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Transat Jacques Vabre - Day 9

by Soazig Guého on 13 Nov 13 November 2017

Having match raced each other down the Atlantic after leaving Le Havre last Sunday, Thomas Colville and Jean-Luc Nélias struck a blow for experience by holding off Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel on their newly-launched Maxi Edmond de Rothschild to win the 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Sodebo Ultim' crossed the finish line in the Bay of All Saints in Salvador de Bahia on Monday, November 13, 2017 at 10:42:27 (UTC), 7 days 22 hours 7 minutes and 27 seconds after leaving Le Havre, Normandy, France. Sodebo Ultim' sailed 4,742 nautical miles at an average speed of 24.94 knots. Their time smashed the previous record of 10 days 0 hours 38 mins 43 seconds set by Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin on Groupama 2 in the 60ft multihull class in 2007 (the last time the race finished in Salvador) by 2 days 2 hours and 31 mins and 16 seconds.

"It's a great win; we've built a great story with Jean-Luc and Sodebo, we can both break records and win races," Colville said. "It was a huge contest from the first night."

Colville and Nélias lost a hard-fought 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre to François Gabart and Pascal Bidegory by under eight hours. Gabart sent a message from deep in the South Atlantic, where he is 9 days into his attempt to break Coville's solo round-the-world record. Josse will only get faster as he gets to know Maxi Edmond de Rothschild but Coville has shown he is far from yesterday's man against these new kids on the block.

Sodebo Ultim' had looked like playing the role of plucky underdog, hanging in there, but they have held the lead since taking it in the early hours of Thursday morning as Maxi Edmond de Rothschild were forced to gybe west into their wake.

Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had started favourite as the bigger, newer beast on the block and Josse beat his own prediction of an eight-day finish, but it was not enough. They sailed further and faster - 4,838 nautical miles at an average speed of 25.21 knots – but finished just 1 hour 47 minutes and 57 seconds behind Sodebo Ultim', but could not get close enough in the last 24 hours to suggest they would overtake. Josse and Rouxel arrived at 12:30:24 (UTC), a race time of 7 days, 23 hours 55 minutes and 24 seconds.

The smaller Ultime, Prince de Bretagne (Lionel Lemonchois / Bernard Stamm) is a distant third, 1,100 miles from the finish.

Multi50: Revenge of the Doldrums

The two 90+ft Ultime finishers breezed through the Doldrums in a matter of hours two days ago, but they have come alive since then and have played the traditional roulette role for the 50ft trimarans. One hundred miles behind yesterday evening, Arkema is now almost breathing down the neck of FenêtréA-Mix Buffet, with a gap of just 1.6 miles – and Arkema is still somehow finding more boat speed. "It's always a lucky dip in the Doldrums," Vincent Riou, FenêtréA-Mix Buffet's co-skipper said. A solid third, Réauté Chocolat will enter the Doldrums in the afternoon.

Imoca: How far west is best?

At 16:30 UTC yesterday, Des Voiles et Vous! was the first to gybe and invest in the west. Less than two hours later, SMA and St Michel-Virbac did the same. Nobody wants to miss a shift west, which will be profitable tomorrow with the approach to the Doldrums, but how far is too far? Jean Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès have controlled the race from the start, and St Michel-Virbac is holding its 50-mile advantage over SMA, but is now further east than its pursuers.

Des Voiles et Vous! with a noticeably more pronounced gybe angle (does their big spinnaker have a hold in it) trail the leader by 100 miles still. They are advancing on the Doldrums, which is about 150 miles away, at 13 knots.

Class40: A new leader

After almost a week in the lead, the Anglo-Spanish duo of Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde (Imerys Clean Energy) were passed by the French duo Maxime Sorel and Antoine Carpentier on V and B in the morning, but the gaps is just 3.5 miles and Aïna Enfance et Avenir has closed too, so that there is just 8 miles between all three. It is another Atlantic match race with Imerys Clean Energy, now the most western and V and B, the most eastern separated laterally by less than 14 miles. In fourth place, TeamWork40 has been struggling to keep pace for the last two days. They will pass Cape Verde this evening.


