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Southern Spars - North Technology

Transat Jacques Vabre - Small detail can prove vital

by Soazig Guého on 13 Nov 2013
Mare © Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / TJV http://www.transat-jacques-vabre.com/
On the Transat Jacques Vabre’s 5450 miles race course from Le Havre to Itajaí, Brazil little changes or differences can rapidly become significant. On the fifth day of the race as some of the class leaderships become well established, maintaining a positive mindset and continually focusing on the small detail can prove vital.

Racing past Madeira in solid trade winds, the IMOCA Open 60 class remains the closest, most open, competitively fought at this time. While PRB, with Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam took the lead this afternoon again, there is still just 43 miles between first and fifth. Four of the top five, all latest generation boats, have taken at least one turn in the lead.


The MOD70’s pass the Cape Verde islands and set up for the Doldrums. Long time leaders Edmond de Rothschild sailed by Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier, have gybed west and so conceded miles to Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall on Oman Air-Musandam.

Class 40 finds the heat of the real action in the peloton where small miles are won and lost. While there has been some compression in frustrating light winds and sloppy seas off Cape Finisterre – what Germany’s Jorg Reichers this afternoon termed the Spanish Doldrums - the escape into the relative slingshot of the Portuguese trade winds has been good for the top two boats especially, GDF SUEZ of Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye and the Riechers and co-skipper Pierre Brasseur on Mare.

Riechers reported: 'We escaped our competitors at Cape Finisterre. Only GDF Suez has also escaped the Spanish Doldrums trap; We are very happy on board we are just confused we thought Fado (traditional Portuguese ballads) are slow music, now it is more like German techno out here'.

Both leading Class 40’s were making speed in double figures this afternoon, while the ten boats behind were all making 3-5 knots maximum. And in the weather pits were a clutch of duos including Mike Gascoyne and Brian Thompson on Caterham Challenge, Sam Goodchild and Ned Collier Wakefield on Concise 8, and Miranda Merron and Halvard Mabire on Campagne de France. All were struggling to make two knots of boat speed.

The MOD70s were revelling in the perfect conditions as they passed by the Cape Verde islands with Edmond de Rothschild gybing more to the west to start to line up for the Doldrums perhaps, thereby conceding miles to Oman Air-Musandam, which are now back to just under 30 miles behind in terms of distance to the finish.


Actual’s pit stop in Madeira may have been less than one hour for the erstwhile Multi 50 leader, but the gains by Erwan Le Roux and double Solitaire du Figaro winner Yann Eliès now add up to more than 100 miles.

The pit stop to replace their wind vane appears to have cost Actual, but the short halt in Muxia to accomplish the same operation did not damage Rogues and Delehaye who managed to slide almost immediately down into the first of the Portuguese trade winds. The Spanish duo Alex Pella and Pablo Santurde also managed to minimise their down time in La Coruna early today. They arrived in around 0400hrs and left close to 1000hrs after repairing the pin of their lower rudder bearing on the starboard side. The pair left in good shape returning on a southbound course this afternoon in seventh place.

Looking ahead at the Doldrums the MOD70s see a complicated, wide and active band to push through. Their target passage looks to be around 30 deg W and 8 deg N where it remains narrower but with active squalls and well developed. Both are looking at a very respectable six days and some hours from Le Havre to the equator.

In turn there are still about four days before the IMOCA Open 60’s get down there and the outlook looks complex for them too. The long gybe south seems to be set for the famous five at the front with PRB lining up with Macif, Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux, aiming at about 19 deg 30 W, second placed Bernard Stamm and Philippe Legros on Cheminées Poujoulat at 20 deg W and furthest to the West Safran of Marc Guillemot and Pascal Bidégorry and Master CoQ at around 21 deg W. Meantime the advance up the rankings of MACIF continues, the Vendée Globe winners gaining back six or so miles today to lie third.

Mayeul Riffet – Arkema-Région Aquitaine (capsized): 'We are sitting here in our new 'loft' waiting for the tow boat to get here to take us and it should be here in the middle of the night. We dived a bit yesterday and tried to cut away some of the rigging, mast and boom. We are going to wait for the divers to arrive and will be able to work out depending on the sea state whether we try and turn the boat over or not. At 4 am in the middle of the night I got out and came across a huge fishing trawler and he really wanted to insist on towing us but we managed to try and explain in a mixture of English and Portuguese that we were waiting for a trawler to pick us up. It was worrying because we did not want them to get close and damage the boat. When Lalou gets tidying it is quite something!
The Dutch tug going out to meet us is specialised in towing The wind and sea is worse, so they are now drifting and are 220 miles from the coast.'

François Damien (Belgian actor) - Initiatives Coeur: 'It is going well on board, I am just looking forward to getting the swimwear out in a few days. On the gybe manouvers I help with winching, coffee grinders and basically tiding all the lines, but generally help and try and keep things clear for Tanguy.

I have helmed a bit, but not too much. I work basically on it when Tanguy gets a rest and then do the readjustments with the pilot. We do not work with a watch system. We just get the rest when we need it. I thought I would be doing most of the cooking, but actually we end up eating what we want and I try and tidy up a bit. We have fruit, coffee, maybe some pasta. Yesterday we had a bit of fois gras. It is really very, very pleasant and then yesterday we actually saved a second child when Telematin talked about our plight on the programme in France, which encouraged a lot of clicks for our charity. We hope that people can click and help us save children whilst we sail across the Atlantic.' Transat Jacques Vabre

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