With just over a month to go to the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre – on 30th October - Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès are preparing their weather analysis for the voyage between Le Havre and Puerto Limon in Costa Rica.
Safran weather preparations - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
This is the big date on the 2011 IMOCA calendar. Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès are leaving nothing to chance as they prepare for the Transat Jacques Vabre. That is why, in order to confront the major weather features as they make their way across the Atlantic, the duo on Safran, who are already busy studying what is happening, are in regular contact with Sylvain Mondon, the routing expert at Météo France: 'We’ve been looking at the weather patterns and how they drift across the Atlantic to try to imagine the various options that will be possible,' explained Marc Guillemot.
While they are paying particular attention to the start, as the way in which Marc and Yann tackle the weather systems that are likely to appear in the Atlantic will affect how they make their way out of the English Channel, the final stage of the course is something they will also need to examine closely, as Sylvain Mondon stresses, 'Huge variations in wind strength and direction are a recurrent feature in the zone between the French West Indies and Costa Rica. There will be everything to play for right up to the finish and there will be no room for mistakes. Finding yourself with a lead of 100 or 200 miles on the eve of the finish will not guarantee you will win the race.'
Nevertheless, the router is careful to point out that 'throughout the crossing every stretch can be the decider depending on the conditions they encounter, and the major strategic plays will depend on how the various weather systems line up.'
At this time of year, this can all play out in two different ways. 'The first and most likely is a disturbed westerly air stream with a front to cross to the north of the Azores. As for the second pattern, far from being a remote possibility, it features a high-pressure area centred over Ireland or the British Isles generating north-easterly winds in the English Channel right out to mid Atlantic. But it is also possible that they will face an evolving situation,' added the weather forecaster.
For Marc and Yann, carrying out some serious work before the start is vital, as once they are at sea, no routing is allowed. In early October, alongside their work with Sylvain Mondon, they will be spending a day at the Port-la-Forêt training centre with Jean-Yves Bernot, another talented router.
Discussions with Sylvain Mondon will become all the more important as they approach the start of the race. 'Sylvain’s contribution, observing the various weather patterns, will help us to draw up the right strategy and is extremely useful to us. Particularly as we’re going to be very busy just before the start,' explained Yann.
It is indeed in the final few moments before the starting gun is fired that the race strategy will really be established. 'Drawing up routes too far ahead of the race would be a huge mistake,' believes Sylvain Mondon. This opinion is shared by Marc Guillemot, who confirms that 'the first decisions about how to tackle the way out of the English Channel will be taken on the morning of the start.'
Once they are at sea, they will have to adapt their plans to whatever they are facing.