Photos: Alexis Courcoux

IMOCA 60s stream in

Latest arrivals in the Transat Jacques Vabre

Saturday November 19th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: Costa Rica

 Armel Le Cléac'h and Christopher Pratt completed the podium of the tenth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre when the duo, looking tired, drawn, but brought their IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire across the finish line in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

Banque Populaire finish third behind victors, three times winner Jean Pierre Dick with Jérémie Beyou on Virbac Paprec 3 and Britain’s Alex Thomson and Spain’s Guillermo Altadill on Hugo Boss.

Finishing around five hours and 40 minutes behind Hugo Boss, the duo expressed their satisfaction at winning the ‘race of the south’, when they lead in today’s regular stream of finishers which had chosen the more southerly routing, the opposite to that which proved ultimately decisive for the first two duos.

“It was really intense physically from start to finish," said le Cléac'h. "We had a rough start with a few problems which drove us into the red and from there we never stopped. A lot has been under gennaker and spinnaker in the breeze. The fight with MACIF has been really great. This afternoon we were worried we would not come third, so it’s great. We won the race of the southerners, in the end the northerners were too strong.”

After a head to head duel which has run relentlessly through the last seven days Banque Populaire finally eclipsed near sistership MACIF, sailed by François Gabart and Sebastien Col, who finished only 1 hour and 50 minutes later.

“The fight with MACIF has been really great," said Le Cléac’h who finished second in the last Vendée Globe. "This afternoon we were worried we would not come third, so it’s great to make it. We won the race of the southerners, in the end the northerners were too strong.”

The MACIF crew revealed that they have spent the last more than five days running with no power.

François Gabart commented: "We were not able to push the boat to the limit all the time. At the Azores there was a choice to go in the south ... We do not regret our choice of route because we just don’t know what would have happened if we had gone north. We can’t forget that two good boats have had to stop because they broke. And we had a lot of worries. Just before passing the Dominican Republic, we had a power failure. So for five days, we could not download certain weather files, we could not use the pilot driver. We had to switch the keel by hand. We worked with our little hand-held GPS. Fortunately, I had plugged in the good waypoints, islands in the Caribbean Sea. So for 5 days, we were in the dark. And we found that the port shroud (the sidestay which supports the mast) is damaged by about 20 or 30%. It worked out because we were two up, but solo, I would not have been able to finish the race. And anyway, I wonder how it will be solo!”

Catching Gabart and Col proved just a step too far ahead for Kito de Pavant and Yann Regniau on Groupe Bel, who staged the biggest comeback of the race. From carrying the ‘lantern rouge’ at the back of the fleet after they caught themselves in very light breezes in the south of the Azores high pressure ridge, at one stage just making 100 miles in 36 hours, de Pavant and Regniau worked steadily back into the fleet to finish one hour and 14 minutes behind MACIF.

An audacious move to the south as they lined up for the Caribbean may have helped, but they proved Groupe Bel’s speed in the Caribbean and finished fifth, feeling like something of a victory according to de Pavant.

Kito de Pavant said: “There are some fifth places that feel like victories! We were last half way through the race, which is not a pleasant experience. We still managed to get back into the game and to try out the odd strategy, which paid off. Today, having seen that Groupe Bel sails as fast as the more recent boats is reassuring. We are happy. This story has a bad plot, it hurt having to fight back so hard, but the boat is good, really good and we have never had to open the tool box. I am starting to have some confidence in the boat.”

Safran, winner of the last edition of the race, maintained a finishing schedule which proved akin to a bus timetable, arriving in sixth one hour and 23 minutes behind Groupe Bel. Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès, swapped from a northerly routing to the south and then also struggled in the light airs of the Azores high area.

Marc Guillemot commented: “Well we are trained for the Vendée Globe because we hardly steered at all. For the Vendée Globe it is good but not for this race. Our problem with the rudder, the connecting link, we noticed at the Azores. The helm was already hard and heavy, but fortunately the pilot could cope. Without it we would have been out. Yann, like me, we could not steer it.”

Yann Eliès added: “That is one of the things about a Transat two up, one of you can steer at times, all the time. And we could see when our rivals were steering. We were always a bit off the pace and up against a Seb Col-type helm that is just not enough, we were able to measure ourselves with Kito against comparable boats. We felt they were always attacking, still at the helm under similar sailplans and they were 3 or 4 tenths faster."

Only 45 miles separated seventh placed Bureau Vallée of the Burton brothers with ninth placed Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois on Gamesa, with Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret lying eighth on Mirabaud. Golding and Dubois have closed more than 50 miles on Mirabaud in 24 hours and were just 20 miles behind on the mid-afternoon rankings today.

Multi 50 leader Actual is due in this evening.

Standings at 1700 CET:

1 - Virbac-Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick - Jérémie Beyou) : arrived on Friday november,18th at 9h 15min et 34sec. (French Time)
2 - Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson - Guillermo Altadill) : arrived on Saturday november, 19th at 00h 20mn 00sec
3 - Banque Populaire (Armel Le Cléac'h - Christopher Pratt) : arrived on Saturday november, 19th at 6h 00mn et 23sec
4 - Macif (François Gabart - Sébastien COL) : arrived on Saturday november, 19th at 7h 50min 12sec
5 - Groupe Bel (Kito De Pavant – Yann Régniau) : arrived on Saturday november, 19th at 9h 04min 32sec
6 - Safran (Marc Guillemot - Yann Eliès) : arrived on Saturday november, 19th at 10h 27min 52sec
7 - Bureau Vallée (Louis Burton - Nelson Burton) : 97,5 milles to finish
8 - Mirabaud (Dominique Wavre - Michèle Paret) : 22,2 milles to leader
9 - Gamesa (Mike Golding - Bruno Dubois) : 43,9 milles to leader

1 - Actual (Yves Le Blevec - Samuel Manuard) : 124,1 milles from finish line
2 - Maitre Jacques (Loïc Fequet - Loïc Escoffier) : 269,2 milles to leader

1 - (Yannick Bestaven - Eric Drouglazet) : 1173,6 milles from finish line
2 - ERDF Des Pieds et des Mains (Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme) : 146,8 milles to leader
3 - 40 Degrees (Hannah Jenner - Jesse Naiwark) : 236,3 milles to leader

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