Setting sail down the St Laurence
Under a sunny sky and a good breeze the 25 teams participating in the Quebec-St Malo set off on their voyage down the St Lawrence River and across the Atlantic Ocean.
Having said goodbye to their shore crews, families and the Québec public that gathered on the pontoons and lined the Bassin Louise lock, the boats reached the starting area, located just off the Parc de la Jetée.
Among a huge fleet of spectator boats the start were the 20 Class40 at 11:20 precisely (17:20 CEST), followed 15 minutes later by the three multihulls and two monohulls in the 'Open' class. As expected the fleet started downwind under spinnaker in 10 knots of SSWerly breeze quickly sailing past the Château Frontenac.
Aurélien Ducroz’s Class 40 Latitude Neige – longitude Mer was the first to cross the line thanks to the skilful tactics by Eric Péron, leading the 20 strong fleet towards the old port of Québec, closely followed by Fabrice Amédéo’s Geodis, Christophe Coatnan’s Partouche, Eric Tabardel’s Bleu and German Joerg Riechers’ mare.de. Soon after the start the fleet split with a small group comprising Denis van Weynbergh on Proximedia, title holder and race veteran Halvard Mabire on Campagne de France and Sébastien Rogues on Eole Generation – GDF Suez opting to stay close to the south bank.
In the Open group, it was Italy’s Andrea Mura on his 50ft monohull who got the best start while the multis chose a more conservative strategy, waited a little longer before hoisting their big spinnakers. Taking advantage of his boat’s speed Erwan Le Roux on Fenêtré A Cardinal quickly took the lead on Erik Nigon’s Vers un monde sans Sida and Gilles Lamiré’s Défi Saint Malo Agglo.
The fight has just started, there are more than 2.965 miles to the finish in Saint Malo and the next two weeks promise to be as action packed as ever.
Before leaving Samantha Evans on Sevenstar Yacht Transport said: “It’s my first Transat I’m very excited, very much looking forward to it and just want to get out there but at the same time a little bit apprehensive because it’s my debut. I’ve done the training and I’m ready for it but I’m not quite sure what to expect. The weather is very variable at the moment, maybe a little lighter than we ere expecting, we will have to see for the funnelling effect at the end of the day but we are going to keep to our race plan. We have a lot of food, probably too much… being from different nationalities everyone likes it’s own food, the French and the German on board like to eat lots of snacks and sweets…”
Louis Duc on Avis Immobilier added: “We are happy to start despite having had a very good time in Québec. Things look okay, we are checking the latest weather files trying to relax and get into racing mode. The conditions for the start should be nice, possibly with some reaching before the win goes down overnight. In a few days’ time we could have some upwind sailing in solid breeze. Being the first part on the river, the strategy is much more complicated, uncertain and this changes our plans. Usually we know what to expect but here is different and there could well be some surprises…"
Germany's Mathias Blumencron on Red said: “We’re excited, definitively and positively nervous. We know it will be very interesting weather wise, tricky at the beginning. It will be tactically tricky, challenging and the competition is very strong. We will give our best but we are in very good spirit, the mood is excellent. We had a beautiful evening last night, had a good “last supper”. We’ll see how it goes out there… our secret weapon is good spirit!”
Jean Edouard Criquioche on Sevenstar Yacht Transport said: "The weather forecast for the start is excellent, yet it won’t be easy with so many boats in the narrow canal, plus some strong current. We’ll start under the big spinnaker and we will need to be careful and some teams can be very aggressive, it will be very much like a Formula1 start. We are a bit worried for the whales too, there is plenty in the St Lawrence and during the night it can become dangerous.”
Stéphane le Diraison on IX Blue said: "“I feel like going, I’m eager and I feel relieved to start. I’ve delivered the boat up the river and now I look forward to sail down in racing mode. The river is immense and this first part of the race is going to be crucial. It will be close up until Saint Pierre et Miquelon and later it will be truly offshore. Our boat is fast and my crew extremely skilled, we think we can make it . we hope to be in front but the others are good too and it won’t be easy…”