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Transat Jacques Vabre - Grouped start tomorrow at 1200 GMT

by Kate Jennings on 7 Nov 2013
Oman Air and Edmond de Rothschild in earlier action on the La Route des Princess 2013 Lloyd Images © http://lloydimagesgallery.photoshelter.com/
The Transat Jacques Vabre will set off from Le Havre tomorrow, Thursday, at 1300 hours local time. Following the delayed start for the Class 40s, the IMOCAs and the Multi50s, all the competitors will finally set sail with the two 70’ trimarans: Edmond de Rothschild (Josse-Caudrelier) and Oman Air-Musandam (Gavignet-Foxall).

The duo on the boat fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is very keen to get going on this sprint from the North to the South Atlantic, especially as the weather is promising a rather tactical first leg through the English Channel before linking onto a fine drag race across the Bay of Biscay.

'We have a favourable weather window to leave on Thursday,' explains the skipper Sébastien Josse. 'We’ll have 15 to 20 knots of headwinds to negotiate our way out of the Channel. We’ll have to put in some solid tacks in heavy seas and current to make Ushant (Friday morning) in the best possible position. The wind is then set to build so we’ll have a series of sail changes to perform, the idea still being to sail the tightest possible trajectory as each mile in the wrong direction will cost dearly aboard a multihull. As such the start of this transatlantic race promises to be both tactical and physical right from the off. It’s going to be a thrilling ride and Charles and I are keen to get going.'

Edmond de Rothschild will leave the dock in the Bassin Paul Vatine at 1054 hours local time, before making for the race zone. Two crew will initially be aboard the trimaran with the Josse-Caudrelier duo so as to hoist the sails and ensure the manœuvres are performed in complete safety prior to kick-off. The mile-long start line will be set between Le Havre and Sainte-Adresse. A cold front is due to roll through in the morning leaving in its wake a variable breeze, which is likely to settle into a westerly position over the ensuing hours. 'Even though there are 44 boats at the start, ourselves and ‘Oman’ will set off from the northern end of the start line with the current,' explains the skipper. 'If the wind is well established we should quickly be able to get ahead of the rest of the fleet.'

Of note is the fact that Race Management are alluding to the possibility of a safe haven pit-stop for the Class 40s and the Multi50s in Roscoff, due to another gale offshore of Brittany. The Multi70s should already be clear of that zone beforehand, though conditions are likely to be boisterous: 'We’re going to traverse the Bay of Biscay on what will be a direct route towards Cape Finisterre in principle,' Charles tells us. 'It will be the first real test of our piloting skills in cross seas with four to five metre waves and the conditions may well throw up some considerable differences in speed between the boats.'

Given the amount of time they’ve been lining up for race starts, the sailors have got into certain habits before casting off. 'I systematically go to the barber’s,' Sébastien reveals. 'There’s nothing better than having short hair at sea, both under a hat and under the tropics.' There’s some good cohesion going on with the crew too as Charles succeeded the skipper this morning with a set of clippers.

'I have various clothing, hats, balaclavas, gloves and other gear I like to have with me at sea and on the evening before the off, I prepare my bag with a thought for the start and the weather in the initial hours of racing,' explains the co-skipper. For Sébastien, the most important thing is that everything has its rightful place aboard the day before. 'I have my head torch within arms reach and the spoon is in position with the first soup for the evening, that’s the only details which haven’t been seen to yet. You have to be able to take your mind away from the equipment so you can concentrate solely on getting the boat making headway and the race.'

For the final evening, the crew will get together for a good steak after a weather briefing with their routers Jean-Yves Bernot and Antoine Koch (view the article 'a pair of experts' by clicking here). Like downhill skiers or racing car drivers, the idea is to visualise the circuit beforehand, the English Channel in this case, with all its bends and the tricky sections that will need negotiating.
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