Atlantic Ocean – Here we go. The first 24 hours of the 12th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the two handed race from Le Havre to Itajaí, Brazil have been fast in a building breeze. But the Bay of Biscay and an Atlantic low pressure system will hit most of the fleet this evening and tomorrow bringing building seas and big winds with gusts over 40kts. There is no big surprise in store. The ominous system has been lurking west of Ireland for some time, but is only moving slowly SE before it fills and loses some of its intensity later on Tuesday. But the duos in all four classes have been preparing as best they can for the tough conditions, drysuits and boots are on now and may be for 48 hours or more.
The big question in the 20 boat IMOCA class is prudence or push? Prudence is Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill’s watchword this week with their eight day old Hugo Boss. They lead the class by virtue of their solid sailing and their position to the east, making more south closer to the direct course, but the British skipper warned today that their cotton wool approach – to protect their brand new boat – will lose them one day by Cape Verde against the boats which have gone west to get under the depression quicker, through to the more favourable breezes first. With time on the water so vital between now and the start of next year’s Vendée Globe, Thomson – as with others – cannot afford to have his new boat spend any more time in a boatyard than what is programmed over the coming months. Hugo Boss leads a group of five IMOCAs including Kito de Pavant and Yann Reginau on Bastide-Otio and Macsf – cousins Bertrand De Broc and 2009 winner Marc Guillemot on Macsf.
Thomson said they had snagged a lobster pot off Cherbourg last night but confirmed:
“Our option is to try and stay south to try and avoid conditions which are too strong. Our boat is only eight days old and so we don’t we feel it is very prudent to go the fastest route and so it looks healthy, we lead the fleet today but the long term shows we will be one day behind by Cape Verde“.
But pushing hard to the west, 230 miles west of Land’s End and arc-ing NWW is the group lead by Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier who have about 240 miles of pain to get to the favourable, NWlies and the best angle. The risk is significantly higher for this group – winds over 40kts and seas of seven metres – but the rewards are expected to me much greater. Edmond de Rothschild is about three miles ahead of SMA, Paul Meilhat and Michel Desjoyeaux, with Vendée Globe runner up Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly about two miles further back on the Banque Populaire VIII. For this group, especially, tonight is likely to be the biggest break or make night of the race.
Sadly robbed of the chance to chose is Jérémie Béyou. The skipper from the Bay of Morlaix who has been an early retirement from his first two Vendée Globes – rig damage in 2008 and keel ram in 2012 – has had to retire after just ten hours of hard racing. He and co-skipper Philippe Legros pulled into Lorient at around 0815hrs this morning with damage to a stay expecting to be able to restart.
The team’s statement said: “Following the damage that happened at around 2300hrs yesterday evening to a mainstay attachment, which holds the mast up from the front, Jérémie Beyou and Philippe Legros, who were in 4th place, were forced to make their way to Roscoff, which they reached this morning at 0830hrs. The shore team and suppliers analysed the situation and attempted to replace the faulty part. In spite of their hard work, late today they were unable to guarantee that the replacement part would be solid enough to allow the two sailors to head back out to sea without any worries.”
In his statement Beyou confirmed his team are evaluating the options, whether to deliver to Saint Barth for the Saint Bart to Port La Foret B2B or have the boat early in the yard in order to get sailing earlier next year.
In Class 40 Club 103 is heading for a Lorient pit stop due to a bow and spinnaker pole problem. But at the head of the fleet, making good speeds are Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite, Nicolas Troussel and Corentin Horeau. The French duo appear to be going for the more conservative option, 108 miles to the SE of the British-French duo on Team Concise, Jackson Bouttell and Gildas Mahé. After holding the early lead, Team Concise are placing their faith in the north and west option, most extreme of the fleet along with Solidaires en Peloton which is right alongside them, some comfort through a night which could be pivotal. And Concise 2, Philippa Hutton Squire and Pip Hare have a steady course and a lot of faith in their well proven boat, happy to go west too.
The Ultimes, leaders of the course, are already down into the westerly breeze, Sodebo Ultim leading Macif by 17 miles, now tacked and heading for Cape Finisterre 105 miles in front of their bows at 1700hrs UTC this afternoon.