Sailing: five flying and fragile giants on the Transat Jacques-Vabre

This 15e Transat Jacques-Vabre is the first round of a battle that will lead the Ultime class to their holy grail, solo round the world, in 2023. For the first time together over such a long distance (13,900 km), the five multihulls will compete in flying mode, since they will be out of the water between 50 and 70% of the time.

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“In 2018, during the last Route du Rhum (single-handed transatlantic race), the Ultimes lifted themselves up on their boards at times but there they will spend most of the race completely in the air, and that changes everything”, explains Francis Le Goff, race director.

The disaster of the Route du Rhum 2018

The boss of the Jacques-Vabre is a little worried about having to monitor remotely, night and day, for two weeks, these boats, which are both overpowered and more vulnerable as the speed increases. The Ultimes now largely hold an average of 70 km / h with peaks approaching 100 km / h. At this rate, any incident can have serious consequences.

→ PORTRAIT. Transat Jacques-Vabre: Marie Tabarly, a name that floats in the wind

In 2018, while they were not going so fast yet, four of the six boats entered on the Route du Rhum had suffered damage, including a dramatic sinking for the People’s Bank IX by Armel Le Cléac’h who had broken up. François Gabart had finished at low speed because of a piece of mushy hull.

Have the lessons been learned? For these two skippers engaged this time on brand new machines that are even more efficient, People’s Bank XI and SVR Lazartigue, the question mark is huge. Since the launch in the spring, neither of these two machines has sailed as much as it will have to do in this race. Suddenly, the two sailors planned not to shoot the beast too much. “Clearly we are not going to win”, slips François Gabart. “This race will be an initiation, we still have a lot to discover on the boat”, complete Armel Le Cléac’h.

The other three boyfriends will not have these questions. Franck Cammas will give the horses to Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, a mount damaged in 2018 but considerably improved and reinforced. The fourth, Actual, is super reliable, because it is the old one Macif by François Gabart, with whom the Charentais had broken in 2017 the record for the solo round the world in 42 days.

150 sensors and cameras

As for Thomas Coville, with his Sodebo 3, Launched two years ago, it is right in the middle of the class, between older boats and new ones, at the heart of the difficult equation that is eternally offered to sailors: performance versus reliability. “After my damage to the Route du Rhum, I told myself that the decision to maintain the pace or to slow down could no longer rest on the sole intuition or experience of the sailor, we needed serious decision aids that we did not have. “

→ PORTRAIT.Transat Jacques-Vabre: Kevin Escoffier, the surviving engineer

On his new boat, as on those of its competitors, dozens of sensors or cameras have been placed on all the boat’s key points, most of which are invisible to the naked eye. “There is no such thing as zero risk, but we have made a giant leap in reliability, assures the skipper. As soon as something goes wrong, an indicator light comes on in the cockpit. It allows you to analyze, compare this information with others and take the time to think before deciding. “


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