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Super Yachts at boot (newsletter)

Updates from the Transat Jacques Vabre, Ocean Globe Race, and Global Solo Challenge

by David Schmidt 7 Nov 08:00 PST November 7, 2023
Ultim boats are taking the start of Transat Jacques Vabre in Le Havre, France, on October 29, 2023 © Jean-Marie Liot

North American sailors may be reeling from the loss of an extra hour of evening light, but those brave souls sailing the world's oceans and operating around-the-clock are likely immune to this seasonal slap to morale. And there are a lot of sailors operating around the clock right now, as three great races are currently unfurling.

These include the biennial Transat Jacques Vabre, which takes doublehanded crews from Le Harve, France, to Martinique; the fully-crewed Ocean Globe Race, which seeks to recreate the challenges of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race in a series of stage races, and the pursuit-style Global Solo Challenge, which takes singlehanded sailors on a nonstop around-the-world course that starts and ends on the waters off of Southampton, in the United Kingdom.

For anyone who doesn't love the darkness (or who, like me, overdid the training miles in their running shoes this summer and finds themself on crutches and knee scooters for some weeks) these races offer a chance to escape the doldrums of the living room couch.

First, to the TJV, which began on October 29 when the five Ultim trimarans were released onto the racecourse, followed on October 30 by the Ocean Fifty trimarans and by the Class 40s (N.B. these vessels raced from Le Harve to Lorient, where they had a rest before continuing on towards Martinique). While the 40-strong fleet of IMOCA 60s was supposed to start soon thereafter, race officials made the wise decision to hold these steeds and let Ciaran, a nasty autumn storm with hurricane-force winds, blow (mostly) by before sending these 80 doublehanded sailors out into the Atlantic.

As of this writing, the mighty Ultims are now off the coast of Brazil, having cleared their first turning mark (the islets of Sao Pedro Sao Paulo). They are now gunning for their second turning mark at Ascension Island before swinging all three of their bows for the finishing line. Armel Le Cleac'h and Sebastien Josse, sailing aboard Maxi Banque Populaire XI, are currently leading this hunt.

The six-strong Ocean Fifty class of trimarans are battling conditions in the Bay of Biscay, followed by the 41-strong fleet of Class 40 sailors, who are also contending with near-coast conditions. As of this writing Thibaut Vauchel-Camus and Quentin Vlamynck, sailing aboard Solidaires En Peloton, are leading the hunt in the Ocean Fifty class, while Alberto Bona and Pablo Santurde de Arco, racing aboard Ibsa, are in the pole position in the Class 40s.

But, with well over 3,000 nautical miles to go, expect plenty of leaderboard evolutions.

The 40-strong IMOCA 60 class started racing today (Tuesday, November 7), and will first contend with Ciaran's remnants before lighting their afterburners in the tradewinds.

Meanwhile, sailors contesting the Ocean Globe Race set out for the second leg of their around-the-world adventure, which will take them from Cape Town, South Africa, to Auckland, New Zealand, on Sunday. The fleet enjoyed blue skies and a sendoff that included two attending naval vessels.

"Wow! What a start," said Don McIntrye, race founder and sponsor. "We could not have asked for more. Adventurers sailing on classic yachts, with Table Mountain in the background, on a perfect day. The Whitbread was here 50 years ago and we're reliving those memories today in the best possible way. Cape Town has been amazing. I wish all our sailors safe passage to New Zealand and good luck! Enjoy the ride."

Skipper Jussi Paavoseppä and his Spirit of Helsinki crew are leading the push to New Zealand, but with many thousands of miles of brine separating the crews from their next real meal, armchair navigators (or, in my case, crutch-hoppers) are advised to expect plenty of drama as the teams engage the northern edge of the Southern Ocean.

While the Global Solo Challenge officially began on August 26, things have been getting more interesting in this singlehanded pursuit-style race as more skippers have been released onto the course.

These include four Americans, namely David Linger, of Seattle, Washington; Cole Brauer, of Boothbay, Maine; Peter Rourke, of Newport, Rhode Island, and Ronnie Simpson, of Honolulu, Hawaii. While Linger, Brauer, and Rourke are all sailing Class 40s, Simpson is taking on the world in an Open 50.

Skipper Dafydd Hughes, who began racing aboard his 1971 S&S 34 on August 26, is in the lead and is well east of Cape Town. He currently enjoys a lead of almost 3,000 nautical miles but is only making 5.2 knots, VMG. For comparison, skipper Philippe Delamare, who began racing on September 30 aboard Mowgli, his Actual 36, is currently making 6.9 knots, so race followers can expect fleet compression at the front as the skippers continue to burn off the miles.

And, in One Design news, the British-flagged Brutus III team, consisting of Tom Mallindine, Charlie Thompson, Chris Grube, Ben Saxton, and Elisabeth Whitener, took top honors in the ultra-competitive J/70 Worlds, which were recently decided on the waters off of St. Petersburg, Florida. All told, 83 teams participated in this top-shelf keelboat regatta.

"We feel incredibly privileged to be able to race in a fleet against the very best sailors," said Thompson in an official regatta communication. "I'm one of the oldest bowmen in the fleet, and now [I'm] a World Champion!"

Sail-World congratulates all J/70 teams for completing a hard-fought regatta, and we wish all offshore teams and singlehanded sailors safe and speedy passage to their respective finishing lines.

Finally, in a world too-often filled with heartache, I received word from my colleague Kimball Livingston of a situation that unfurled a few weeks ago in San Francisco: Nyanza, Lyuba, and Sonda Ngongoseki are three fine young sailors of San Francisco Bay who are making their presence felt in junior-sailing circles. Tragically, their father was killed in a car accident in mid-October.

This blow would cripple any family, but the circumstances here are different, and the boys are seeking normalcy in a storm-fraught world. All three sailors, I'm told, gravitated to the Bay right away. It's never easy to race with eyes full of sorrow, but it speaks volumes about the kind of men these boys will become that their minds moved to sailing, and the sailing community, to help fill this void.

"I first knew the Ngongoseki boys by reputation, as keen sailors and role models to other kids - not only to kids of color - who look to them for their skill and dedication," said Livingston. "The respect and love that poured out, after the boys lost the dad who gave them their proud Tanzanian names, tells the story."

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family through this time of heartache, tumult, and transition. My hope is that the sailing community can help keep the Ngongoseki boys keep sailing as they make their way through school and then out into this great big world, sans their most trusted tactician.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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