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Transat B to B - Safran sets off from Saint Barts

by Soazig Guého on 6 Dec 2011
Transat B to B - Depart De Saint-Barthelemy Le 5/12/2011 - IMOCA 60 Safran (Marc Guillemot) © B. Stichelbaut / Sea&Co
Marc Guillemot aboard Safran set off from Saint Barts in the Transat B to B at 1400 GMT (1500 CET) today amid a light easterly wind that blew about 12 knots. At total of eight solo sailors took to the water for a 3300 mile journey across the Atlantic to the Lorient in Brittany. 'It may not be that enjoyable, but is an excellent way to prepare for the Vendée Globe,' explained the skipper of Safran.

Marc, what are the characteristics of this crossing and what are you expecting in terms of the weather?

'Of course, we’re going to have to keep updating the weather on board, but let’s say that in a classic scenario at this time of year, during the first part of this voyage, we can expect to find the trade winds, so that means upwind sailing. This isn’t usually very comfortable, as we are heeled over and get very wet, but at least the boat can keep going and there are no worries about the situation, as it remains relative simple to deal with.

This pattern can last for four or five days. After that, there is the problem of getting around the Azores high in order to hop onto one of the lows to head for Brittany. That’s when it becomes a bit rock’n’roll, as sailing solo we find ourselves downwind with a lot of sail up on these boats and the gybes that are required are a source of stress that we don’t have when sailing upwind.

There may therefore be a certain tension on board, but the advantage is that we sail quickly towards the finish in conditions similar to what we will probably encounter in the Vendée Globe. In general heading for Brittany in December is not that easy.'

What are your goals in this solo transatlantic race?

'Firstly, this is a real race, so if we can make it to the podium or win, we’ll be going for it. But personally the result isn’t the most important thing, as the first objective is to get ready for the Vendée Globe. From that perspective, the Transat B to B is a major race, as it is the only big race left to sail solo before the start of the Vendée Globe in eleven months time.

On top of that, the conditions will be close to what we can expect in the round the world race. For me not to take part would be a mistake. The competition is of a high standard and whoever makes it to the podium of the Transat B to B may well also be there on the Vendée Globe podium…'

About the Transat B to B:

- Single-handed race reserved for 60-foot IMOCA boats.

- Theoretical route of 3300 miles between Saint Barts and Lorient.

- Start on Monday 5th December with the boats due to finish in Lorient on around 20th December.

Eight competitors at the start: Marc Guillemot (Safran), Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), Vincent Riou (PRB), Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec), Mike Golding (Gamesa), Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), François Gabart (Macif) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée).

This is a qualifying race for the Vendée Globe, but only two out of the eight taking part still need to fulfil this requirement: François Gabart and Louis Burton. All the others – including Marc Guillemot and Safran – have already qualified for the Everest of sailing, which is due to begin on 10th November 2012 from Les Sables d’Olonne.

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