Transat Jacques Vabre: Race still wide open one week on

We’re exactly one week into the 15th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre race.

Overall the racing is close, with many of the leading boats bunched together across the four classes. The fleet of 79 boats has been reduced to 77 with two IMOCAs suffering broken masts. The Class 40s have spent much of the week struggling to cross the Bay of Biscay in very light conditions.

Ocean Fiftys – remain close 

As in a coastal regatta, the Ocean Fifty fleet is sailing in a particularly tight group. They gybed and are on a south-westerly trajectory to Cape Verde.

Sitting in fifth place is Leyton, co-skippered by Briton Sam Goodchild. They are 65 miles behind the leader Primonial but are being cautious in their chase. “We’re not going to risk everything to catch up with the others,” said Goodchild. “We don’t want to let our buddies escape through the front.”

The fleet is mindful that currents and the effects of the islands can create plenty of possibilities but opportunities for error too.

The stern of a boat, with a trail of wake behind it.
One week on from the race start and there are 77 boats still competing. Pic – TJV

Class40 – calmer conditions

The Class40s are spread out from Cape Finisterre down to the Canary islands but the leading five boats are separated by just 6 nautical miles. With so little between the leading bunch the skippers will be feeling the pressure as one wrong move could see opponents get away.

“It is certain that once a choice of route through the Canaries has been made then the die is cast,” said Antoine Carpentier from his boat Redman. The second placed co-skipper also told us he’s happy with how things are going.

A move worth keeping an eye on came from sixth placed Volvo during the night. Jonas Gerckens and Benoit Hanzperg split away from the leading bunch for a more westerly route. If they can penetrate the small corridor of wind that exists just to their south then they will have more speed and an opportunity to pass.

A Class 40 on a spinnaker reach, sun rising.
A Class40 at dawn. Pic – TJV

IMOCA – the breakaway four

The 60 footers are gliding along the west African coast at 13 knots and watching the Ocean Fifty fleet closely. The two classes are racing the same course so the multihulls choice of route will offer the IMOCAs some clues to the best way through the Cape Verde islands.

Apivia crew selfie with land in the background.
Apivia is placed first in the IMOCA division. Pic – Apivia

Briton Sam Davies aboard Initiatives Coeur and co-skipper Nico Lunven have moved into second place and the mood aboard is excellent as Sam wrote last night, “We’re trucking along with the spinnaker up under an amazing starry night. This time Orion is just ahead of us, leading us south!

“We trickled through the Canary Isles this afternoon with unusually light trade winds, but since midnight we have hooked into some stronger wind. We’re stoked to have passed the Canaries in fourth place – a small celebration took place, cracking open the box of Alex Olivier Chocolates that we have on board!”

Ultimes reach the dodrums 

The Ultimes have arrived in the dreaded doldrums but Maxi Edmond de Rotschild could not be better placed. Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier have built a 300-mile advantage on second placed rival SVR Lazartigue. However, Francois Gabart and Tom Laperche know how troublesome the doldrums can be and will be hoping for an opportunity to catch the leading multihull.

To track the fleet, see:

Listings Added
Lagoon 51
Pantaenius Sailing
Nav at Home
West System Afloat