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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Britain's Sam Davies on Initiatives-Coeur completes an international IMOCA podium in The Transat CIC

by The Transat CIC 7 May 05:44 BST 7 May 2024
Sam Davies on Initiatives-Coeur finishes 3rd in the 15th edition of The Transat CIC © Jean Louis CARLI

An exhausted but delighted Sam Davies sailed her Initiatives Coeur across the finish line of the Transat CIC at 20:11:37hrs local time NYC (00:11:37 hrs UTC) to take a well earned third place on the legendary solo race across the North Atlantic.

As it was for also Germany's Boris Herrmann who finished second some 3hrs and 30 minutes ahead of her, the result is Davies' best ever finish on a major IMOCA ocean race. Her elapsed time is 8 days 12 hours 41 mins 37 seconds and she finished only 5 hours and 48 minutes behind race winner Yoann Richomme (PAPREC ARKÉA).

A few minutes before leaving Lorient at the start of The Transat CIC, on Sunday April 28, there was a temporary downpour drenching the pontoons. Everyone took cover, pulled their jackets tighter and protected themselves as best they could. Davies raised her eyes to the sky and a broad smile spread across her face. This snapshot, immortalized in a photo, says everything about her attacking state of mind of. At 49 she retains the same mixture of youthful enthusiasm that she displayed when she first raced this course in 2008, finishing fifth on Roxy after hitting a whale with 1000 miles to go. She displays a constant freshness, tenacity and a seemingly endless desire to go racing and keep improving.

In Lorient before the start she said "It's really cool racing frees me a lot. My big goal on this race is to gain confidence by pushing my boat as hard as possible." She thought a reasonable goal was to be in the Top 10, knowing well that she could make the top 5 or indeed the podium.

She sailed a solid course not taking too many strategic risks, mostly staying a little south of the line taken by Dalin and Richomme but proving she and her Sam Manuard boat are very fast.

Her result tops the 4th on the 2020 Vendée Arctic race and a whole clutch of fifth places since 2022 and earmarks her as a serious podium contender for the Vendée Globe which will be her third.

How do you feel at a few minutes after finishing?
I am very tired. I felt this tired at the end of many other races, so no difference there and all part of the fun I am so happy with my result, it is my best ever in IMOCA in a major ocean race, so I am really happy with that.

Which things do you feel you did best, contributing to this result?
Well there are lot of people in for selection qualification and everything, but it really was a race of elimination too. I sailed a good race and I am proud of my race. And I managed to push the boat harder than I have every pushed this boat before because there have always been other reasons to finish races until now. And so this is the first time I have felt really free and I wanted to push, to really test the boat before the Vendée Globe and also the team did a really good job. I had a couple of issues which slowed my down a little bit a few times, but barely anything and I hardly opened the tool box at all. That is a massive help.

What was the biggest damage you had which maybe cost you something in terms of placed or distance?
The most annoying thing was a couple of days ago I was switching from masthead to fractional zero because it was really squally and there was some windy stuff. And I was peeling with two sails up. And quite early on in the day I was peeling and my furling line broke and then the breeze filled in at 25kts and it was like a washing machine and I was so overpowered. I could not do anything. I knew the wind would drop at the end of the day but I was stuck with it. All the alarms were going off, the boat was out of control, nose diving and so on, and I was really low and slow and that is where Boris really got away. That is all a bit scary when you know nothing else can go wrong until you furl that sail at the end of the day. So there was some stress and it was not at all good performance wise. And during that process I found my tiller bearing was in the process of disintegrating...and I was saying to myself 'I cannot have no steering and have no furling line, this is not possible! That was a bit of a shitty day, very annoying but not big jobs to fix. I was not 100% for a lot of that day.

And Boris said he appreciated having people close on AIS to benchmark against?
It was good. I spent a lot of the early part of the race with Damien Seguin which was good and then I caught up with Paul Meilhat but I had an issue with my foils and he sailed off and then he hit something and I passed him. And then with Boris we were close for a log while.

All the experience on The Ocean Race and with Jack Bouttell has paid off...
Well, yes, being comfortable with the boat was so important, knowing I have broken things they have been fixed an reinforced and so you know things are bulletproof and I feel more confident all the time. It can take just as much as I can, probably more.

You feel you managed yourself well?
It is a short race and so you push really hard. For sure I could not have gone on like that for a whole Vendée Globe. We have done a lot of work in terms of comfort, looking after the skipper and not big things, but it makes such a huge difference to sit somewhere where you are safe. The first few days when you want to be close to the sheets in the cockpit there is a place where I now sleep so comfortably in my seat. Last year I could not sleep anywhere in the boat safely. So we have made massive improvements.

Did knowing the race course from before contribute anything?
For sure doing this race before helped and also the Vendée Arctique helps which is a bit like this, hooning around changing sails all the time and turning corners. I was kind of frustrated yesterday because I felt I did not prepared the Gulf Stream well enough, but then I thought afterwards I came out not too badly because I have sailed around here a lot on The Ocean Race and the Volvo a lot. I was bit annoyed with myself with my resources there and I was little bit last minute. I could have been a bit more organised, especially as I was repairing some stuff, hooning around with two big sails up and try to find about the Gulf Stream.

And what about finishing 110 miles offshore?
It was a little bit weird but I quite liked it because very often when you make landfall it can be a bit of a lottery. This felt a bit more fair where there is no restart with 100 miles to go, or people can lose a lot.

I am very much looking forwards now to taking my boat up to New York to the pontoon d'honneur, but beyond that a beer, shower and bed... not sure in which order...

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