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Class 40s' light winds conundrum, IMOCA's streaming in at Transat Jacques Vabre finish

by TJV Media 21 Nov 2023 12:23 GMT 21 November 2023
Malizia-Seaexplorer - 2023 Transat Jacques Vabre © Jean-Marie Liot / Transat Jacques Vabre

While the IMOCAs will now continue to arrive in Martinique for the foreseeable future to complete their Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race from Le Havre to Martinique it is the match at the top of Class 40 which is becoming more and more engaging.

Having led a northern option a few days ago the ex Figaro aces Xavier Macaire and Pierre Leboucher (Groupe SNEF) have seen their choice paying a dividend for the last 36 hours. They now lead the Class40 race by 59 miles. But with a high pressure area moving in to effectively bar the route to Martinique with a zone of light winds, it is very unclear whether Macaire and Leboucher will come good, or whether a pack which has climbed even more north will circumvent the worst of the light airs will prevail when the new breeze is established. And southerly option led by Italian Ambrogio Beccaria and Nico Andrieu (Alle Grande PIRELLI) also still has strong possibilities.

"There is still very little in it. At the moment the group in the north led by Credit Mutuel (Ian Lipinski and Antoine Carpentier) are on a big detour to the north, but they hook into a little low pressure which gives them a corridor to get south again as the trades re-establish themselves, them coming into the Antilles from the north. But there is not much to choose and for sure it looks to be a very close, grouped finish." Suggests Christian Dumard the race's weather supplier.

Britons Alister Richardson and Brian Thompson (T'quila) are now in seventh, well placed in their southerly group, just needing to stay fast and patient to see how the final days of the race play out.

Brian Thompson messaged today"Well we are in our last three or four hours of decent wind on this race, our last surfing. Then the wind will drop to around 12kts in about four hours time. And then it will be maybe 8-10-12kts until just before the finish. This light air is coming across the course and killing the trade winds for the last bit. It is all to play for now. At the moment we are still just surfing the waves and blessedly today just of sargasso weed today. We had a lot yesterday. We even dropped the kite yesterday and went backwards to clear some from the fin. At the top of the fin we try to clear it with a rope. But luckily since then we have not seen much. But, where we are going, there is 100% going to be a lot of sargasso weed. The tactics are interesting. It is a three prong approach with Groupe SNEF blasting it down the middle and hoping to sneak through. Up in the north they will go through a front and then get to the high pressure from the north. We hope to get in on the weak trade winds to the south of the high. I have done a few routings and Credit Mutuel only just wins at the moment. Group SNEF should get second and our group in next, but let's see."

This afternoon's IMOCA finishers will see Italy's Vendée Globe racer Giancarlo Pedote and French counterpart Gaston Morvan finish in 11th, just after French duo Benjamin Dutreux and Corentin Horeau (Guyot Environment) 10th. The Italian skipper was due immediate medical attention on the dock reported to be suffering from a high fever and dehydration. Britain's Pipe Hare (Medallia) is on course to take 12th this evening (local time).

Not far behind heading for 13th should be the first non-foiler, ex Mini650 racers Benjamin Ferré and Pierre Le Roy on Monnoyeur-Duo for a Job, sailing the well optimised IMOCA which won the Route du Rhum winner as SMA and which Crémer raced to 12th on the last Vendée Globe.

Clarisse Crémer and GBR's Alan Roberts (L'Occitane en Provence) finish 9th in IMOCA

France's Clarisse Crémer and British co-skipper Alan Roberts completed the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre this morning at 06:20:00 hrs local time (1020 hrs UTC) off Fort de France, taking ninth place in the IMOCA class on the two handed race from Le Havre to Martinique which started on 7th November. Their race time was 13 days 0 hours 50 minutes and 0 seconds. The duo sailed the theoretical 3750 miles between Le Havre and Fort-de-France at an average speed of 12.2 knots. Out on the water, they actually sailed 5315.33 miles averaging 16.99 knots. They finished 1 day, 3 hours 17 minutes and 29 seconds after the IMOCA winner.

In so doing the Franco-British duo achieve their primary goals which were to finish the race with their boat in good shape, for Crémer to learn the boat ahead of her first solo race on it in ten days time, and to deliver a respectable, solid result.

After giving birth to her daughter just a year ago Crémer's new programme started relatively late in the Vendée Globe quadrennial. With the Alex Thomson Racing Team which manages the L'Occitaine en Provence programme they have faced a constant race against time even since before her IMOCA (formerly Charlie Dalin's APIVIA) was launched on July 11th to be ready on time for the Fastnet Race 11 days later. As such because the programme started only this year Crémer needs to finish races and build miles to be sure of Vendée Globe qualification.

Crémer and Roberts have delivered on their team objective, dealing with a few minor issues along the route which held them back. In the strong winds coming out of the Channel they had a problem with the lazy-jacks breaking and so water holding in the mainsail folds during crossing of the front. They have remained in the top 10 all the way, happy with their choice to stay south. Three days ago they made a gennaker repair which ripped during a gybe, Roberts working on the sail whilst it was still hoisted.

First words from Clarisse Crémer and Alan Roberts

Clarisse: "We're pleased to be here. We fulfilled all our ambitions, the main one was to finish. We had a lot of downwind sailing. We had some little problems at the start but the team had prepared the boat well. People have different ambitions, so different options were taken during the race. There were times when we thought we hadn't trimmed well. We learnt a lot. I didn't know all the settings. The boat sails at speed by herself. It's almost as if we were cheating...On the first night, in some nasty conditions we had a pocket of water in the sail. I was sick everywhere. Then, we had engine problems, but sorted that out. We lost some wind instruments. It's with the problems that you better understand the boat. None of the problems really cost us much time. We didn't know each other before July, but we have complementary experiences. We're the same age. The same frustrations. The same level of competition. So we got on well together. I am exhausted. The violent movement of the boat is tiring. But it's normal I suppose due to the lack of sleep."

Alan Roberts: "We got on well together. We learnt a lot. Our competitive side wanted to go north, but as a sailor, we decided to go south. This is a fantastic boat. The goal was to discover the boat, the systems. This is a great boat for Clarisse for the Vendée Globe. He added, "We had these few little technical problems which is good because that is what we are out there to learn, better to have these now than during the Vendée Globe, learning how to fix things now is good rather than having to look up books and so on, And you have to get it done. So we are pretty happy. Considering Clarisse had done max 20 days of sailing, and by that I mean sometimes just going out and putting the sails up, including six days of commissioning. The option to go north was a really interesting one. We considered going, we really did because our boat would have been quick on the northern option, but...it presented a huge risk to the project. We were clear, open and honest what our objectives are and that influences our decision making on the water. We wanted to go north, in our hearts we wanted to go to win, but does that align with our three main bullet points? No...But other than that it benefitted us to do all the downwind sailing. It really helped is for what we might want to do for Clarisse's Vendée Globe. And top 10 is good. I had probably seventh as our best and 17th the worst, 13th is probably where we should have finished based on the age of the boat, the percentage of boats which will drop out and the experience. I have a grid, a spreadsheet with all these things as I do for all these events...."

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