With the first 24 hours of racing in the Transat Jacques Vabre dispatched, the rhythm and pace in each of the three classes is firmly established. The high speeds of the first night and early morning reduced slightly this afternoon with the abating breeze.
Pre-start hopes and expectations may be one thing, but after the first day the cream has inexorably risen in each class - the Multi 50, IMOCA 60 and Class 40. Virbac Paprec 3 heads a tightly packed group in the IMOCA 60s, comprising the four boats which have probably done the most ocean miles this year
Winner of this year’s Barcelona World Race, Jean-Pierre Dick, racing with 2011 Solitaire du Figaro winner Jérémie Beyou had a small lead aboard Virbac-Paprec 3 – just around a mile – over PRB with the leading duo drag racing within sight of each other between morning and the afternoon. Beyou reported: "It was a rough wet night, we set a staysail after the Cherbourg Peninsula. We have been alongside PRB since this morning and it is nice to have someone to pace yourself against. Early in the morning our courses crossed. It is tight though but we have been a little bit better. We managed to get some sleep but have not felt like eating but the sun is out now. I was at the helm until the peninsula and then the pilot took over. We are south of the depression so getting into more westerly winds and then the weather models show different things after that. We have to be careful and see what develops.”
The recently launched MACIF skippered by François Gabart has remained solid in fourth while Bernard Stamm’s new Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed Cheminées Poujoulat has been the first day’s climber, rising from eighth to fifth demonstrating her fast reaching potential.
Franck-Yves Escoffier and Antoine Koch on
had a slightly bigger lead in the Multi 50 division, while in the 16 boat Class 40
sailed by Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet were progressively coming under pressure from the young British duo Ned Collier-Wakefield and Sam Goodchild on
. Collier-Wakefield and Goodchild had cut down their French rivals’ lead from more than 11 miles to less than five and were quickest of the fleet this afternoon.
But as the first night of crashing through big head seas, while fast reaching in over 30 knots of breeze gave way to some sunshine and slightly lighter winds, albeit with the same confused seas and this has taken its toll.
First Thierry Bouchard revealed that he and co-skipper Gilles Berenger had turned back to France with a delaminating bulkhead on their Akilaria RC2, Comiris Pôle Santé Elior. First official retirement was that of the Class 40 Lecoq Cuisine due after skipper Eric Lecoq suffered a back injury while the Mabit brothers on the Multi 50 Monopticien.com were forced to retire due to a broken rudder pintle almost certainly due to hitting a floating object. In the IMOCA 60 Class Banque Populaire are compromised when their main gennaker was damaged when it dropped in the water when a halyard lashing failed soon after the start.
From the international perspective Alex Thomson and Guilermo Altadill aboard Hugo Boss are holding seventh, commendable so far considering that Thomson has not raced since the 2009 race when he was forced to abandon and he and the very experienced Spanish co-skipper have only had 12 training days with their Farr design.
Mike Golding, when he spoke to this afternoon’s radio calls to Paris, was not overly happy with their modest early showing, acknowledging this was an early price to pay for having been away from racing also since 2009 and having only had a handful of days training inshore since the re-configured Gamesa was launched mid-September.
“ I’m not that happy with our position,” Golding confirmed, “but I’ll ignore that for now and we’ll just keep our hammer down. It is quite clear that the boats that have been on the circuit for the past couple of years have moved on apace and we have to step up our game. In fairness to us, to both of us we haven’t had our training time on the boat and I have been away for some time. It will take a little bit of sorting out but at the moment our deficit is not too bad. We have a quite a complex weather system ahead of us and there will be opportunities for sure.
“There are not too many options in the next 24 hours. As the day runs out today depending on which model you believe, we’ll be tacking over on to starboard and starting to make our way south for a while. The models vary wildly later on down the course and one model offering quite a northerly track and the other quite a southerly track, but they are all confused by where the Bermuda high seems to form. I think we have to keep watching before we make a fundamental decision about where we are going to go.”
In Class 40, co-skipper of 40 Degrees Jesse Naimark-Rowse, was just one who acknowledged they were slightly behind their early hopes, but felt they were gaining miles with British skipper Hannah Jenner, lying tenth and enjoying a good race in contact with the Norwegian duo on Solo and Nick Halmos and Hugh Piggin on 11th Hour Racing. “It has been good so far. Through the night we were not quite as fast as we might have been, or as we would have liked to have been and so that was a bit of a struggle. The boat seems to be going better now, our speed is better. We have no problems, we are sailing the boat well now, and so I think in the night we maybe had some issues with which sails to have up. But now mostly now everything is good. We hope to make some gains back through the fleet we hope at the moment.
“ It was reaching conditions from 20-30kts with the Solent, reefs in and out, and for a little while our A3 small spinnaker, and so just making the sail changes was a lot of work. So we don’t sleep a whole lot, trading one hour driving each, one somebody resting a little. We have had enough rest, just. We can see 11th Hour Racing and Solo and besides commercial ships and fishing boats these are the only boats which we can see. We are a little bit further back than we hoped for, when we came around Cherbourg we could see on the AIS that we were holding just 2.5 to 3 miles behind Bureau Veritas and then through the night we lost quite a few miles to them. Yes, we would like to be a little further along than we are, but overall we are happy with where we are.”