Transat Jacques Vabre - Armel Le Cléac'h and Christopher Pratt, onboard Banque Populaire, completed the podium when they arrived at Puerto Limon in Costa Rica this morning, Saturday 19th November, crossing the finish line at 5h 00mn 23sec GMT (0600 CET).
Banque Populaire finish third behind victors, three times winner Jean Pierre Dick with Jérémie Beyou on Virbac Paprec 3 and Britain’s Alex Thomson and Spain’s Guillermo Altadill on Hugo Boss.
Imoca Banque Populaire (skipper: Armel Le Cléac’h - co-skipper: Christopher Pratt)- Transat Jacques Vabre 2011 - © Alexis Courcoux Click Here to view large photo
Finishing around five hours and 40 minutes behind Hugo Boss, the duo expressed their satisfaction at winning the ‘race of the south’, when they lead in today’s regular stream of finishers which had chosen the more southerly routing, the opposite to that which proved ultimately decisive for the first two duos.
After a head to head duel which has run relentlessly through the last seven days Banque Populaire finally eclipsed near sistership Macif sailed by François Gabart and Christopher Pratt who broke the finish line only 1 hour and 50 minutes later.
'The fight with Macif has been really great. This afternoon we were worried we would not come third, so it’s great to make it. We won the race of the southerners; in the end the northerners were too strong.' Said Le Cléac’h who finished second in the last Vendée Globe.
The young Macif duo revealed that they have spent the last more than five days running with no power, reduced to navigating without detailed weather files and using only a small hand held GPS and unable to use their autopilot.
Gabart and Pratt proved just a step too far ahead for Kito de Pavant and Yann Regniau on Groupe Bel who staged the biggest comeback of the race. From carrying the ‘lantern rouge’ at the back of the fleet after they caught themselves in very light breezes in the south of the Azores high pressure ridge, at one stage just making 100 miles in 36 hours, de Pavant and Regniau worked steadily back into the fleet to finish one hour and 14 minutes behind Macif.
An audacious move to the south as they lined up for the Caribbean may have helped, but they proved Groupe Bel’s speed in the Caribbean and finished fifth, feeling like something of a victory according to de Pavant.
Safran, winner of the last edition of the race, maintained a finishing schedule which proved akin to a bus timetable, arriving in sixth one hour and 23 minutes behind Groupe Bel. Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès swapped from a northerly routing to the south and then also struggled in the light airs of the Azores high area.
Only 45 miles separated seventh placed Bureau Vallée of the Burton brothers with ninth placed Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois, with Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret lying eighth on Mirabaud. Golding and Dubois have closed more than 50 miles on Mirabaud in 24 hours and were just 20 miles behind on the mid afternoon rankings today.
Multi 50 race leader Actual are due in this evening.
Armel Le Cléac'h, Banque Populaire: 'It was really intense physically from start to finish. We had a rough start with a few problems which drove us into the red and from there we never stopped. A lot has been under gennaker and spinnaker in the breeze. The fight with Macif has been really great. This afternoon we were worried we would not come third, so it’s great. We won the race of the southerners; in the end the northerners were too strong.'
François Gabart, Macif: 'We were not able to push the boat to the limit all the time. At the Azores there was a choice to go in the south... We do not regret our choice of route because we just don’t know what would have happened if we had gone north. We can’t forget that two good boats have had to stop because they broke. And we had a lot of worries. Just before passing the Dominican Republic, we had a power failure. So for five days, we could not download certain weather files, we could not use the pilot driver. We had to switch the keel by hand. We worked with our little hand-held GPS. Fortunately, I had plugged in the good waypoints, islands in the Caribbean Sea. So for 5 days, we were 'in the dark.' And we found that the port shroud (the sidestay which supports the mast) is damaged by about 20 or 30%. It worked out because we were two up, but solo, I would not have been able to finish the race. And anyway, I wonder how it will be solo!'
Kito de Pavant, Groupe Bel: 'There are some fifth places that feel like victories! We were last half way through the race, which is not a pleasant experience. We still managed to get back into the game and to try out the odd strategy, which paid off. Today, having seen that Groupe Bel sails as fast as the more recent boats is reassuring.
We are happy. This story has a bad plot, it hurt having to fight back so hard, but the boat is good, really good and we have never had to open the tool box. I am starting to have some confidence in the boat.'
Yann Regniau, Groupe Bel: 'The ridge was just really difficult. I was so disappointed, it’s so hard when your pals are gone and you make just 100 miles in 36 hours.'
Marc Guillemot, Safran: 'Well we are trained for the Vendée Globe because we hardly steered at all. For the Vendée Globe it is good but not for this race. Our problem with the rudder, the connecting link, we noticed at the Azores. The helm was already hard and heavy, but fortunately the pilot could cope. Without it we would have been out. Yann, like me, we could not steer it.'
Yann Eliès, Safran: 'That is one of the things about a Transat two up; one of you can steer at times, all the time. And we could see when our rivals were steering. We were always a bit off the pace and up against a Seb Col type helm that is just not enough, we were able to measure ourselves with Kito against comparable boats. We felt they were always attacking, still at the helm under similar sailplans and they were three or four tenths faster. Standings at 1700hrs CET on Saturday, November 19th, 2011
1 - Virbac-Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick - Jérémie Beyou) : arrived on Friday November, 18th at 9h 15min 34sec. (French Time)
2 - Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson - Guillermo Altadill) : arrived on Saturday November, 19th at 00h 20mn 00sec
3 - Banque Populaire (Armel Le Cléac'h - Christopher Pratt) : arrived on Saturday November, 19th at 6h 00mn 23sec
4 - Macif (François Gabart - Sébastien COL) : arrived on Saturday November, 19th at 7h 50min 12sec
5 - Groupe Bel (Kito De Pavant – Yann Régniau) : arrived on Saturday November, 19th at 9h 04min 32sec
6 - Safran (Marc Guillemot - Yann Eliès) : arrived on Saturday November, 19th at 10h 27min 52sec
7 - Bureau Vallée (Louis Burton - Nelson Burton) : 97,5 miles to finish
8 - Mirabaud (Dominique Wavre - Michèle Paret) : 22,2 miles to leader
9 - Gamesa (Mike Golding - Bruno Dubois) : 43,9 miles to leader
1 - Actual (Yves Le Blevec - Samuel Manuard) : 124,1 miles from finish line
2 - Maitre Jacques (Loïc Fequet - Loïc Escoffier) : 269,2 miles to leader
1 - Aquarelle.com (Yannick Bestaven - Eric Drouglazet) : 1173,6 miles from finish line
2 - ERDF Des Pieds et des Mains (Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme) : 146,8 miles to leader
3 - 40 Degrees (Hannah Jenner - Jesse Naiwark) : 236,3 miles to leader
For more rankings click here
. Transat Jacques Vabre website