by Soazig Guého
In the Transat Jaques Vabre, a sticky, light wind finish was not really what was wanted by the Class 40 duos which finished over the course of Monday morning in Itajaí, Brasil. One of the tightly knit groups which have both endured and enjoyed their close rivalries down the second half of the 5450 miles Transat Jacques Vabre race course from Le Havre had only very light overnight winds which dragged out the final miles for six or eight hours of additional suffering.
Class 40 arriving in Itajai (Brazil) on December 2, 2013.
The trio, Solidaires en Peloton, BET1128 and Fantastica, compressed in the gentle airs, but although the Italian duo on Fantastica, Stefano Raspadori and past class winner Pietro d’Ali, got to within 1.5 miles of long time rivals BET1128, Sam Manuard and Gaetano Mura were still able to cross the line 17 minutes for 12th ahead of Fantastica in 13th.
At a little after 0916hrs this morning (local time) Victorien Erussard and Thibaut Vaschel had lead the that Monday Morning ‘rush’, finishing 11th.
Merron in ninth As the mid-fleet finishers recover from what all continue to describe as a relentless, one sided speed course – 20 days on port gybe as one skipper reflected - most of the recent group are pleased to have finished but not too enamoured with their results.
Earlier yesterday evening Britain’s Miranda Merron and her French partner Halvard Mabire secured their ninth but after being up to third on Campagne de France, they really struggled after the head blew completely off their medium spinnaker after Madeira. Merron, completing her fourth Transat Jacques Vabre, rued the loss of their kite which they had only just managed to fix and set just before the finish, but also reflected she would have liked to have seen the race restart in Roscoff, rather than start in time order of finishing. But, she smiled, having got the spinnaker finally fixed ‘It is a shame we don’t have another couple of weeks to get back into it’
Merron said: 'We were totally compromised after we lost our big spinnaker. We don’t know what happened, the head came off. It lost its head. We repaired it, but at the time we were in third or fourth and the boat was going really well, and really took a long time to even effect the first repair. Conditions were pretty rough at the time and we just knew we were giving away three or four miles an hour. It was pretty soul destroying to have done all that work, to have come up from 12th at Roscoff to third, a few days later having played it well tactically and in heavy weather we know the boat, we know when we can start putting sails up and not. But, then that is yacht racing, it is too bad. That’s the way it goes sometimes and I know we are not the only boat to have breakages, but that sail was crucial for us for six days out of the final ten. We watched boats sailing away from us, and boats catching up and sailing away.'
They were not the only one to be compromised by sail damage, frustration exacerbated by the subsequent lack of strategic options. The Solidaires en Peloton duo, racing the new Farr design, had to pit-stop into Cascais to repair a number of sails. They had other technical problems, commensurate with a new, relatively untested boat, but were philosophical, especially grateful for the messages of support from some of the 80,000 people in France who live every day with Multiple Sclerosis, for whom their adventures are part of a solidarity programme.
BET 1128’s luck was both good and bad. Sam Manuard and Gaetano Mura were blessed when they managed to avoid damage to their rig when it tumbled down and they managed to restep it at sea but they still needed to stop into La Coruna, NW Spain for half a day to fix the rigging and replace damaged electrical wiring.
And Fantastica also struggled, trying to reap the full potential of the new Verdier design, suffering from lack of preparation time, compounded by an initial easterly routing choice, skipper Raspadori saying 'I am not very happy with the result, but happy to get here.'
Next to finish should be the British duo Mike Gascoyne and Brian Thompson on Caterham Challenge which should arrive in Itajai around 2030hrs UTC. (1830hrs local) in 14th place.
Miranda Merron (GBR) co-skipper Campagne de France: ' We are not that happy with ninth, but we should be to be in the top 10. This is my fourth Transat Jacques Vabre fleet, and certainly the most competitive I have done in terms of the number of boats and the level. The level of competition is extraordinary and there are some very good boats behind us to. And the level is only going up and up. You look at this class and you can only be impressed by it. But they are very close to the water and very wet. And my sailing partner has been complaining about it. I wasn’t because there is no point in us both moaning is there? ' I would be happier to have come in the top five, than to think of myself as a role model. I think it would be nice if there were more women racing in Class 40, especially because the boat size is physically good for women. They are powerful boats but they are 40 footers not 60 footers.' Thibaut Vauchel -Camus , co- skipper of the Class40 ' Solidaires en Peloton ' It's been two years since we really sailed together and then we live in each others pockets for a wee as a duo and it is not a problem. Ever since we left Lisbon for pleasure and we felt so supported. Partners in the boat, sponsors, it is not just a boat, a skipper, a coskipper it is also about all the companies who support the sporting project and the charity for the fight against Multiple Sclerosis which represents 80,000 people in France. We have had messages of support from many people who live with MS every day and that was a real boost.'
Samuel Manuard , co- skipper of the Class 40 ' BET1128 : ' It's good to get here. We had a lot of technical problems and we made some of the race without the right sails to set at the right times. And having no bowsprit between Cape Verde and Recife, in the end we were sailing at an inefficient pace, it is not so much tiring physically, just stressful and painful. And it is still very wet through the race.'
Gaetano Mura(ITA) co-skipper BET1128: 'We needed our Code 5 to be as fast as the others. But we have given it all, we have done our max. We have done the best with what we had, we have not given in. On the other hand the moral was always very high. First we nearly dismasted, then we broke the bowsprit, then again we lost a vital sail, but we always said each other: we have to get to Brazil the best we can, with what we have. Obviously our objectives changed, the podium became very far away all at once, but we still are the first Italian Class40 to get to Itajaì! I’m happy to be in first and I’m glad they (Raspadori/D’Alì) were so close to us. For me it has been, after all this, a positive experience even if we sailed for twenty days on the same tack, that is not ideal from a tactical point of view. It’s a long, tiring race, double-handed is possibly harder, one month, one boat, two people and even if we got along very well, it’s long anyway… and it was very wet, that is the Class40, it’s a fast and wet boat. But we are here and we are very happy to be here?'.
Classement de la Transat Jacques Vabre (Class40’)
1-GDF Suez (Sébastien Rogues-Fabien Delahaye) : 20d 21h 41’ 25’’
2-Tales Santander 2014 (Alex Pella-Pablo Santurde) : 21d 01h 22’ 15’’
3-Mare (Jörg Riechers-Pierre Brasseur) : 21d 03h 21’ 55’’
4-Watt and Sea-Région Poitou Charentes (Yannick Bestaven-Aurélien Ducroz) : 22d 08h 14’ 46’’
5-Groupe Picoty (Jean-Christophe Caso-Aymeric Chappellier) : 22d 10h 26’ 47’’
6-SNCF Géodis (Fabrice Amédéo-Armel Tripon) : 22d 10h 54’ 39’’
7-ERDF-Des pieds et des mains (Damien Seguin-Yoann Richomme) : 22d 12h 14’ 14’’
8-Vaquita (Christof Petter-Andreas Hanakamp) : 22d 13h 39’ 33’’
9-Campagne de France (Halvard Mabire-Miranda Merron) : 22d 23h 47’ 47’’
10-Phoenix Europe (Louis Duc-Stéphanie Alran) : 23d 02h 40’ 07’’
11-Solidaires en peloton (Victorien Erussard-Thibaut Vauchel-Camus) : 23d 10h 02’ 05’’
12-BET1128 (Gaetano Mura-Samuel Manuard) : 23d10h 29’ 48’’
13-Fantastica (Stefano Raspadori-Pietro D’Ali) : 23d 11h 43’ 40’’
Transat Jacques Vabre