For their inaugural double-handed transatlantic race on a multihull, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier really packed a punch! By crossing the finish line in Itajaí (Brazil), on Monday 18 November at 17h03’54’’ (GMT), they secured victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2013. However, more than the victory itself, it was the manner in which the duo stood out, which will go down in the rich history of offshore racing.
The trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild completed the course in 11 days, five hours, three minutes and 54 seconds, or an average speed of 22 knots over the 5,952 miles actually covered over the ground; an incredible time, which wouldn’t have been possible without total commitment from both sailors. They outpaced their rivals Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall by some five hours after what proved to be a merciless battle from the start in Le Havre.
After a well-deserved night’s sleep in a proper bed, the faces of Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier still betray the intensity of the past eleven-day journey. The winners of the Transat Jacques Vabre tell us the highlights of their race.
Is it the sense of relief at having finished or the joy of the victory that is the overriding sentiment today?
Sébastien Josse: 'A bit of both! We’re content to have finished, but above all very happy to have won this race and treated Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild to a victory, along with all the representatives of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, who enable us to live out our passion. The past eleven days of racing have been intense and tough. We have virtually led from beginning to end and the approach towards the Brazilian coast, when we saw our lead just melt away, was a tricky moment to deal with. These boats, these multihulls, are fabulous, but they’re also physically very hard. We had almost no respite from beginning to end. We had some full-on sections and some periods of extreme fatigue. To finish the race was a feat in itself for Charles and I, so with the victory to cap that off it’s fantastic.'
The pace of this transatlantic race has been hellish. Did you expect such a rhythm?
Sébastien Josse: 'Charles and I are both from a Figaro background. I think that was a huge advantage in managing our race. We’d already dug to the very depths of ourselves in the various Solitaire du Figaro races for example and we had a pretty good idea of what our limits were. However, we certainly took things a long way in this race! We got little sleep and ate little. We’d planned on 14 days of food and at the finish we’d barely opened six day-bags. We didn’t eat our first freeze-dried meal until two days after the start. There’s not a lot of pleasure in eating out of obligation just to give yourself some energy.'
Charles Caudrelier: 'We knew it before we left, but I still think that we didn’t really envisage how demanding these boats can be when sailing shorthanded. In a multihull there’s no room for error and the fear of capsize is a constant the minute you take the helm. We barely used the automatic pilot during the race. On these boats, it never stops! In terms of stress, fatigue and setting oneself new limits, this Transat Jacques Vabre goes far beyond everything I’ve done before.
It’s very wearing as one of us was constantly on the helm. And we didn’t let go of it during our watches. To proceed with even the most minor action, you had to wake the other one. In the big conditions, you can’t allow yourself to go and trim a sail on your own without risking capsize. The other option would have been to slow down but we’re competitors so we didn’t do that! Seb and I did a lot of work in the build-up to this race. Both of us have solid experience of solo and double-handed racing. We know each other well and we prepared well for this win.'
What are the toughest times for you?
Sébastien Josse: 'Rounding Cape Finisterre was Dantean, with a lot of wind and above all a massive sea. We’d never known conditions such as that with this boat. The following night will stay in our minds for a long time to come. We were very tired after the numerous manœuvres we’d carried out off La Coruña, but we had to continue to keep piling the pressure on. In fact we came close to capsizing as we were taking some micro-naps at the helm! As soon as the boat is making headway at 30 knots, it’s physically testing, as we find it hard to move around the boat. It’s mentally challenging too. The Doldrums wasn’t easy to deal with either and there was one notable storm, a big one, that Charles and I will remember for a long while: lightning in every direction, torrential rain and the wind kicking up violently to 30 knots, whilst we had all the sail aloft. And then the last passage through a front. There was a lot of tension as Oman had made up ground on us and we knew that the passage would be decisive for victory. We were surrounded by squalls and we were exhausted… it was very hard.'
And those which will remain among the best?
Sébastien Josse: 'I’d say a few hours before the finish. The weather was fairly clear and we had enough of a lead over Oman to be confident. At that point you go over the race in your mind a bit, you know that the rough weather and the problems encountered are a thing of the past… The passage across the line will naturally remain a superb moment, laden with emotion.'
Charles Caudrelier: 'On a personal level, I got a great deal of pleasure from dropping down towards the equator in the tradewinds of the northern hemisphere. The boat was going fast and we were sailing well. The wind was stable, not too strong, the seas manageable: they really are the perfect conditions for these boats. And then the finish, of course. We’d led the race from the start and I feel happiness and a sense of pride about that. I’ve realised a childhood dream: to win a major race on a multihull! I was also moved at the finish because on crossing the line I spotted my son on one of the support boats. It was a surprise from my wife.'
Your race is a sporting feat but it was also a fine human story?
Charles Caudrelier: 'Sébastien and I have known each other for 15 years, but this year we’ve been together pretty much the whole time. During the race it was great. This Jacques Vabre is one of my finest double-handed races. Like all the duos, we had our short moments of tension, but it never lasted more than five minutes and there weren’t many such moments either! I think we make a great couple (laughs).
Two 70’ trimarans at the start, does this figure take away any of the pleasure of your victory?
Sébastien Josse: 'Naturally we’d have preferred for there to be more boats but that’s how it goes. Sure there were just the two of us, but our rival was a very serious contender. It was a very fine duel and we’re especially proud to have beaten them as Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall are excellent sailors and multihull specialists. That wasn’t the case for Charles and I as this Jacques Vabre was our first double-handed transatlantic on this craft so it was a steep learning curve! We know that we’re incredibly lucky to be able to sail on a machine such as the trimaran Edmond de Rothschild.'
The figures for Edmond de Rothschild in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2013
Start date: Thursday 7 November at 1200 GMT
Finish date: Monday 18 November at 17h03’54’’ GMT
Race time: 11 days, 5 hours, 3 minutes and 54 seconds
Number of miles actually covered: 5,952 miles compared with 5,450 for the direct route
Average speed: 22.1 knots
Gitana Team website
by Kate Jennings
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9:42 PM Tue 19 Nov 2013GMT
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