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TJV kicks off its 15th edition, TOR announces monster Southern Ocean leg

by David Schmidt 9 Nov 2021 10:00 PST November 9, 2021
The Transat Jacques Vabre starts from Le Havre, France © @polaRYSE

While Pacific Northwest sailors might be getting amped for this weekend's Round the County race around the San Juan Islands, the bigger-picture reality for most North American sailors is that of mid-to-late autumn, a time when more boats exit the water for winter storage than enter it for races. Not ideal, that's for sure, but that's one of the many reasons that the Florida and Caribbean racing circuits, which unfurl later in the season, are so popular. It's also a time when a little armchair sailing can distract the mind from the fact that it's getting dark far too soon each afternoon. Enter the 15th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre.

This classic transatlantic race for Ultim and Ocean Fifty trimarans and IMOCA 60 and Class 40 monohulls began on Sunday (November 7) off of Sainte-Adresse, France, and is taking the 79-strong fleet to a finishing line off of Antigua. Given the speed differences between these boats, which range from 40 feet to 100 feet, LOA, the different classes are sailing different courses, with the Class 40s sailing 4,600 nautical miles, the Ocean Fifty and IMOCA 60 classes sailing 5,800 nautical miles, and the stunningly fast Ultims sailing 7,500 miles.

Provided that the wind gods cooperate, the Ultims are expected to finish in 16-17 days, the Ocean Fifty class in 12-15 days, the IMOCA 60s in 14-17 days, and the Class 40s in 17-22 days.

North American interests are being represented in this largely Francophile affair by Alex Mehran Jr. and Merfyn Owen aboard the Class 40 Pola Dot, by Ryan Barkey and Melodie Schaffer aboard the Class 40 Stormtech, and by Charlie Enright (USA) and Pascal Bidegorry (FRA) aboard 11th Hour Racing Team's brand-new IMOCA 60, Malama.

"With the boat being so new, we have had very little time to train and to get familiar with Malama's features - less than two weeks on the water," said Enright in an 11th Hour Racing Team release. "The foils, the hull shape, the cockpit, she's definitely one-of-a-kind. For this race, our main focus will be to get her to Martinique in one piece—if we manage that, there's a chance for more!"

Also, it should be noted that while Justine Mettraux (SUI) and Simon Fisher (GBR) don't hail from Canada or the USA, they are sailing aboard U.S.-based 11th Hour Racing Team's Alaka'i (nee' Hugo Boss), which is the team's B boat that they used for training while Malama was being designed and built.

Interestingly, this is the first time that a single team has entered two boats concurrently in the TJV.

Click here for a recent interview with Simon Fisher.

As of this writing, Axel Trehin (FRA) and Axel Trehin (FRA), sailing aboard Project Rescue Ocean, are leading the hunt in the Class 40 rankings, followed by Ian Lipinski (FRA) and Julien Pulvé (FRA), sailing aboard Crédit Mutuel, and Nicolas Jossier and Alexis Loison, sailing aboard La Manche #EvidenceNautique.

In the Ocean Fifty class, Erwan Le Roux (FRA) and Xavier Macaire, sailing aboard Koesio, are in the pole position, followed by Sébastien Rogues (FRA) and Matthieu Souben (FRA), sailing aboard Primonial, and Quentin Vlamynck (FRA) and Lalou Roucayrol (FRA), sailing aboard Arkema 4.

Charlie Dalin (FRA) and Paul Meilhat (FRA), sailing aboard Apivia, are defining the learning curve in the IMOCA 60 class, followed by Romain Attanasio (FRA) and Sébastien Marsset (FRA), sailing aboard Fortinet - Best Western, and Enright (USA) and Bidegorry (FRA) aboard Malama.

(Impressively, Mettraux (SUI) and Fisher (GBR), sailing aboard the older Alaka'I, are sitting in fifth place, astern of Jérémie Beyou (FRA) and Christopher Pratt (FRA), who are sailing aboard Charal.)

And in the mighty Ultim class, Armel Le Cléac'h (FRA) and Kevin Escoffier (FRA), sailing aboard Banque Populaire XI, are in first place, followed by Yves Le Blevec (FRA) and Anthony Marchand (FRA), sailing aboard Actual Ultim 3, and Thomas Coville (FRA) and Thomas Rouxel (FRA), sailing aboard Sodebo ultim 3.

Skippers François Gabart (FRA) and Tom Laperche (FRA), sailing aboard the brand-new and fully state-of-the-art SVR-Lazartigue are currently in last place in the Ultim class, but, with just 20 nautical miles separating Banque Populaire XI's sterns from SVR-Lazartigue's bows, and with some 7,565 nautical miles of sailing remaining for boats that can tag 45+ knots of boat speed, there's still plenty of racecourse left for these offshore monsters to strut their lengthy waterlines and powerful sailplans.

Sail-World wishes all TJV sailors good luck, safe passages, and fast sailing on their way to Antigua.

Meanwhile, The Ocean Race (nee, The Volvo Ocean Race and The Whitbread Race) recently made headlines with the announcement of their 12,750 nautical mile Southern Ocean leg for their 2022-2023 race. This ultra-marathon-like leg will stretch from Cape Town, South Africa, to Itajai, Brazil, skipping China and New Zealand. As a result, the race will begin in late December 2022 (or early January 2023) in Alicante, Spain, before sailing to Cabo Verde, and then on to Cape Town and then Itajai.

According to TOR, this decision was based on the realities of running a global ocean race during the still-churning pandemic.

"We believe the 12,750 nautical mile leg from Cape Town to Itajaí is a very special element—unique in history—in the next race," said Johan Salén, TOR's managing director, in an official release. "The ongoing and unpredictable effects of Covid have meant it is impossible, at this time, to do the planning necessary to ensure successful stops in China and New Zealand."

From Itajai, teams will then sail to Newport, Rhode Island, before crossing the Pond to a series of European cities and, eventually, the finishing line.

"This update to the race route makes it reminiscent of the original Ocean Race's of the past, and I hope the delay of the start until after the Route du Rhum will entice more teams to join us on the start line," said Enright, who plans to race Malama in fully crewed mode in this event. "The confirmed course is exciting - one month at sea, racing through the Southern Ocean, on the longest leg we've ever faced. It's a reminder that we will need to be at the top of our game to take it on, and allows us to really hone in on our preparations."

For Enright, at least, these preparations began on Sunday with the start of the TJV.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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