Sea monsters with their body-built physique (32 meters long, 23 meters wide), they (necessarily) take center stage. And if there will only be five to take off, this Sunday at 1:05 p.m. off the coast of Le Havre, the Ultim trimarans remain the stars of the stars at the start of the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre contested in doubles every two years.
A race on the coffee road and a final rehearsal before the big start of their brand new solo and racing world tour scheduled for January 7 from Brest. Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild), who is putting his title back on the line in this Transat Jacques Vabre with Erwan Israel, reframes the objective: “This Transat is a major event for me. It does not have the notoriety of the Route du rhum but it is my favorite race with the Solitaire du Figaro. With its two-person format, it opened the way for so many sailors.”
Caudrelier has won it three times (in an Imoca monohull with Marc Guillemot in 2009, in a Mod70 trimaran with Sébastien Josse in 2013 and in an Ultim trimaran with Franck Cammas in 2021) and intends to make an impression by retaining his crown, two months before the Arkéa Ultim Challenge. “Our boat dates from 2017 and if we are ahead, it is because we have managed to find the right balance between innovation and reliability. The competition is moving very quickly, so we are trying things and this Transat will be used to test details that cannot be seen with the naked eye. We are hopeful that we have made good progress but we know that the others have too. Our seniority speaks in our favor, our boat remains a reference. We will fight to win.” Without fear of breaking? “If the boat does not last fifteen days for the Transat, it will not last forty-five days for the round-the-world trip. And we have everything in duplicate to repair if we have a problem, rudders, centreboard, except the mast. We still need to work and navigate.”
Also read: Thomas Ruyant: “The Vendée Globe is no picnic”
Winner of the 24H Ultim race with Sébastien Josse, a month before the transatlantic race, