Strong, gusty winds and choppy seas made for a spectacular start to the 16th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre for three of the four race fleets today. While the ULTIM, Ocean Fifty and Class 40 races set off on time, in 20-25kts the 40 boat IMOCA fleet remain in Le Havre after their start was postponed due to forecasted storm force winds.
But only the five giant, foiling ULTIM trimarans will sail a course to Martinique heading out of the Channel this afternoon before turning to their first marks at the San Paulo and San Pedro islands off Brazil before heading to Ascension Island. Capable of sustained speeds of over 40kts they should outrun the deep depression which is forecast to bring gusts of up to 80kts and 10-12 metre seas Finisterre on Tuesday.
After starting in sequence from 1307hrs this afternoon the ULTIM, six Ocean Fifty and 44 Class 40s revelled on the tough, gusty conditions on the Bay of Le Havre but they will just race a 320 miles passage to Lorient on the French Atlantic coast where they will re-start when the weather outlook improves. Their race to Martinique is likely to be on a shorter course distance. But it is unclear when their re-start will be.
The IMOCA 60 fleet remain on standby for a start but it is not likely to be for several days at least.
British skipper Pip Hare (Medallia) commented, “For us it was not looking so bad, we would have seen six hours of heavy breeze and then a further three to six hours of heavy sea state but then. We were looking at risk profile and it was OK, but I am speaking to Szabi (Hungarian IMOCA skipper Szabolcs Weöres) and he was going to be 150 miles or so behind on a slower boat. I think the decision of the race officers reflects the fact we have a diverse IMOCA fleet and that is one the great things about the IMOCA class and something we should not lose. And that is someone who is lucky enough to have a high performance foiler now but came up in the second oldest boat in the fleet in the Vendée Globe I value and respect that decision.”
The 320 miles passage to Lorient for the Ocean Fifty and Class 40 fleets is expected to still see winds gusting to 30 knots tonight. And with strong tides and contrary winds big seas are still expected.
SVR Lazartigue, the giant blue VPLP design of Francois Gabart and Tom Laperche – the newest in the fleet – was leading the ULTIM class by over four miles, making steady speeds of 25-29 knots set to pass the tip of the Cherbourg peninsula before mid-afternoon.
In the Ocean Fifty class the early leader was newcomer to the class Pierre Quiroga – winner of the 2021 La Solitaire du Figaro – racing with Ronan Treussard on VIABLIS OCÉANS, a 2017 boat which was previously Sam Goodchild’s Leyton.
The first miles for the Class 40 race was impressive with 44 boats close reaching at high speeds – up to 18-20kts at times for the latest scow designs. Italian favourite Ambrogio Beccaria on Allla Grande-PIRELLI, which finished second in last year’s Route du Rhum solo race to Guadeloupe, set the pace on the short circuit, despite hitting the only turning mark and having to take a penalty. They were leading Credit Mutuel – sailed by the highly favoured Ian Lipinksi and Antoine Carpentier, the 2019 race winners. Britons Brian Thompson and Alister Richardson were fourth and showing good speed on Tquila.
At the mark there were two collisions. One between Curium and Bertrand Guillonneau and Kito de Pavant’s Movember which saw the boom damaged.
The other was between Figaro ace, local Le Havre favourite Guillaume Pirouelle and Cedric Chateau’s recently launched Seafrigo-Sogestran and Café Joyeux. Three boats Café Joyeux, Seafrigo-Sogestran, and Movember had to make a U turn and return to Le Havre to try and effect repairs.