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TJV racecourse drama, Mini Transat update, Paris 2024 Olympics updates

by David Schmidt 5 Nov 08:00 PST November 5, 2019
11th Hour Racing Team - Transat Jacques Vabre 2019 © Amory Ross

If you're a junkie for offshore sailing news like I am, November is historically a thirsty month in years without an ongoing edition of The Ocean Race (née the Volvo Ocean Race) or the Vendee Globe. Fortunately, this year's fix comes in the form of the biennial Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV), which departed Le Harve, France, on Sunday, October 27, for Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, a distance of 4,335 nautical miles. Doublehanded racing is currently taking place in three TJV classes, namely IMOCA 60s, Multi 50s and Class 40s, with the 29-strong IMOCA 60 class representing the biggest class afloat, followed by the Class 40s (27 boats).

While ocean-racing news can change with a single wind shift, as of this writing, the biggest story coming from the racecourse comes courtesy of co-skippers Alex Thomson (GBR) and Neal McDonald (GBR), racing aboard Thomson's brand-new IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, which sustained a collision with a submerged object that ended their race and that is currently (again, as of this writing) threatening the stability of their brand-new boat.

"We're not sure what we hit but it was something big under the water, which must have been submerged to have hit our keel and physically stop the boat at 25 knots," reported Thomson in an official TJV press release. "The keel sustained a lot of damage and it was left attached only by the hydraulic ram."

This unexpected collision forced Hugo Boss to retire from racing, but fortunately both Thomson and McDonald emerged from the collision more or less unscathed. Thomson again: "If you were to get into your car, close your eyes, and drive at 40 miles an hour into a brick wall...that's what it felt like!"

While this report sounded positive for the health and well-being of these world-class sailors, more recent reports are not so favorable for Hugo Boss herself, as the sailors' efforts to stabilize her keel were not successful. After battling the situation for some hours and then getting some much-needed rest, the two skippers realized that their keel could in fact jeopardize the integrity of their hull.

"Despite their very best efforts, it became clear that keeping the keel attached would put the boat at great risk," said Ross Daniel, technical director of Alex Thomson Racing, in an official team media release. "With guidance from our team shore-side, Alex and Neal set about cutting the hydraulic ram to free the keel from the boat," continued Daniel. "After many hours, they were successful in their efforts and the keel is now no longer attached to the boat."

While this would be a seriously precarious situation for a traditional monohull — and to be clear, this is certainly a critical situation for Hugo Boss — Thomson and McDonald have a few extra levers that they can, and have, pulled. "Alex and Neal have filled the ballast tanks onboard and fully extended the foils in order to keep the boat as stable as possible," continued Ross. "They are currently in light winds and a slight sea state, and we are comfortable that there is no immediate risk to the boat or the skippers."

As of this writing, Thomson and McDonald are gingerly limping Hugo Boss towards port and are assessing their options.

Hugo Boss' race may be over, but that certainly doesn't alleviate pressures at the front of the pack, where Jeremie Beyou (FRA) and Christopher Pratt (FRA), sailing aboard Charal, are leading the hunt, followed by Charlie Dalin (FRA) and Yann Elies (FRA), sailing aboard Apiva, and by Charlie Enright (USA) and Pascal Bidegorry, sailing aboard 11th Hour Racing (née Hugo Boss!).

In the three-strong Multi 50 class, Giles Lamire (FRA) and Antoine Carpentier (FRA), sailing aboard Groupe GCA-Mille Et Un Sourires, are in the pole position and are being hunted by Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (FRA) and Fred Duthil (FRA), who are racing aboard Solidaires En Peleton-ARSEP, and Sebastian Rogues and Matthieu Souben, who are racing aboard Primonial.

And amongst the highly competitive Class 40s, Ian Lipinski (FRA) and Adrien Hardy (FRA), sailing aboard Credit Mutuel, are leading the charge by a margin of 30 nautical miles, followed by Sam Goodchild (GBR) and Fabien Delahaye (FRA), aboard Leyton. Aymeric Chappellier (FRA) and Pierre Leboucher (FRA), who are sailing aboard Aina Enfance & Avenir, are roughly 38 nautical miles astern of Credit Mutuel. Again, as of this writing, this cluster of three Class 40s enjoys a sizeable lead over the other frontrunners, but with over 2,500 nautical miles of brine that's left to be plied, there are still plenty of tactical opportunities left.

Also in offshore-racing news, 82 solo sailors departed Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for Martinique's Le Marin and the second leg of the storied Mini-Transat La Boulangère. Sailors competing for top honors in this prestigious event can either choose to compete in the production class (read: one designs) or in the open prototype class.

"It's been nearly two and a half years that I've been preparing for this second leg where everything will be decided," said Axel Tréhin, winner of the prototype class in the race's first leg, in an official media release. "The weather situation is fairly pleasant. We're going to be sailing downwind the whole time, making fairly fast headway."

"We're going to need to be on our game from the get-go and continue to keep up the pace after that and not drop the ball when there are minor hassles to deal with," continued Tréhin. "We'll have to be on the attack all the way! At the start of the race, it will essentially be about knowing how much Southing to put in before setting a course to the West."

Stay tuned for more from the TJV and the Mini-Transat La Boulangère, as it becomes known.

Meanwhile, in Olympic sailing news, World Sailing, the governing body for international sailing, just concluded their annual meeting in Bermuda, where they decided, amongst other things, on the events and equipment that will be used to contest the Paris 2024 Olympics. These are as follows:

  • Men's Windsurfer: iFoil
  • Women's Windsurfer: iFoil
  • Men's One-Person Dinghy: Laser
  • Women's One-Person Dinghy: Laser Radial
  • Women's Skiff: 49erFX
  • Men's Skiff: 49er
  • Mixed Kite: Formula Kite
  • Mixed Two-Person Dinghy: 470
  • Mixed Two-Person Multihull: Nacra 17

This leaves only the Mixed Two-Person Keelboat Offshore event with equipment that still falls in the TBD category; however, World Sailing has stipulated that the criteria for suitable equipment for this brand-new event must be published no later than December 31, 2020.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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