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Transat Jacques Vabre - three classes in port, Ultims racing after spectacular start

by Sail-World.com 30 Oct 2023 18:21 PDT
Ultim boats are taking the start of Transat Jacques Vabre in Le Havre, France, on October 29, 2023 © Jean-Marie Liot

Three of the four classes have started the Transat Jacques Vabre which has attracted 95 crews sailing in the double handed classic, now in its 16th edition.

The race has been running for 36 hours, but due to the advance of a major storm, two of the classes were re-routed to Lorient, waiting for the storm to pass. All six Ocean 50s (50ft long by 50ft beam) have arrived in Lorient, while the first two of the Class 40 have arrived - taking 36hrs for the new leg. A third class, the IMOCA 60, was not started but remained in Le Harve. The Transat Jacque Vabre is a qualifier for the Vendee Globe Races which starts in November 2024, and teams are keen to avoid damaging boats in the first day or so of a qualifier.

Race organisers are clearly mindful of previous editions when the fleet started in tough onshore winds, resulting in several boats were badly damaged, and half withdrew as they struggled to clear the French coast.

Only the Ultim class of 105ft multihulls have started and are still racing, however while initially it seemed that organisers got them to sea, before a decision was made as to whether they continue, and stay in front of the storm systems, or divert to a port with sufficient size to take the 32metre x 25 metre Ultims - which have a significant footprint. Their first marks at the San Paulo and San Pedro islands off Brazil before heading to Ascension Island, and then to the finish at Martinique.

Winds off Cape Finisterre are predicted to hit 80-100kts and 10-12 metre seas were expected to hit the smaller classes, making rescue impossible. Several weather systems are en route with the indications that strong onshore winds could last for a week.

But at the latest sked, the Ultims are now well clear of Finisterre and have crossed the Bay of Biscay, with the lead boat making an average speed of over 24kts over the past 24 hours, as of 0300hrs on October 31, with 6,680nm to sail to the finish at Martinque.

The current race leader in the ULTIM class is SVR Lazartigue (Francois Gabart and Tom Laperche) who lead by almost 40nm from Maxi Edmund de Rothschild (Charles Caudreiler and Erwan Isarel) who are level with Maxi Banque Populaire XI (Armel le Cleche and Sebastien Josse).

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