Will we see a Class 40, a small 12.20m monohull, toasting politeness at the finish line on a 32m flying multihull? This is the big bet of this 15e edition of the Transat Jacques-Vabre, known as the Coffee Route, between Le Havre and South America or the Caribbean, supposed to reproduce the course of black gold in grains.
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“Until now the little ones arrived weeks after the big multihulls. The party was long over and they found themselves in front of an empty dock. However, they too had crossed the Atlantic ”, explains Francis Le Goff, new race director of this Transat Jacques-Vabre, who has long been thinking of this differentiated course, unprecedented in the world of ocean racing.
Fifteen to eighteen days at sea for everyone
To achieve this result, the organization has planned to send the fastest boats to turn around an island off the Brazilian coast, before sending them up due north towards Martinique. The intermediate classes will descend less low, while the small monohulls will take an almost direct route. In total, almost half the miles covered for the little ones, but between fifteen and eighteen days at sea for the best in each category.
Supported by a new general manager, Caroline Caron, trained at the best sports marketing school, Amaury sport organization (ASO), the organizing company of the Tour de France, this innovation has won over the title sponsor Jacques-Vabre. Which looked favorably on this group welcome, synonymous with a popular festival in a new coffee-growing area for him, Martinique, chosen for the first time as the land of arrival for the Transat.
Some renowned skippers at the helm of large, fast boats have complained. ” I find it a pity. Sailing means going as quickly as possible from one point to another by choosing your route ”, proclaims Jérémie Beyou, winner of the 2011 edition and 3e in 2019 and 2013 in Imoca (the Vendée Globe monohulls). “Class 40 will not go into the Doldrums, this zone of turbulence which can make all the difference”, argues the skipper, leading in 2019 before finding himself stopped dead in the famous tropical zone.
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Obviously, on the class 40 side, we are happy. “It’s fairer, more motivating for us, explains Halvard Mabire, category president. It will also be much cheaper for ferrying or repatriating the return ships by freighter, that matters. “
A race that cultivates its difference
This innovation pushes this Transat Jacques-Vabre up one category in the ranking of major sailing races, dominated by the two essential solo races, Vendée Globe (round the world) and Route du Rhum (Saint-Malo – Guadeloupe) . “This race, the first edition of which, in 1993, took place alone, has always cultivated its difference. The main one is that it has been run since 1995 with two sailors per boat, explains Francis Le Goff. That changes everything, because the double crew makes it possible to push the boats to full capacity all the time, whereas on a single-handed, you have to moderate the pace while the sailor is sleeping. “
This dual control also allows young sailors to experience their first big transatlantic safely, under the control of seasoned old sea dogs. “For me, she will always be unique, testifies the star navigator François Gabart. It was my first transatlantic race in 2009. It is less known to the general public than the Route du Rhum, but it plays a very important role for sailors. “
Another originality, the race takes place every two years and not every four years, like the Vendée Globe or the Route du Rhum. “It allows new boats to run in and new sponsors to put a toe in the water”, explains Halvard Mabire. Class 40 has 45 crews at the start, a attendance record that can be found in all categories, since this 15e edition brings together 79 boats, twenty more than in 2019, where the Ultims multihulls were not present.
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“It is a sign of good health for the Jacques-Vabre but also for the whole ocean racing which suffered less from the Covid-19 than other sports. The partners have found sailing to be a reliable sport ”, notes the director Francis Le Goff, delighted to see new sponsors on the sails and hulls of the boats moored until Sunday, November 7 on the quays of Le Havre.
The big multihulls are back
Absent in 2019, the flying multihulls of the Ultim class will be at the start of the 15e Transat Jacques-Vabre. The opportunity for two brand new giants to test each other in a long distance race, the Banque Populaire XI by Armel Le Cléac’h and the SVR Lazartigue by François Gabart. These two developing boats are not favorites against the other three, which are much more seasoned: Sodebo (Thomas Coville), Actual (Yves Le Blévec) and Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Franck Cammas). The Ultims will not participate in the next Transat Jacques-Vabre in 2023, because they will then be embarked on a great adventure: the solo multihull round the world.
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