Some eight days after the initial start from Le Havre a week past Sunday, 46 duos aboard their Class40 and Ocean Fifty multihiulls returned to the Transat Jacques Vabre race course from Lorient this Monday morning heading for Martinique.
The pairs set off in fairly typical late autumn weather with 2.5m high waves and a 20-knot WSW’ly wind. The breeze was peppered with many squalls to deal with, some bringing in heavy rain and gusts of 35-40 knots.
So conditions were very much as might be expected at the start of the Coffee Race. The fleets of six trimarans and forty monohulls which crossed their lines at 1030 and 1045hrs local time respectively are going to find it very hard work to get to the trade winds.
There was a damp, early start for those who took to the pontoons to big farewell to their crews.
It was a bitter moment for the French co-skippers of Dékuple, William Mathelin-Moreaux and Pietro Luciani, who confirmed they would not be racing on after being unable to repair in time the damage they suffered in the first leg. They could not hide their emotions.
On the water conditions were immediately tough and physical as forecast with a low pressure coming in sharply.
At 1030hrs, the Ocean Fifty multihulls got underway with Viabilis Océan (Quiroga-Treussart) the first to cross the start line, A quarter of an hour later, it was time for the Class40 monohulls to get back into the race via a course that will take them past Porto Santo in Madeira. The wind eased off to 15 knots, but a huge squall on the horizon came blasting through.
At the gun, IBSA (Bona-Santurde Del Arco), Café Joyeux (D’Estais-Debiesse), Project Rescue Ocean (Trehin-Riou) and Edenred (Le Roch-Bourgnon), to the left of the start line, got off to a good start.
At the clearance buoy, Seafrigo Sogestran (Chateau-Pirouelle), back in the race after a commando mission to repair their boat that was holed after Sunday’s storm proved quick off the mark, no doubt buoyed by pent up energy and desire after their stressful week which saw them truck the boat to Lorient for the composite repair.
At the mark it was the Normandie duo Cedric Chateau and Guillaume Pirouelle) who led the way ahead of Interinvest (Perraut-Bloch), Legallais (Delahaye-Douguet), and La Manche #Evidence Nautique (Jossier-Loison)…
Ahead for this compact fleet, there are likely to be 48 hours of rough conditions and strategic choices. The skippers will be attempting to look after their boats, while not hanging around, in order to make their way out of the Bay of Biscay and pass Cape Finisterre. This is where skill is required, as it is easier said than done, particularly when sailing upwind in this first part, before they can look forward to the promise of some downwind sailing…
The Irish French duo Pam Lee and Tiphaine Ragueneau Engie DFDS Brittany Ferries had to make a rapid return to port to repair their J1 headsail but had finally returned to the race course 2-3 hours later.
Quotes from the pontoon in Lorient La Base
Erwan Le Roux (Koesio), Ocean Fifty: “The initial start was last Sunday in Le Havre and was magnificent in the strong winds. Now it’s time for the second leg to start. We are in the same mindset as last week and aiming to do well. We will try to find a good trajectory on the race course, which is a bit technical for the first few days. There are a lot of areas of light winds, gusts and very unstable winds. We’re going to have to find our way through all that. There are a lot of traps. We are going to have to remain focused and vigilant, but we must not hang around, as we need to avoid another low-pressure system that will be reaching Cape Finisterre tomorrow evening.”
Ambrogio Beccaria & Nicolas Andrieu (Alla Grande Pirelli), Class40: “We’re pleased to be able to set sail, but it will be in strong winds and upwind for the first two and a half days. We’re going to have to remain alert, but we sailed well in the first leg. We’re going to try to keep up the pace, as we have to get the timing right.We are tackling this second leg, just as we did at the start of the race a week ago, even if now there is no longer the problem of currents and rocks we had to avoid off the coast of North Brittany. Apart from that, we still have everything to do. It is up to us to fight hard and keep at it for 15-16 days.”
Erwan le Draoulec (Everial), Class40: “A rainy start, but a happy one, simply because we’re pleased to be able to set off. We’ll be sailing upwind for the first 24-48 hours in rough conditions, but nowhere near as bad as those we had in the English Channel. But things keep changing in the sky and there are a lot of squalls. It’s not going to be as simple as that. We’re setting off on a long stretch on the starboard tack making our way towards Cape Finisterre. The difficulties will begin right from the start. On Wednesday, we are going to have to cross a front. It is quite active, but we’ll be close to the centre. We don’t know how it will go and what we will need to do.”
Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires en Peloton), Ocean Fifty: “We’re still in November in the NorthAtlantic, but we can’t wait to set off. We are tackling this second leg like a Medal Race, as this is the one that really counts. We have 24 hours to get out of the Bay of Biscay and to remind ourselves that this is the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, even if we are setting off again. It’s not going to be as tough as the first leg, but there may be more real racing, even if we got an example of that in the first leg. Our current lead is just a slight advantage that may be useful, if things get complicated at the finish. But it is not that small lead that means we are in a comfortable position, as there are twelve days of sailing ahead of us.”
Achille Nebout & Gildas Mahé (Amarris), Class40: “We are expecting some fairly strong squalls in the first48 hours. During the first night, we should see a first low-pressure system, but it isn’t that violent, even if there is some uncertainty and that may give us some tactical opportunities. More importantly, on the second night, there will be a front to deal with off Cape Finisterre, and it looks like it’s going to be tough. Once we have got over those two difficulties, we will be able to head south to pick up some winds offering downwind sailing and some more warmth. We all know the point we are aiming for, but we may take different routes to get there.”