Tuesday, May 14, 2024
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Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre – it’s hotting up all the time

The first of the Ocean 50 multihull class are due into Martinique this evening. Solidaire en Peloton (Thibaut Vauchel-Camus and Quentin Vlamynck) have led since Cap Finisterre and also have four hours of credit carried forwards from the first Le Havre-Lorient section.

Out to the east of the Caribbean island chain Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière (For People) continue to lead the white hot IMOCA race on the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre. The winners of the 2021 race are on track to repeat their success on the same course two years ago, but still have an increasingly complicated final 1200 nautical miles to complete into Fort de France, Martinique.

Although Ruyant and Lagravière have a 26 miles lead over second placed Yoann Richomme and Yann Eliès (Paprec Arkéa) one of the biggest threat is still expected to come from female Swiss skipper Justine Mettraux and French meteo ace Julien Villion (Teamwork.net).

The Swiss-French duo should see their northerly routing start to pay off as they are now faster downwind at the back of the low pressure they sought to use. In theory they should have a quicker passage into Martinique. Although they are over 100 miles further from the finish than Ruyant and Lagravière computerised routing still sees nothing between on the finish line.

Were they to win it would be a dream double for Mettraux who has just won The Ocean Race with 11th Hour Racing but whose 2021 Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race proved all too short lived after she and Briton Simon Fisher lost their mast in the Bay of Biscay.

Ruyant and Lagravière gybed back to the northwest this morning on to a profitable angle. Their TR Racing stablemates Briton Sam Goodchild and Antoine Koch are a solid third on the boat which won the last race in Ruyant’s hands.

Ruyant reported this morning, “We’re giving it our all. We’re focusing on our speed and have managed to sail fast and be where we wanted to be. We have found out a few little things, which have paid off. And they’re doing well behind us too. Sam and Antoine (For the Planet) are catching up as well. We have worked on these projects together with Sam and it’s nice to see that that is paying off. I’m pleased, but at the same time, we have to be a bit wary, as it is all happening quickly. We’re keeping an eye on them.”

Monitoring their rivals closely he observes, “On Teamwork.net, they could sail down quickly after the front, but that will depend too on the condition of their boat and the sea state. Will they be able to be fast in those conditions, because it is going to be very complicated for them? I hope we will get there before them, even if I’d be pleased for Justine and Julien, who have done something fantastic. It was really daring of them.”

Goodchild on For the Planet said this morning, “It’s great to see Thomas going well and he has a good boat. He is just great on these Transatlantics, it is no coincidence that he has won them all, the Mini, Class40, the AG2R, he knows how to push this boat well and designed it with Antoine, so they know what they have and it was built to improve on the weaknesses of this boat. They are a very good duo and Morgan really knows how to make the boat go fast. So they have experience, talent and a good boat. They have the deadly combo of all three!”

“Our daytime routine right now we are doing two hours on in the cockpit making sure the boat is going fast and then off we are eating, looking at weather, fixing things. We do tend to get more sleep at night because it is so hot in the daytime. We have lots of chat about weather, how to go faster, strategy and what the other boats are doing, the position reports every hour or so, seeing what the other boats are doing. We are always making sure we are on track and checking we have not missed anything. Charal might still be a sail down, it is hard to know really. They are not going very quickly.”

British-Aussie/British combo Sam Davies and Jack Bouttell on Initiatives Coeur hold fourth, some 40 miles or so behind the ‘other Sam’ whilst Mettraux and Villion on Teamwork.net are actually fifth and were making 17 knots compared to the trade winds chargers in the south all doing 19-21kts.

Class40 is also still too close to call. Many French racing weather experts put the balance of probability with the group which has gone north, led by Xavier Macaire and Pierre Leboucher (Groupe SNEF) who are now 600 miles due north of the Italian flagged leaders of the southerly pack, Ambrogio Beccaria and Nico Andrieu on Allagrande PIRELLI and Alberto Bona and Pablo Santurde on IBSA.

Andrieu wrote this morning, “This morning, aboard Allagrande-Pirelli we are fighting two battles. Firstly, a closely fought contest with IBSA, with whom we have been sailing since Cape Finisterre for more than a week. Sometimes, we lose a mile due to our speed and then regain a mile thanks to our routin. We keep checking our speed by looking at the rankings to compare with our rival in the same conditions. Being so close is tiring, yet stimulating. The two boats are pushing each other towards higher speeds. Then, there is the battle carried out from a distance with the northern group, led by Xavier Macaire and his Groupe SNEF. We chose our options a few days ago, but are watching their progress in the North. According to our routing, we should meet up again on the day before the finish. Only then, will we know which was the right option. For now we’re doing what we can, trimming all the time and stacking and spending long hours at the helm. It’s a fierce battle and exactly what we came looking for in this Coffee Race.”

Much will depend on the evolution of a new low pressure which comes through for the 21-22nd which may benefit those who have gone north, sling-shotting them towards the line but potentially leaving a void of light winds to its south. If this can be avoided or tracks more north it could be that the southern group prevails. It really is in the balance…..

Meanwhile the Irish-French duo who won the Cap pour Elles initiative which gives two up and coming girls the chance to race have been fully into sail repairing mode on ENGIE DFDS Brittany Ferries. In 29th Pamela Lee and Tiphaine Rageuneau have been without their big A2 spinnaker for a few days but are now two days into repairing it. The Irish co-skipper Lee reported today, “When the wind is above 15kts we are kinda OK as we are now on the A4 kite, but as soon as it drops we are slow. SO we had to give this a try and make a repair. We are two days into it and have been at it all the time except at night. We are giving it a go. When it tore we were pretty fed up but now at least we feel we are doing something. It is tough mentally because we had worked hard to take some places and boats and then this happened. But we are working hard and looking forwards to having our kite back but it is a bit of a marathon exercise.”

We’re giving it our all. We’re focusing on our speed and have managed to sail quickly to where we wanted to be. We have found a few little things, which have paid off. But they’re doing well behind us too. Sam and Antoine (For the Planet) are catching up as well. We have worked on projects with Sam and it’s nice to see that that is paying off. I’m pleased, but at the same time, we have to be a bit wary, as it is all happening quickly. We’re keeping an eye on them.

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