The Italian duo, Andrea Fantini and Alberto Bona informed the race office this morning that they had abandoned the race with damage to their starboard rudder damage probably related to a collision with a UFO. The skippers had diverted to Cascais three days ago to assess and try and fix the damage

Thierry Bouchard and Oliver Krauss (Ciela Village, Multi50), who had stopped in Mindelo (Cape Verde) two days ago to try and fix autopilot and other problems, have been forced to abandon. They noticed a slight leak in the central hull of their trimaran, caused by a crack under the hull, in front of centreboard well, level with where the two support hulls connect.

Pit stop

Esprit Scout (Class 40) is still on a technical stop in Tenerife (Canary Islands) with delamination of their hull on the port bow.

Quotes from the sailors

Thomas Coville, skipper of Sodebo Ultim' (Ultime):
"Leaving Le Havre, we said that it would be a mano a mano. From the first night, we saw that it was going to be super close. We saw them pass by us in the same wind, I can tell you that Maxi Edmond de Rothschild overtaking you upwind at 40 knots is beautiful. In front of Guernsey, they impressed us because their way of sailing said: "we are here." We were a little behind in this phase. After the downwind descent after the front, a very nice front by the way, we felt there was something weird. They rolled the gennaker away in the night and shifted. So, we shifted to the west too and passed them. We thought maybe they wanted to play it safe. We didn't know. But we gave everything until this morning. Last night, 100 miles from the finish, we felt they were throwing in the towel. It's a very enjoyable moment. It's a great win because it shows that we know how to do something other than records, we know how to win races. It's a great story, we didn't leave much in tank. The condition of the boat at the moment after the crossing we made is the result of a huge job. All the teams have evolved beautifully. What they did in two months on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild to get the boat to Bahia - it clearly means that it is a boat which has got more to say."

Jean-Luc Nélias, co-skipper of Sodebo Ultim' (Ultime):
"It's awesome! Winning a Transat Jacques Vabre! It's a bit French-French, okay, but it's winning, you have to fight for it. Eight days ago we were all together in Le Havre, and now we find ourselves in another continent, another hemisphere. We can take some measure of that because when we started to sail, it was inevitably on very slow boats. Then, you become aware of these distances. One day you are in Cape Verde, the next day you are in the Doldrums. The day before yesterday we were in the Doldrums and then, that nigh,t we passed Brazilian fishermen. They could not have imagined that 48 hours before, we were in Cape Verde where we could speak the same language. When we left Le Havre, there was a full moon, every day it shifted in the sky, it was not in the same place. We are sailing on a planetary scale."

Sébastien Josse, skipper of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Ultime):
"You always have a knot in your stomach on a big trimaran. The exit from the Bay of Biscay wasn't the most clement and we had our share of daily surprises. We had small problems with the foils that prevented us from flying. It handicapped us a bit, but it was great to sail in close contact, it's very stimulating. It was on the last part of the course that we could have shown the difference, we could have gone very quickly. Finishing a few hours behind, is bit annoying, but we got the boat to Salvador de Bahia in one piece and that's what we wanted."

Thomas Rouxel, co-skipper of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Ultime):
"It was stressful, but we had fun, we had close-contact match race with Sodebo Ultim', it was awesome. It's a double-handed multihull race, so the level of adrenaline is pretty high. We're still buzzing, I feel well but I'll dip at some point. It was an intense race, and we didn't give up until the end."

Samantha Davies, co-skipper of Initiatives-Coeur (Imoca):
"It's going okay, we're downwind until the Doldrums and we need to reposition to optimise the entrance. I've even seen other competitors on the water, we crossed five boats, there's good fight going on us, visually or on the AIS, with Isabelle and Kito. I would like to know when we'll get out of the Doldrums it's always a surprise, we've been anticipating this for five days. Every new weather file says something different. Everything is working perfectly on board, we've had nice conditions these last few day, that's allowed us to rest, we have a clear sky and pleasant temperatures, not too hot."

Andrea Fantini, skipper of Enel Green Power (Class40):
"As a result of the collision with a UFO, our starboard rudder is unusable and after thorough evaluations of the damage suffered, we are not position technically or in terms of safety to continue the Transat Jacques Vabre. We officially declare our abandonment. We will stay in Lisbon to make repairs."

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