“A real detriment.” Left at the dock during the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre on Sunday, the skippers of the Imoca class are worried about the economic consequences of such a decision and regret having been informed late by the organization. In Le Havre (Normandy), the rain and the technical teams of sailors replaced the crowds on Tuesday along the Paul-Vatine basin, where forty Vendée Globe monohulls which were initially due to set off towards Martinique are still parked.
The journey started by the other boats entered - Ultim, Class40 and Ocean Fifty - however made it possible to move the sailboats apart from each other and to better moor them to avoid breakage, while waiting for the violent storm Ciaran to pass on Wednesday. “Either everyone leaves or no one leaves. We feel like we're the jokers in this story. It was supposed to be a multi-class race and in the end it was the Ultim show,” laments an Imoca skipper, who wished to remain anonymous.
Faster, the maxi-trimarans Ultim could escape the blow and the Class40s had already been authorized to stop at Lorient. According to the race management, it was impossible to find a stopover place for 40 18-meter sailboats. “Sportingly, the decision to stay at the dock in Le Havre was the right one given the conditions, but it came very late and without prior consultation with the class,” regretted Antoine Mermod, president of the Imoca class, to the AFP.
“In terms of exposure, it is a significant loss of income for our partners to miss the start. We hope that the organization will be able to make up for it. It’s time for everyone to roll up their sleeves,” he added. An Imoca project costs several million euros and companies that invest in sailing rely heavily on major events like the Jacques Vabre to make it profitable, thanks to media coverage.
The delayed departure will necessarily imply an arrival much later than the others in Fort-de-France. This situation, unprecedented in the history of the Transat Jacques Vabre, gave rise to tumultuous exchanges on Sunday evening between the organization, which issued these directives, and the representatives of the Imoca class. To ease tensions, the race management promised “a quality monitoring system, equivalent to that of Sunday, to provide the media with live images, in two languages and to welcome journalists in the best conditions”.
According to skipper Thomas Ruyant, one of the favorites in the race on his Imoca For People, “there will be no start before Saturday November 4”. “We are working on a Sunday departure,” he said. But only if time permits.