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French and Physics defy Anglo-Spanish duo in Transat Jacques Vabre

by Soazig Guého 22 Nov 2017 10:15 PST 22 November 2017

The closest finish in Transat Jacques Vabre Class40 history is still on the cards at around 23:00 tonight (Wednesday), but the Anglo-Spanish duo of Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde (Imerys Clean Energy) will need to play a joker from up their sleeves if they are still to be at the table and upset their French rivals on the line.

Meanwhile, in Salvador de Bahia, the final three 60ft monohull Imoca boats crossed the line in the Bay of All Saints today in more relaxed fashion. Thirteen Imoca left Le Havre and thirteen made it to Salvador de Bahia.

Class40 - ETA: The leaders, Wednesday at November 22, 23-24:00 UTC

With 80 miles left to the finish in Salvador de Bahia, the three-horse race seemed to have narrowed to two as the latest generation French boats continued to pull away remorselessly from the Anglo-Spanish duo of Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde (Imerys Clean Energy). But on the eighteenth day of the race, adrenaline is driving them all through the fatigue.

At 16:00 (UTC) V and B (Maxime Sorel / Antoine Carpentier) had edged past Aïna Enfance and Avenir (Aymeric Chappellier / Arthur Le Vaillant) into the lead, but only by 1.6 miles, with both making 9 knots in what has become a match race. Imerys Clean Energy was 33.7 miles behind.

"The end of the race is coming, the conditions for sailing are incredible, but unfortunately we're not in the position we'd like," Sharp said at lunchtime. "We lost the lead while reaching. There's nothing we can do at this angle, these boats are faster, we did the best we could, but they've just been irresistible. But all is not lost, we made this small shift offshore, we had no hope staying on this line 15 miles behind. We know that at night there's very little wind at the finish in Bahia, so you never know. We'll give everything right up to the line."

That is not just wishful thinking. Even the larger and faster multihulls and 60ft Imoca monohulls have parked up in the Bay of All Saints, so it could still favour a boat arriving later with momentum.

Imerys Clean Energy was first across the start line in Le Havre, has led the race for 12 and was first out of the Doldrums. It had a 20-mile cushion, a lot in the context of a race where one mile has sometimes separated these top three, but it proved not be a comfortable one.

The French 40ft monohulls are version 3s of the Manuard Mach 40 design and Sharp's version 2 is simply slower in beam reaching wind angles.

"With nothing to lose, we decided to implement a different strategy - to sail further east offshore in the hope that we'd find a stronger breeze in the night," Sharp said. Disappointingly, this prediction didn't materialise and the Mach 3s inshore enjoyed the same breeze. I think it will take some unlikely calms or an angry fisherman with long floating nets to slow down the front runners now – having been victim of this myself in the past, anything is possible."

Softening winds have already seen the two French boats head right into the coast in the search for any zephyr. Imerys Clean Energy, forced further offshore looking for different wind, has gybed back towards them. Aïna Enfance and Avenir reported tearing their spinnaker and getting their keel caught on a net overnight...there are still some pitfalls along the road.

Whatever the outcome, all three boats will smash, by over five days, the Transat Jacque Vabre record of 22 days 13 hours 2 minutes 22 seconds set by the Italian duo Giovanni Soldini and Pietro D'Ali on Telecom Italia in 2007 (the first time Class40 had been included in the Transat Jacques Vabre and the last time the race went to Salvador).


Romain Attanasio and Aurélien Ducroz on Famille Mary – Étamine du Lys completed the set of 13 Imoca in Salvador de Bahia, crossing the line in the Bay of All Saints at 16:17:27 (UTC). Attanasio was reunited on the pontoon with his partner in life and on land, Britain's Samantha Davies and their son Reuben. Davies had finished sixth on Monday evening with Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives Cœur.


Wednesday, November 22

  • Eleventh Arnaud Boissières and Manuel Cousin on La Mie Câline – Artipôle at 05:42:45 (UTC)
    Race time: 16 days, 17 hours 07 minutes and 45 seconds
  • Twelfth Fabrice Amedeo and Giancarlo Pedote (Italy) on Newrest-Brioche Pasquier at 10:16:16 (UTC)
    Race time: 16 days, 21 hours 41 minutes and 16 seconds
  • Thirteenth Romain Attanasio and Aurélien Ducroz on Famille Mary – Étamine du Lys at 16:17:27 (UTC)
    Race time: 17 days, 03 hours 42 minutes and 27 seconds

Top three in each class;

1 - V and B
2 - Aïna Enfance & Avenir
3 - Imerys Clean Energy

1 - Arkema
2 - FenêtréA - Mix Buffet
3 - Réauté Chocolat

1 - St Michel - Virbac
2 - SMA

1 - Sodebo Ultim'
2 - Maxi Edmond de Rothschild


Phil Sharp, skipper, Imerys Clean Energy (Class40)
"V and B and Aina are an evolution to the Mach 2 boat that we're on, they're generation 3 boats - it's beamier and much more powerful in the hull. It's much more suited to beam reaching conditions in strong winds, which are unfortunately the conditions we've had all the way since the Doldrums. We fulfilled our objective of being in the lead at the exit of the Doldrums, we had a 20-mile lead, but it wasn't enough of a cushion to fend off the Mach 3's when they were in their prime condition. There wasn't a lot we could really do except helplessly watch them pass us. Now, we're 20 miles behind, so it's looking like a difficult shout to catch them before the finish but we've been doing everything we can to make up the gap. Are feeling is that we have nothing to lose and we have to enjoy the end of the race, keep the boat at its maximum and just be grateful for what an amazing opportunity we've had in this race. We're both looking forward to the finish, it's been a long race, two and a half weeks has gone pretty quickly, but this has been our home long enough and we're looking forward to getting back to land and celebrating the performance we put in. We've worked really hard for this race and pushed ourselves right to the limit of mental and physical fatigue. We're pleased with what we've done and it will nice to have a few caipirinhas with friends and family waiting at the finish to celebrate that."

Maxime Sorel, skipper, V and B (Class 40)
"The longest day...Hello earth, this is our last message to you, we have less than 200 miles left to go and it's going to be smoking hot finish; we're not sure on how this story ends."

Fabrice Amedeo, skipper, Newrest-Brioche Pasquier (Imoca)
"This crossing has been a mixture of joy and frustration, but that frustration will turn into positive energy for the future."

Arnaud Boissières, skipper, La Mie Câline – Artipôle (Imoca)
"The crossing? We started in the cold with waves and finished in the warm without wind. It's not been unpleasant, but it was a little longer than expected."

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