Away at last
The 44 strong fleet, comprising 26 Class 40s, six Multi 50s, ten IMOCA 60s and two MOD70s crossed the start line in eight knots of westerly breeze in very choppy seas, heading three miles to the France Info mark before heading down the Channel towards Itajaí, Brazil.
The Class 40 fleet are required to make a stop to ride out the bad weather this weekend in Roscoff, 190 miles from Le Havre avoiding a big low pressure system which would have hit them in the Bay of Biscay at the weekend. They should arrive in Roscoff tomorrow afternoon.
Before heading out to the open sea, the 44 boats had to pass the France Info buoy, three miles from the start line. The order are buoy was:
MOD70: 1-Edmond de Rothschild, 2-Oman Air - Musandam
IMOCA: 1-Macif, 2-Maître Coq, 3-Safran, 4-PRB, 5-Bureau Vallée, 6-Votre Nom autour du Monde, 7-Team Plastique, 8-Initiatives Coeur...
Multi50: 1-Actual, 2-Arkema, 3-FenêtréA Cardinal, 4-Maître Jacques, 5-Rennes Métropole Saint-Malo Agglomération, 6-Vers un monde sans sida
Class40: 1-SNCF-Geodis, 2-GDF Suez, 3-Dunkerque, 4-Watt & Sea, 5- BET 1128, 6-79 Matouba, 7-Mare ...
With Class 40 having their weather stop and the MOD 70s likely to be quick enough to avoid the worst of the weather in the Bay of Biscay – the big multihull duo should be at Finisterre, or near enough, by the time the worst of the weather hits, it looks like the IMOCA Open 60 fleet and the Multi 50s which might bear the brunt of the big winds and seas which are forecast to build almost as soon as they clear Ushant.
First for them is the long, tactical beat out of the Channel, balancing the options of more breeze in the north against a more favourable shift in wind direction arriving first from the south. The advantage is likely to increase for the leaders and so there is considerable pressure to push as hard as possible to start with, but in the knowledge that maximum energies will be needed across the Bay of Biscay. In the very early stages it was the established favourites, MACIF, sailed by Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart – who hold three Vendée Globe wins between them – who lead from the first mark, three miles from the start line, ahead of Marc Guillemot and Pascal Bidégorry on Safran.
The 190 miles leg to Roscoff is more akin to a super short Solitaire du Figaro sprint, offering several key tactical options but with a restart possibly in lighter winds and strong tidal currents, any gains or losses could be magnified after restarting.
Quotes before the start, Damian Foxall, co-skipper on the MOD70 Oman Air-Musandam said: “For us it is a race to get south to Finisterre before the next strong system coming in. We should be at Ushant tomorrow morning and Finisterre the following midnight. I think we might not get there before the new wind comes in from the southwest so we might have to tack to get around there in a building breeze, probably 35kts but that should be quite short lived and we should get down the Portuguese coast. The boats immediately behind us will get a lot more. For us it does not look like anything extreme. Most of the options are heading out of the Channel, getting the shifts right as we get through, inside Ushant or not and then how much we pull the helm to accelerate towards the North Coast of Spain and try and get through in one, or go for a tack. More and more this morning we are looking at a tack. We will very clearly watch what Edmond de Rothschild and do it better.”
Sam Goodchild, co-skipper on the Class40 Concise 8: “It helps mentally to be getting out of the Channel well, to be near the front of the fleet rather than the back so that is important. With a new boat we need to know we don’t have to push too hard to catch up for example, it would be nice to hold the throttle back a little. We need to stay in touch, and not take any risks. You want to get to Roscoff without too much deficit. It will be upwind, building through the day for us.”
Jorg Riechers skipper of the Class40 Mare: “It is what it is. It is a good decision to go to Roscoff; it means we will get more boats to Itajaí I think. I maybe look relaxed but the tension is inside! We have to attack the first leg like a leg of the Figaro, so no sleeping always on deck, pushing the boat really going for it because it can be quite important for the re-start which might be on Sunday with not a lot of wind and a lot of tide, so it is important. A good start and first leg is key.”
Vendee Globe winner François Gabart skipper of MACIF: “We will be upwind for the whole channel all the way to Finisterre. There are a lot of things to do upwind and the weather models don’t say the same things. It will be interesting. Biscay looks pretty tough for us on the IMOCA’s but after Finisterre we will be going downwind in the sunshine.”
Brian Thompson, co-skipper of Caterham Challenge: “My preference would have been to carry on. It is probably going to be worse for the IMOCA 60s and the Multi 50s so it is looking like a wise choice to be in this class.”
Zbigniew Gutowski, Polish skipper of the IMOCA 60 Energa: “I am not looking forwards to the storm in Biscay so we need to be careful there but after that maximum acceleration. I am always confident. The boat is well prepared and we are ready not like the last time (Vendee Globe).”
Alessandro di Benedetto skipper of the IMOCA 60 Team Plastique: “The fastest boats will find themselves with the advantage so we are trying to go as fast as we can to start with and stay with them, we will push the boat as hard as we can. I am looking forwards to getting down into the tropical sunshine.