffee and had none of it, there is just never the time. You are always at the limit of your body and your brain. When you feel you start to sleep you call the other and the other comes. But he is in the same shape as you. So you have to try to make it work like that, sometimes you get 20 minutes, sometimes one hour.”
“It was all hard. Cape Finisterre was really hard with big seas, but then after in the trade winds with 30kts and the big gennaker like two days ago, it is really hard to push the boat harder. In the Bay of Biscay we were not so fast upwind, just 10-12 knots, because we had to take care of the boat then, two nights ago we just pushed harder but you know you are always close to the capsize. That is hard, because you are tired, your body is fighting with what is coming at you, there is a lot of water coming at your face.”
“Since the start we knew that these boats would be close, but at the start we managed to make a good gap, but we knew would come back and they did when they cut the doldrums more to the east of us, that gave them an advantage when we got down to Recife (off the NE corner of Brazil) and so we did not really feel we were in a good position until the finish line. Sometimes you maybe feel strong on the water, sometimes you have to be able to push yourselves harder just to go forwards and open the gap.”
“Jean Yves (Bernot) and Antoine (Koch), our routers, did a great job as routers because you just have no time to take the weather in, it is too much for just two people. So to have the weather and to be able to just focus on the boat and making it go fast.”
In fact Oman Air Musandam closed to within one mile of Edmond de Rothschild on the approach to Cape Finisterre on the NW corner of Spain, but when Josse and Caudrelier escaped first into the building Portuguese trade winds, they opened a gap which extended to 101 miles between the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde islands. The leverage their passage through the Doldrums gained them benefited them when the closed in on the approach to Recife, and even on Saturday night before the MOD 70s skirted the edge of a high pressure zone, the delta was down to 21 miles.
And the win will be somewhat cathartic for Josse who was airlifted to the Azores from a half sunk IMOCA Open 60 ending his last Transat Jacques Vabre race in 2009.
IMOCA Nothing in it
Meanwhile the battle continued to swing back and forth in the IMOCA Open 60 Class where Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux have eked out a lead of just 1.5 miles on Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam on PRB. The leading IMOCA Open 60s have been racing within sight of each other since yesterday, sometimes as close as half a mile apart after more than 11 days of racing. On the long drag SW they were closing towards Recife this evening 435 miles in front of them.
And while the Class 40 leading duo GDF Suez (Rogues and Delahaye) have extended out to 59 miles ahead of Mare (Riechers and Brasseurs), Spain’s hard driving Alex Pella and Pablo Santurde are up to third on Tales Santander 2014, the leaders passing the latitude of the Cape Verdes.
The Multi 50 duel has closed up again off Recife, FenetreA-Cardinal now leading Actual by just 26.74 miles.
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