Ten days after their aborted departure due to storm Ciaran, the 40 IMOCAs entered in the 16th Transat Jacques-Vabre left Le Havre on Tuesday towards Martinique, noted an AFP photographer. The largest fleet of Imoca ever lined up for an offshore racing start set off with the gun at 08:30 GMT, in beautiful morning light, and headed towards Fort-de-France.
Forty Vendée Globe monohulls were on the line, “a number never reached”, recalled Monday the director of the “Route du Café” Francis Le Goff, who worked all week with the organization to find this new date . “We have weather conditions that are going to be great. Now, it’s time for sport: there will be a lot of play and the fleet is exceptional,” greeted Mr. Le Goff. According to race meteorologist Christian Dumard, the pairs of sailors had to set off in a “well-established” westerly wind at around thirty knots (55 km/h) and in manageable seas.
After the passage of storms Ciaran and Domingos which tore apart the Atlantic coast last week, the sailors were impatient to set sail. "It was time. It was long, we've been waiting for almost 10 days to find a new slot to leave,” Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa) commented to AFP on Monday, who set off with a triple winner of the event, the sailor Yann Eliès. “It wasn't necessarily easy to keep busy and manage the wait, there were some days that were a little sluggish because we were already at sea in our minds. But that’s it, we’re back in racing mode and super motivated,” he added.
“It's always a special moment for sailors to wait for the conditions to be right to take the start. We are all delighted to leave, to go racing, to cross the Atlantic: it’s never trivial,” said Thomas Ruyant, title holder in Imoca with Morgan Lagravière. Especially since the Vendée Globe monohulls are the last to leave. Faster, the Ultim maxi-trimarans were able to leave on the scheduled date and the Class40 and Ocean Fifty stopped in Lorient, from where they left on Monday.
Due to a staggered start, the organizers have shortened the route to allow the IMOCAs to arrive more quickly in Martinique. While they were initially supposed to make a detour through the South Atlantic with a passage through the Brazilian islands of Sao Paulo and Sao Pedro, for a journey of 5,400 nautical miles (10,000 km), the route now resembles an almost direct route. After leaving the Channel, they will leave the Azores archipelago to starboard to trace their course towards Fort-de-France, that is to say 3,765 miles (6,000 km) to swallow, without passing through the dreaded doldrums.
“I like this sprint format towards Martinique,” explained Thomas Ruyant. “It will be less monotonous strategically, with fewer constraints,” he said. »This race will be interesting and similar to a Route du Rhum (...) While the course was initially expected to last 16 to 17 days, the fastest will finish in 11 to 12 days. The game will be open and that is not to displease me,” said Yoann Richomme. The first Imoca of the Transat Jacques-Vabre are expected in Martinique around November 17. For the fleet, this is the last double-handed confrontation before beginning a "single-handed year" with a view to the next Vendée Globe. Three solo transatlantic races are planned between now and November 10, 2024, the start date of the Everest of the Seas, in Les Sables-d'Olonne.
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