Transat Jacques Vabre photo finish
The final IMOCA 60s have arrived into Itajaí, Brazil at the end of the Transat Jacques Vabre, in the closest finish seen yet in the race.
Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA) and François Damiens (BEL) aboard their Initiatives Cœur claimed eighth place in the IMOCA 60 Class, finishing just nine seconds ahead of Italians Alessandro Di Benedetto and Alberto Monaco on Team Plastique.
Initiatives Coeur crossed the finish line at 13:55:46 local time with Team Plastique only half a boat length behind. By coincidence these two similarly ancient 1998 vintage boats finished in ninth and tenth respectively in the last Vendée Globe.
On the dock the two crews, embraced and sprayed champagne over each other in the warm sunshine, all sharing the same feeling of satisfaction to have completed the race and having enjoyed the same intense competition that prevailed at the front of the fleet, rather than who won the match race to the line. Not only were their boats evenly matched but their crew profiles also. De Lamotte sailed with his friend a Belgian actor, while it was also the first big ocean race for Di Benedetto’s co-skipper Monaco, preparateur and boat builder who claimed to have loved the race, but pledged to stay on dry land when Di Benedetto’s next adventure is mooted. The bubbly Italian skipper Di Benedetto famously sailed around the world in 2010 in 268 days aboard a 6.5m long Mini.
Approaching the latitude of Rio a few days ago the two 60s which are of the same vintage, were glued together less than one mile apart. They took photos of each other to record the moment and spoke on the VHF. At 230 miles to the finish the Italians chose to gybe earlier in the northwesterly breeze last night. And in the morning the two teams met up again, Initiatives Coeur having lost an estimated 45 minutes when they had to detour around a fishing boat laying a long net, some 40 miles from the finish line.
The wind dropped and went more to the west, forcing the duo into close contact to the line. 30 miles from the finish there was less than half a mile in it after 21 days of racing. In the end it was Initiatives Coeur who only just made it across the line ahead of Team Plastque, Di Benedetto reporting later that a hat caught in the primary turning block for their headsail sheet meant they could not furl their gennaker away and had to drop it.
Tanguy de Lamotte skipper of Initiatives Coeur: “It is amazing at just nine seconds. Okay it is for last and second last, but we fought all the way. Today we found a fishing net which we managed to avoid and that cost us but then they could not furl their gennaker away. It was a win or lose situation but I think both win because it was so close. It amazing to finish a race like this after three weeks with only nine seconds. In the night they were going so fast I did not sleep. It was incredible racing.
"The aim was to finish, and so we did that, and we managed to save five kids, and then the finish just nine seconds apart is unbelievable. It was a difficult race, really full on, all the time difficult and unexpected conditions, you just had to grunt up and just keep going, keep going. We worked well together but in fact there were not so many manoeuvres it was just a keep going, keep going thing. Francois most of all is a great friend and it is amazing to have done this with him. He is very happy now. This is another Transat for me and they are all different but this will be near the top of my memories because of this finish. We lost a spinnaker, broke a few lines, but the boat is in good shape. And that is good.”
Di Benedetto commented: “We are very happy. Just nine seconds behind Initiatives Coeur was a great race to the line, we made a mistake and we had to pay for that mistake. A hat went into the swivel block and we had to cut it. We got a surprise when the strong wind came. We had to cut the sheet just an hour before the finish, we tried many different things. We blocked the winch, changed sheets to try and keep on going. We are very happy though, for the boat that we have it is a very good race. For more than 5000 miles to finish so close on Transatlantic Race. We are very happy with the result. We lost only the sock of the spinnaker, so we are very happy.”