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Quentin Vlamynck, skipper of Arkema 4, makes an initial assessment of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2021

by Arkema Sailing 24 Nov 2021 03:00 PST 24 November 2021
The Ocean Fifty Arkema 4 is expected this 24 November in Fort de France © Vincent Olivaud / Arkema Sport

A few hours before arriving in Fort-de-France, I wanted to give you our initial assessment of this Transat Jacques Vabre 2021 race. The aim of these few notes is to clarify our thoughts, for Lalou and myself.

Inevitably we are frustrated with this under-performance.

In sporting terms, this is not what we came for. It is not what we wanted to offer our partner Arkema, Team Lalou Multi, and everyone else who has contributed to the project.

Clearly it is not a result that lives up to the commitment that Lalou and I made on the ocean for 17 days, or the team as a whole over 2 years overall.

We encountered minor technical hitches that cost us time and distance on the water.

We have not been brilliant weatherwise all the time, but we still clearly were unlucky, with a feeling of being against the elements. It is a result that hurts.

As regards our two-handed partnership, it all went extremely well: change-over of shifts at the helm, goodwill, taking turns in making the repairs based on skills and availability.

I have continued to learn each day, about life onboard, the responsibility of handling a machine like this in the squalls, the potential consequences if you cannot stay awake at the right time...

We have lost the TJV, but I have learned a lot about myself and about my preparation for the Route du Rhum next year.

"I never lose. I either win or learn." (Nelson Mandela)

The boat is fine, it is a great base. It is down to us to work out the mast rake and balance adjustments to make it more versatile. What we had learned on the old trimaran no longer applies to this one.

Somewhat extreme at the beginning of the season after experiencing several episodes of plunging and pitching, we decided to tame the boat by adding 1 degree of mast rake; but also by moving the fixed safety weights on board (almost 80 kg: anchors, rafts, survival kit...).

Not much of a risky wager for a Transat Jacques Vabre, but the weather decided to be much too mild on our course...

Anyway, we feel comfortable and safe on board. We experienced a magical night 48 hours ago, reaching with the autopilot on, both under the roof. It was a real demonstration of the use and potential of this boat!

Imagine that Lalou and I have just had the experience of a lifetime.

Sharing a tiny space for 17 days, continuously drenched, under the stress of the competition, without ever giving up, constantly tweaking and adjusting, handling changing our sails, while always making sure there are no problems around us... High adrenaline levels from the start at Le Havre. Sleeping, eating, living on board; none of it being straightforward.

On average, we were between 90 and 100% of the polar, which shows that we managed to exploit the boat, but clearly we did not benefit from the same weather conditions as the first boats.

The Ocean Fifty class has passed a milestone this year. The slightest technical problem can cost you the race. Before, you could have a podium place even though you had stopped to make repairs, but now it is no longer possible!

The seven boats can win. The standards have levelled up, so under-performance can occur.

There is only one winner, and then the others. We need to make sure we learn from our defeat. We will have to analyze in detail the reasons for this frustrating result, and identify the points with room for improvement, at sea and on land.

We are in a professional sport competition, not in an amateur rally. This is called ocean racing.

One other point is that when you are behind, you will not get any benefit from following the course taken by the other boats. So, we began taking measured strategic risks from Cape Verde. None of them proved productive, despite reassuring weather forecasts.

We are now approaching Fort de France, Lalou and I are going to make the most of these last few moments at sea, and we cannot wait to see you all at the finish line.

Quentin Vlamynck, Arkema 4 skipper on day 17 of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2021.

Technical problems experienced by Arkema 4 in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2021:

  • The Garmin screen on the forward beam started malfunctioning after Cape Finisterre just as we had to go on the attack. We wasted a little time sorting this out, managed to isolate it, without losing the GPS antenna which is the only one that can help operate the autopilot.
  • Latch of port foil: nothing dramatic, but we had to go in the beam fairing at the stern to repair, and slow down the boat to prevent waves from crashing over the deck...
  • Bug in the main compass which put it out of use from the 3rd night.
  • Autopilot problem solved.
  • Water leak motor with loose clutch cable activated through mopping. Result: 2 hour penalty and 1 hour repairing the motor.
  • Rupture of gennaker loop.
  • Rationing of diesel.
  • Communication and video transmission not great at all. Solved on the way, but I have a feeling that not all the videos I sent were actually received.

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