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Complex Weather Affects Transat Jacques Vabre

IMOCA 60 Division

Just over three days into the 14th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre — a 4,350 mile doublehanded sailing race from Le Havre, France, to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil — Kevin Escoffier and Nicolas Lunven onboard PRB are leading the IMOCA 60 fleet. As of this writing, the orange boat is just barely at the front of the southerly lead pack of boats making good progress down the Portuguese coast.

A VPLP-designed IMOCA launched in 2010, PRB has been thoroughly refined and optimized over the years. Despite her age, she remains incredibly quick and competitive against the newer-generation boats.
© 2019 Yann Riou / PRB

A massive split has opened up among the record-setting fleet of 29 IMOCA 60s — up from just 13 two years ago. The other, smaller pack of boats has committed hard to a westerly option that is beginning to look less and less likely to deliver the goods. Among the boats out west is Alex Thomson and Neal McDonald’s revolutionary new crowd favorite Hugo Boss and Boris Hermann and Will Harris’s Malizia II, which famously carried young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg across the Atlantic recently.

The massive split among the fleet is indicative of an incredibly complex weather scenario. The fleet departed Le Havre and sailed 15 miles upwind to a turning mark before racing downwind in a building northeasterly that took them west through the English Channel and into open water. Upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean, the fleet had to negotiate an autumn low-pressure system and its southerly headwinds, which split the fleet. With each passing hour, the ‘safe’ money bet of heading south down the Iberian coast is looking better and better.

11th Hour Racing
11th Hour Racing at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre. After earning a podium finish in the recent Défi Azimut — the team’s debut race — American Charlie Enright and Frenchman Pascal Bidégorry are again in contention for a top finish. This boat was nearly lost at sea during this race four years ago, when it made its debut as Hugo Boss with Alex Thomson and Spaniard Guillermo Altadill.
© 2019 Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing

Behind Escoffier and Lunven on PRB is 11th Hour Racing, a nearly 10-year-old boat that has been constantly refined and only recently modified with lifting foils. Sailing in only their second race since acquiring the IMOCA 60 formerly known as Hugo Boss, Ocean Race skipper Charlie Enright of Newport, Rhode Island, and co-skipper Pascal Bidégorry remain in contention for a solid result. They’re currently in sixth place. Pre-race favorites Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt on the radical new Charal are currently in third.

Charal and Hugo Boss
Charal, with Hugo Boss in the background, at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre on Sunday.
© 2019 Charal Sailing Team

Class 40 Division

Behind the leading IMOCA 60s is an impressive fleet of Class 40s, which started at 27 boats but has already seen some heavy attrition. Early race leaders Luke Berry and co-skipper Tanguy Le Turquais onboard Lamotte – Module Creation dismasted on the second morning of the race. Shortly thereafter, multiple other boats made their way back toward the coast with an ever-growing list of carnage including ripped-up spinnakers, broken autopilots and electronics, and even a couple of minor injuries.

Class 40 Aina
Aymeric Chappellier and Pierre Leboucher onboard the Class 40 Aïna Enfance & Avenir are currently leading the Class 40 fleet. In this photo, the 40-footer is smashing downwind during last year’s solo Route du Rhum race. Aymeric managed a second-place finish in the solo transatlantic race.
© 2019 Route du Rhum

Multi 50 Division

Just out in front of the IMOCA fleet is a small group of three Multi 50 trimarans, still tightly grouped and leading the charge toward the trade winds.The Transat Jacques Vabre is still in its early stages, and we’ll continue to update this race, as well as multiple other transatlantic races that are currently or soon to be underway.

1 Comment

  1. Ross Angels Iphone 4 years ago

    Hey Alex! don’t let us diehard followers down brotha!!
    The rapid buildup of IMOCA 60 class is stunning and definitely is a message to the future of sailing… I hope the IMOCA 40 class finds its way to explosive development, skipper interest and sponsorship as the stepping stone in America as it is in Europe. Their masters can then step into the IMOCA 60 … fact is I would like to be one of the first to acquire a fully advanced foiling IMOCA 40 on the West Coast … God what a boat to race Cabo or Transpac. what do ya says boys … lets advance the IMOCA 40 class in LA , SF and Seattle… and make some noise here out West !… Yeah Baby !!

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Nautical Trivia
Fortunately, the power stayed on at Richmond Yacht Club, and scores of sailors there for the weekend gathered there Sunday morning to enjoy breakfast and a Nautical Trivia Quiz.