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Update on the Transat Jacques Vabre Transatlantic Race

The 15th edition of the famed Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV) got underway from Le Havre, France, on Sunday, November 7. A doublehanded transatlantic race from France to the Caribbean island of Martinique, the race is open to four different classes of boats including Class 40 monohulls, Ocean Fifty trimarans, IMOCA 60 monohulls and the revered ‘Ultime’ class of unlimited maxi-trimarans. Getting underway in blustery conditions on Sunday, the big fleet of 79 yachts put up big speeds from the start — perfect for some intense action shots taken by the global yachting press — before sailing into a windless ridge of pressure that stopped the fleet dead in its tracks.

Start of Transat Jacques Vabre
The Ocean Fifty and Ultime trimarans at the start off Le Havre on Sunday. With the introduction of the Pro Sailing Tour, the Ocean Fifty class has seen a revival and had seven boats on the start line for the TJV. Note that the green boat Sodebo is one of the larger Ultime trimarans, and is currently in second place in the Ultime division.
© 2021 Jean-Marie Liot / LIOT Photographies

Over three days into the race as of this writing the fleet is now very spread out with the fastest trimarans rumbling south in a moderate northerly flow in the Portuguese trades, while the slower monohulls are sailing in the Bay of Biscay in relatively light air. A couple of IMOCA 60s have dismasted, including Louis Burton’s new Bureau Vallée 3 (formerly L’Occitane) and the American team 11th Hour Racing’s ‘B’ boat Alaka’i (formerly Hugo Boss). All of the sailors onboard are fine, though this is a blow to these two teams that had put in a lot of training miles without incident over the past year.

One of the most highly anticipated performances in this Transat Jacques Vabre is the major race debut for François Gabart’s new trimaran SVR Lazartigue. As of this writing, SVR Lazartigue is in third place in the Ultime fleet but is slowly starting to find her pace.
© 2021 Thierry Martinez


At the head of the fleet overall, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier onboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild continue their dominance over the five-boat Ultime fleet, while François Gabart’s new boat SVR Lazartigue and Armel le Cleac’h’s new boat Banque Populaire XI both get up to speed. The newly formed but very formidable duo of Erwan le Roux and Xavier Macaire onboard Koesio are currently leading the seven-boat Ocean Fifty trimaran class. At the head of the 21-strong IMOCA fleet is APIVIA, sailed by Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat, which has certainly proven to be the boat to beat in the last year and a half since the Vendée Globe. The race’s largest division is the Class 40 monohulls with 45 boats entered. Leading the Class 40s at this stage are the duo of Nicolas Jossier and Alexis Loison onboard La Manche #evidencenautique.

The American team in the Ocean Race, 11th Hour Racing, is campaigning two IMOCA 60s in the Transat Jacques Vabre. Pictured here, 11th Hour’s new boat Malama has shown great pace out of the box and is currently in fifth place in the IMOCA fleet. Unfortunately, their other boat dismasted earlier this morning.
© 2021 Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing

While the race is a very French affair, there are a handful of Americans, and even one Bay Area sailor! Currently sailing in fifth place in the IMOCA division is 11th Hour Racing’s ‘A’ boat Malama, which is skippered by Newport, Rhode Island, native Charlie Enright and co-skippered by Frenchman Pascal Bidegorry. In the Class 40 division, the Akilaria RC3 design named Polka Dot is skippered by Bay Area sailor Alex Mehran Jr. — a Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race veteran — and is co-skippered by renowned naval architect and sailor Merfyn Owen of the famed Owen Clarke yacht design. Polka Dot has taken a pretty major flyer and has deviated their route from the rest of the fleet more than any other boat in the race. Surely motivated by finding more breeze than their rivals, the duo is sailing toward an incoming low-pressure system that will hit them with headwinds, but once they tack they could come out of the low with speed and rejoin the fleet. It’s a high-risk, high-reward move, and while it seems far-fetched for it to pay off, it will surely be interesting to watch!

To follow the race, go to

You can read about previous Transat Jacques Vabre racing here.

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