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Transat Jacques Vabre - Two handed trans-Atlantic race start postponed

by Daphne Morgan Barnicoat on 3 Nov 2013
The Transat Jaques Vabre 2013. Le Havre to Itajai, Brazil in port waiting for the start © Lloyd Images
For the two-handed trans-Atlantic race, the Transat Jacques Vabre, gale force winds sweeping in from the Atlantic over the weekend in Le Havre have forced the race committee to postpone the start of the 11th edition. Initially scheduled for Sunday 3 November, the start will now be on Monday at 14:15 CET for the IMOCA 60, Class 40 and Multi 50 fleets.

Oman Air-Musandam will line up with fellow MOD70 Edmond de Rothschild for a 20 nautical mile prologue on Monday starting from the northern-most point of the race start line and racing up the coast and back, before returning to the dock in Le Havre to wait for their official start, currently planned for Wednesday 6 November.

The prologue results will define the starting time on Wednesday, so winning will be important, but as Oman Air-Musandam’s French skipper Sidney Gavignet pointed out: 'Most importantly, the idea for the prologue is not to make a mistake and break something before the start of the race. We want to sail clean and simple and I think Edmond de Rothschild is on the same page as us.'

Co skipper onboard, Damian Foxall, Ireland’s most celebrated offshore sailor and recent winner of the Volvo Ocean Race onboard Groupama, explained the weather situation that has prompted the race committee’s decision: 'We are into a typical November situation with intense lows following each other across the Atlantic and bringing a lot of wind to the North of France, the Bay of Biscay and the race course area. The tidal current is very strong as well, so for six hours twice a day we have wind over tide, which really makes the sea state very difficult and dangerous.

'For the race committee it is a case of finding the least dangerous and difficult window to get the fleet off safely. The start will be upwind and bouncy – there is a really big sea out there and it is really a case of finding the safest moment. The goal of trying to finish all the classes together is really out of the window now, the main thing is to get everyone started safely,' he added.

Looking forward to Wednesday’s MOD70 start, Sidney Gavignet said: 'It is going to be very hard for the whole Transat Jacques Vabre fleet until we reach Finisterre – Biscay is very rough with a 4-5metre swell. We will have a strong upwind start to the race, but the committee is open to delaying more if necessary. The conditions at this time of the year are constantly changing and evolving. Their decision to delay is a good one.'

In the meantime, the Oman Air-Musandam duo is looking forward to getting cold and wet again on Monday: 'We went out last Tuesday to sail the area a bit and to stay fresh and sharp and we are looking forward to going out again on Monday. We have been sitting around for a week so it is time to get back out there and stay fresh!' said Foxall.


News ashore for the Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Tourism 'Discover Oman' exhibition is excellent with thousands of people passing through to sample the traditional coffee and dates on offer and to watch the henna artist in action. 'In just one day last week, 1,000 people entered the Visit Oman competition. The numbers of people we are seeing at our exhibition has exceeded all our expectations. We are very excited by the favourable reaction of the French public. This is a very important tourism market for the Sultanate of Oman,' said Salma Al Hashmi, marketing and communications director for Oman Sail.

Sidney is one of the most highly respected French offshore sailors with multiple Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup campaigns to his name, including a VOR win in 2005-06 onboard ABN AMRO. He joined the Oman Sail project in 2010 as skipper of the 105ft trimaran, Oman Air-Majan, on which he broke the Round Britain and Ireland record. In 2011 he joined the Oman Air Extreme 40 team before switching his focus to the MOD70 project for 2012. He led the team for the 2012 MOD70 European Tour and returned as skipper in 2013. With 20 transatlantics, of which three were double-handed, four round the worlds, two Solitaire du Figaro races, one transatlantic record and a Volvo Ocean Race win, he brings much experience to the team.


Damian is one of the world’s greatest offshore sailors and Ireland’s most accomplished yachtsman. He is a Volvo Ocean Race veteran in his own right with four campaigns behind him, including the recent Groupama victory in 2011-12.

He won the Barcelona World Race in 2007-08, raced with the K-Challenge America’s Cup team in 2004. With 30 years of ocean and dinghy racing experience, 350,000 nautical miles, 18 transatlantics and nine round the world events to date he makes a solid co skipper on the Oman Air-Musandam Oman Sail

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