Long wait until Thursday
Yesterday the Transat Jacques Vabre's Sports Director and the race committee of the 5400 mile doublehanded race from Le Havre to Itajaí, Brazil made the decision to postpone the start due to forecast bad weather.
Looking at the forecasts today, the organisers are considering a start on Thursday 7 November as likely with a skippers briefing now scheduled for Wednesday, 6 November at 1400 UTC.
According to current weather forecasts there is a weather window opening on Thursday before a big depression arrives on Saturday. The organisers have therefore confirmed that there is a ‘high probability’ that the start for all four classes will be made off Le Havre on that day.
“The start time will be confirmed at the briefing on Wednedsay at 1500hrs,” says Sylvie Viant, Race Director of the Transat Jacques Vabre.
The delay to the start gave an opportunity for crews based in northern France to return home for a couple of days. But for the international contingent – there are 12 nations represented, including France - another two or three days in Le Havre opens up opportunities to go sightseeing, to keep fit, to carry on with the small jobs which there are always there on race boats, and to stock up on quality rest.
For Concise 8’s British duo Ned Collier Wakefield and Sam Goodchild the extra days are bonus time to keep refining their boat.
“For us it is actually a little extra bonus.” Collier Wakefield says, “It’s a chance to do some more small jobs on the boat because we were already short of time, things like refining and learning our media communications system on board. And it is good to be able to get our heads more and more into race mode. With the lack of time we were probably not quite in the right place in our heads. We want to go with no stops. A stop would ruin the race for us. We know we are going to get a beating at some point, that is unavoidable.”
For the duos who have no technical team, no preparateurs, keeping on top of the little jobs is a profitable way to out in the extra days. Miranda Merron, ready for her fourth Transat Jacques Vabre is looking forward snatching a few hours of leisure time, but she believes that staying with the boat and Le Havre keeps the skipper in the race zone mentally: “We have a very reliable boat and so I am pretty confident we could have got it through just about anything and from that point of view you know that there would have been a level of attrition that we could have done well from, but in the end you never really know. We want as many boats finishing as possible. Meantime we are just us so we have to stay and look after the boat. There is a great swimming pool here which we have not had time to use so we will look forwards to that.”
For the Australian husband and wife duo Michelle Zwagerman (above) and Patrick Conway, this Transat Jacques Vabre forms the final stage of an extended adventure in Europe, mainly on board their Class 40 Croix du Sud.
Originally they bought their boat with a view to doing the Global Ocean Race around the world, but instead they have cruised and raced over the last seven months sailing over 6,000 miles including winning their class in the Roma per Due classic.
They admit there was some trepidation about their starting, but had they gone Sunday or Monday, were looking at one or two stops to ride out the worst of the weather and seas, as other Class 40 crews are believed to have been considering. The additional delay does not worry Conway, other than: “I think the longer you stand on the precipice the harder it is to jump off,” Conway jokes, “we would have gone today but our game plan was to stop in Cherbourg, to then go as far as we could, then stop in Brest. This weekend, Saturday night will be very, very hand. The two capes are like gateways that you had to get through. So it is frustrating.
“We have to go with what the race committee decides, but if we go Thursday we will stop and wait for Sunday. I think we will then see 30kts but more from behind after that.
“We figured that we will get a pasting at some time. But the seas are the problem. The boats can handle it but can we? There are big seas, wind over tide, a lot of ships, fishing buoys, boats and containers. That is a lot of risk.
“We initially wanted to do the Global Ocean Race but the timing changed. That took it outside the time window and our budget. We will sell the boat after this. This Christmas is the end. We have had the boat just over two years. We did the worlds, got to Rome for Christmas last year, did the St Tropez 900 and Roma per Due. We did Les Sables-Horta and were not last. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot. The objectives on this race are 1. To arrive. 2. To arrive with husband and wife still speaking to each other, 3. and if we don’t come last that would be a bonus.
“We are tidying things up, wish list jobs, things we could have done better we are re-doing. We have a new sail which we are trying to learn about. We are sending the boat back to La Trinite and we will sell it. If we sell it we will take our road bikes to Istanbul and ride back to Munich.”
Oman Air crewman Damian Foxall commented : “Starting this race in November is always challenging, we had a low pressure come through last night and there is another one coming through tomorrow and the most important thing for the race committee is to get us off safely.
“The MOD70s are very seaworthy boats, they are one design, well built and really reliable. We have been sailing them hard all year in very rough conditions, but of course with the current conditions of very high westerlies blowing against the tide, the sea state is very steep and rough. They are boat-breaking conditions out there right now."
Skipper, Sidney Gavignet added: “The fleet is made up of very fast boats with the MOD70s; intermediate boats with the Multi 50s and the IMOCA 60s and then the Class 40s which are a bit slower and mixed amateur and professional crews. For this reason it is very difficult to find a window.
“It is easier for us because we go quickly so we need a small window of opportunity to get out of the English Channel and to Finisterre from where we can consider we are in good shape, still very safety conscious, of course, but looking for speed as well. For the Class 40s it takes some time to get out of the Channel and through Biscay, so it is more complicated."