Transat Jacques Vabre - Musings

Transat Jacques Vabre - Musings

Saturday December 7 2013 Author: Seagypsy Location: none selected

IMOCA announces new rules for the Barcelona World Race and a new Ocean Master Championship! Great news for fans of ocean racing. Below are some musings of the just nearly-completed Transat Jacques Vabre.

It has been a beautiful thing to behold. The 2013 Transat Jacques Vabre delivered all that it promised and more. Building on its long, colorful tradition, the race provided 20+ days of top flite ocean racing. After a rough and stormy start, the fleet flew across the Bay of Biscay and down the coast of Portugal. Strategic pit stops in Spain, the Canary islands, Madeira and Recife kept broken boats moving and allowed the two front running IMOCA boats to remain in touch – and yes, even in the race. A capsize simplified the Multi50 class and turned it into two sets of match racing trimarans. The story of the rescue was a classic sea story on its own! Tough decisions were made in the Doldrums and then a long blast reach down the coast of Brazil, before the final tactical, nail-biting finish into Itajai. Hours, minutes and sometimes only seconds separated the competitors as they worked their tall boats to best advantage. For all the skippers involved – Giant MOD70 catamarans, MULTI50 trimarans, IMOCA Open 60 Monohulls and Class 40 boats – a hearty round of applause, thank you and well-done!



IMOCA Start in Le Havre

If Macif had not lost her mast, would PRB have caught her on the last day and led into Itajai? We will never know, but it is great fun to speculate. The next time these two boats meet, we anticipate it will be neck and neck again and the boat that can stay together throughout the event will be the winner. Reliability becomes more and more important as performance at the top of the fleet gets tighter and tighter.


The Old Lions Win – Riou and Le Cam whoop it up in Itajai



Old men won this race – old crafty men who know how to sail a boat by God. Old crafty men who have a love and respect for each other as brothers in arms – a relationship forged in a wild ocean wilderness that we will never completely understand.

And what about the older boats? When the new semi-one-design IMOCA boats take to the water, will they be faster, slower or equivalent to the older boats?

Will there still be a place for the “adventurer” to participate?

How will reduced spending by sponsors be reflected in the character of coming races? With fewer big bucks available to fund a MOD70 or IMOCA campaign, will the professional classes of the Class 40′s be where all the action is?

Will we still be enthralled by the Alessandro’s and Tanguy’s of this sport. I hope so.



It is important, I think, that the poetry and beauty of the sport be preserved as it goes forward. Below are photos of Team Plastique and Initiatives Coeur at the finish in Brazil. The two boats were only 9 seconds – 9 seconds! – apart, after 21 days of racing across vast oceanic distances. It is amazing – and fascinating too – that these two back bench IMOCA boats had such a hotly contested race.

Alessandro Di Benedetto and Tanguy de Lamotte (the two skippers and Vendee Globe veterans) are two of the most engaging, heart felt and enthusiastic characters in ANY sport – let alone ocean sailing. IMOCA must make room for such as these two gentle men and let us ride along with them as they fearlessly launch their humanity into the wild blue.



And finally, there is the ocean itself. It is simple, it is brutal, it is beautiful, it is terrifying. The men and women who traversed the Atlantic in the Transat Jacques Vabre raced across the last wild place on Earth. Whether a consummate professional under intense pressure to please a sponsor or an amateur racer matching wits with the best in the sport for the adventure of it – both faced the same wild, incredible ocean. And both come back ashore to tell their story. That is the value of this sport – the stories the competitors – professional and amateur alike – can tell about that immense, blue place. Big seas

Imagine for a moment you are on watch in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, surfing down 20 foot waves, your co-skipper asleep in the wet, cramped, crowded cabin below. You are on deck alone, spray flying over the cabin top. The boat has been sailing herself via autopilot for a few hours allowing you both to rest after a trying night. The noise is tremendous, but you have learned to hear what is important – the rip of a sail, the hiss of a threatening wave, the thud and bang of broken structure – versus the more normal whoosh and wail of water and wind. You are grateful the sun is out, there is some welcome warmth in it now as you careen south. Grateful too for the sun as each morning it chases away the fearful night. The tiller moves in response to the autopilot, you lurch to the back of the cockpit, turn off the autopilot and take the tiller yourself. Perched high atop a wave – teetering on its crest – you can see for miles and miles – it is the top of the world. Surfing, sliding down into the hole between crests, surrounded by water as high as the first spreader on your mast – a mast not so lofty out here – seconds after the top of the world, you are alone at the bottom of a well. The elevator ride starts again and with a whoosh you are back at the top of the world – and there….just there next to the bow wave – cavort four playful dolphins leaping, blowing and flying in the spume and controlled violence.

And suddenly you are struck by the magnificence – the sheer audacity of man to confront this place, this wilderness, this power – to experience its beauty, its timelessness, its vastness as nothing more than sport. You roll down those ancient trade winds with a great Whoot and Holler – laughing at your very great good fortune – brother to all those who have gone before you – and inspiration to those who will surely follow.


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