In the Transat Jacques Vabre, there was an air of deliverance this Thursday at 1300 hours offshore of Le Havre. After having to sit it out for some days due to the rather blustery autumnal weather, the entire Transat Jacques Vabre fleet set sail today. Not far from the cliffs of Sainte-Adresse, the forty-four duos competing in this 11th edition finally set off for Itajaí in Brazil.
Start of the 11th Transat Jacques Vabre
There was a drizzly atmosphere, with low cloud and a light westerly breeze, which barely exceeded eight knots. Not the perfect scenario but the sailors, keen to get going, wouldn’t have traded places for all the world. The author of a great start at the pin end of the line, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild quickly gained control of the fleet and went on ahead once she was around the Radio France mark, situated some three nautical miles from the start line. For Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier, the first few hours of racing and the exit from the English Channel promise to be tactical with the wind set to build and conditions likely to be boisterous as they traverse the Bay of Biscay.
'I’m confident!' gushed Sébastien Josse just minutes before leaving the Bassin Paul Vatine. 'The boat has been prepared to perfection by the members of Gitana Team and Charles and I have done what was needed in terms of sea trials and training sessions. The weather conditions over the first few hours will enable us to gently get into our stride with the race, even though they’ll be highly tactical as there are some moves to be pulled in the English Channel,' explained the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.
Rain, light airs, upwind conditions and current: such will be the menu for the initial hours at sea for the Edmond de Rothschild duo: 'It’s going to be pretty light at the start and during our exit from the Channel in general. There are a certain number of manœuvres on the cards and we’re going to have to skilfully negotiate the numerous zones of current. I think it’s going to be complicated as there are sure to be fairly heavy seas left over from last night’s storm,' Charles Caudrelier told us. However, once they’re around the north-west tip of Brittany, the atmosphere will very quickly change aboard the 70-foot trimarans: 'the wind will gradually increase as we approach Ushant because we’re going to pass what we call a cold front and at that point the wind is set to build significantly: from 15, it will shoot up to 25-30 knots with the gusts. The negotiation of the Bay of Biscay is likely to involve a beat, though we won’t be hard on the wind, and conditions are forecast to be boisterous with a big four to 5-metre swell. That will be the tricky section for the start to the race,' admitted the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.
Given the weather situation forecast, the two sailors know that the miles which separate Le Havre from Cape Finisterre, to the extreme North-West of Spain, won’t be at all restful: 'Charles and I are readying ourselves for very little sleep until we’re around Cape Finisterre. This first stage of the race is very important and there’s a set timing to be adhered to. The later we get to Cape Finisterre the more unfavourable the conditions will be with the arrival of a very deep depression over the Bay of Biscay. As such we’re really going to have to pull out all the stops over the first 500 miles of this transatlantic race. Every hour gained until we reach the tip of Spain will benefit us over the next stage of the course. Once we’re around Cape Finisterre we’ll be able to breathe and a whole new race will begin,' Sébastien Josse explained. 'Heading the fleet at that point would be a real bonus for the next stage', the co-skipper adds.
Particularly focused when the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild cast off, Charles Caudrelier didn’t disguise his emotion as he headed off on his ‘debut’: 'I’m very happy to be going as we’ve been waiting for this moment for quite some time. I feel good now and I feel prepared, but inevitably that’s coloured by stress. It’s our first double-handed transatlantic race in a multihull!' With complementary characters at sea, the Josse – Caudrelier duo has proven to be very close on land. Displaying immense mutual respect for one another and a solid amount of experience, today the two sailors have what it takes to write a great story in this race: 'Sébastien and I have known each other for a long time, but we’ve really strengthened those ties this year, both on the boat and on land, and I’m really happy to be sailing with him in this race. I know that it’s a very emotional experience to race these boats and it’s going to be nice to share that with him. We’re keen to write a great story together,' concluded the co-skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.
At the first official polling at 1600 GMT, Edmond de Rothschild was still leading the way off the Cotentin headland. Already the hand-to-hand battle with Oman Air-Musandam seemed to be on. Indeed the two one-design trimarans were just a hundred metres or so apart.
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