Transat Jacques Vabre - Final miles for Virbac-Paprec 3

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
© Alexis Courcoux
Transat Jacques Vabre double handed, transatlantic race from France to Costa Rica is on its fifteenth day. For leading duo, Jean Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou, the final miles into Puerto Limon, may still be stressful, but with a margin over second placed Hugo Boss which this afternoon was equivalent to half of the distance they still had to sail, it would take a major upset to rob the Virbac-Paprec 3 pair of a well deserved Transat Jacques Vabre victory.

They are expected to finish during the night of Thursday into Friday, probably in the early hours of Friday with a fair chance of setting a new record for the Le Havre to Costa Rica course which was only raced for the first time on the 2009 edition.

Puerto Limon was first landed at by Christopher Columbus in 1502 on the little wooded Uvita Island, still the most obvious landmark for the duos arriving from Le Havre which they left on Wednesday 2nd November. Columbus was voyaging in the New World. But this discipline of double handed racing is not a new world for Dick, far from it. The Brittany based skipper originally from Nice should complement his record as the most successful double handed IMOCA skipper, twice winner of the double handed Barcelona World Race and now likely to be three times winner of this Transat Jacques Vabre.

He said this afternoon that they would still be sticking to first principles, marking Hugo Boss by keeping between the British boat and the finish line. Given that both skipper, Dick and Alex Thomson, admitted to being equally confused by the predictions made by the weather models as to how the tropical low pressure system developing over Puerto Limon, prudence and concentration are key.

For his part Hugo Boss’ Alex Thomson sounded drained today and admitted that he and his Spanish co-skipper Guillermo Altadill were just keen to be finished, that they want the race over.

'It is very hot on board and to be honest we are just looking forwards to finishing. We would be happier with first of course, but I think it is too little, too late now. We are both pretty tired now, we have really not been getting much sleep on board and really lack of sleep takes its toll. Now we are looking to get finished and get some rest. The European model shows the winds crapping out to virtually nothing, and it taking us two more days to finish, or the GFS model says a day, so hopefully the GFS is right.'

In third Banque Populaire were less than 100 miles behind Hugo Boss, Armel Le Cléac'h once more setting up to prey according to his nickname, ‘The Jackal’, if indeed the breeze were to disappear and any opportunity to steal second were to arise. But with 263 miles left to sail on the afternoon 1600hrs UTC ranking, Hugo Boss was making a steady 12 knots and still matching their pursuers. Armel Le Cléac'h and Christopher Pratt had a lead of 24 miles over their sister-ship Macif.

Dominique Wavre, skipper of Mirabaud recounted another encounter with a coastguard. On the Barcelona World Race Mirabaud was boarded by officials off the coast of Morocco and had their food bags opened. This time, off the coast of the Dominican Republic they were quizzed but left on their way after an hour.

'We get the impression we are cursed by all the coastguards in the world. Yesterday we were sailing 30 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic and we saw a coastguard boat get closer, then making signs to us to stop. They spoke to us by VHF and interrogated us. We told them that to try and come alongside with our carbon fibre hull could end up very badly. We called to the race director Jean Maurel, and to the MRCC. By the time it was all sorted more than an hour had passed, and they told us we were good to go.'


Quotes:
Jean Pierre Dick, skipper Virbac Paprec 3:
'In theory, on paper it should be OK, we have the lead. But we have to just get finished and not end up in a no-wind area where anything could happen. And the best way to stay in control in light winds is to cover, to man mark your rival. The wind so far is strong enough, but is does change a lot in direction, depending on whether we are under a cloud or not. The wind speed we can see roughly what to expect, but not the wind direction. And the weather models don’t agree. We have a difference of 30 degrees in wind direction depending on the model. It is no easy to understand which might be right. We have damaged the starboard bubble (the coach roof dome) so it is big more airy than the other, it is better to be protected. During the day it is really hot and we can’t open the sail locker hatch to get some air because of the spray, so it is a bit airless, it can feel like hell. We are expecting to arrive tomorrow night, probably around 0600hrs UTC Friday.

Dominique Wavre, skipper Mirabaud:
We get the impression we are cursed by all the coastguards in the world. Yesterday we were sailing 30 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic and we saw a coastguard boat get closer, then making signs to us to stop. They spoke to us by VHF and interrogated us. We told them that to try and come alongside with our carbon fibre hull could end up very badly. We called to the race director Jean Maurel, and to the MRCC. By the time it was all sorted more than an hour had passed, and they told us we were good to go. It even happened before off La Rochelle, our home base, when we were training where it was OK, but if you remember also in the Barcelona World Race when they were more aggressive.

Our rudder problem is obvious at high speeds, more than 15kts, the pilot copes and all is really OK. There is nothing major when you look at the rudder. I can’t make an ETA at the moment, the last 50 miles look so difficult, there will be no holding back. We are racers.

Alex Thomson, (GBR) skipper Hugo Boss:
'It is very hot on board and to be honest we are just looking forwards to finishing. We would be happier with first of course, but I think it is too little, too late now. We are both pretty tired now, we have really not been getting much sleep on board and really lack of sleep takes its toll. Now we are looking to get finished and get some rest. The European model shows the winds crapping out to virtually nothing, and it taking us two more days to finish, or the GFS model says a day, so hopefully the GFS is right.'

Standings at 1700hrs CET on Wednesday, November 17th, 2011
IMOCA
1 - Virbac-Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick - Jérémie Beyou) : 135 miles to finish
2 - Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson - Guillermo Altadill) : 128 miles to leader
3 - Banque Populaire (Armel Le Cléac'h - Christopher Pratt): 219.5 miles to leader

Multi50
1 - Actual (Yves Le Blevec - Samuel Manuard) : 646 miles to finish
2 - Maître Jacques (Loïc Fequet - Loïc Escoffier) : 361.3 miles to leader

Class40
1 - Aquarelle.com (Yannick Bestaven - Eric Drouglazet) : 1631.3 miles to finish
2 - ERDF Des Pieds et des Mains (Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme) : 143.1 miles to leader
3 - 40 Degrees (Hannah Jenner - Jesse Naiwark) : 251.6 miles to leader

For more rankings click here


Transat Jacques Vabre website
http://www.sail-world.com/90836