Claiming the win, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Itajaí (Brazil) this Monday at 17h03’54’’ (GMT) after 11 days, five hours, three minutes and 54 seconds of racing. Leading since leaving Le Havre, the trimaran Edmond de Rothschild won this sprint across the Atlantic at what proved to be a hellish pace.
Making the Brazilian port at a speed of 20.7 knots over the ground (average speed of 22.12 knots), the two sailors, who have just completed their first transatlantic race aboard a multihull, finished around a hundred miles in front of their adversary Oman Air-Musandam. After the ArMen Race and the Route des Princes, the sailors of Gitana Team have treated the Edmond de Rothschild Group to its third victory this season and this is unquestionably the finest!
Supported by their onshore routers, Jean-Yves Bernot and Antoine Koch, the Josse-Caudrelier duo didn’t have a minute’s respite. Every day and every night, the sailors had to negotiate another tricky session, confront what were often extreme sailing conditions and withstand the pressure of their pursuers. Traversing the different weather systems in the north and south Atlantic at high speed, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild shook up the forecasts. With just 11 days of racing required to cover the 5,400 miles that separate Le Havre from Itajai on a direct route (they actually covered 5,952 miles), Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier took a time worthy of the best times set by past Transat Jacques Vabre winners. It should be noted though that the past victors sailed instead to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil (from 2001 to 2007), which had a course some 1,000 miles shorter.
After a clean start from 7 November at 1200 GMT, Edmond de Rothschild led out of the starting blocks, rounding the Radio France mark off Le Havre in first place. From there the boats launched into a tactical ballet of tack changes in the English Channel. At the north-west tip of Brittany, Sébastien and Charles hugged the bend to hunt down the expected wind shift as early as possible behind the front passing over Ushant in the early hours of the morning. The trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild then lengthened her stride across the Chenal du Four then the Raz de Sein, entering the Bay of Biscay with a lead of three miles over Oman Air-Musandam. Following that came the first day of speed testing between the two boats as they made for the north-west tip of Spain. Each of them showed themselves to be rather comfortable in this exercise, despite 5-metre waves and 30 knots of breeze as they approached the coast. Late into the night, conditions became extreme off Cape Finisterre. The breeze picked up considerably and the seas boiled making any headway to the south rather laborious to say the least. Here too, the blue trimaran hunted down her salvation offshore, leaving La Coruña and her adversary in her wake.
The slight edge gained by Edmond de Rothschild in this intense start to the race would become more substantial as the hours went by, slipping along the coast of Portugal and then into the north-easterly tradewinds. Riveted to the helm day and night, Sébastien and Charles kept up the pace, avoiding the wind shadow created by the island of Madeira, then than of the Canaries, and extending their lead, which culminated at 101 miles between 11 and 12 November. Shortly before Cape Verde, Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall aboard Oman Air-Musandam initiated a slightly more easterly trajectory, doubtless looking to make a break for it before tackling the tricky Doldrums.
In the tropics, the tension rises. The Doldrums are forecast to be very active and extend across an area spanning some 300 miles in width. Leading, Edmond de Rothschild opts for a more conservative position whilst her pursuer takes the risk of falling into the zones of light airs. In the depths of the night, it’s like broad daylight for Sébastien and Charles with the amount of lightning striking the water in one particularly impressive squall. The crew keeps a cool head and keeps a tight rein on its boat, which ends up being knocked about by over 25 knots of breeze. The sailors adapt the sail area and gain headway due South at full speed. In the early hours, Edmond de Rothschild escapes the clutches of the Doldrums with an 80-mile lead over Oman Air-Musandam, which was the same as when they entered this meteorological transition zone. However, by continuing in its earlier option, the Gavignet-Foxall duo has managed to reduce the lateral separation. The trimarans cross the equator on 14 November, within just two hours of each other. The boat fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild makes it into the southern hemisphere at 2035 GMT after seven days, eight hours 35 minutes at sea since leaving Le Havre.
In this other hemisphere, the two trimarans quickly latch onto the tradewinds, which are blowing from the south-east this time. The speed is on the up again aboard Edmond de Rothschild, which resists the various attacks from her adversary, even though the latter is benefiting from a favourable angle of attack to accelerate along the coast of Brazil. From 80 miles, their lead melts to just 20 miles at noon on 16 November. Despite the fatigue, despite these long hours of piloting in the sunshine and permanent humidity, salt and stress, the Josse-Caudrelier duo don’t let up one iota. The three hulls cut through the tradewind sea, whilst ahead the scenario for the conclusion is taking shape.
On the morning of 17 November, the boats gybe to negotiate Cabo Frio, to the west of which nestles the bay of Rio de Janeiro. Some 500 miles from the finish in Itajai, Sébastien and Charles have stretched out their lead to some fifty or so miles again ahead of their pursuers. Suffice to say that the pressure remains substantial when you’re aware of the boats’ speed. It isn’t the time to slow down and there are still a number of hurdles to be avoided. Indeed, a cold front, associated with an extension of the Saint Helena high, is forming ahead of the sailors’ bows. Thanks to the great job performed by their routers of anticipating the next weather system, the sailors of Gitana Team managed the situation like metronomes and carried the day on the finish line.
Transat Jacques Vabre
by Kate Jennings
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8:03 PM Mon 18 Nov 2013GMT
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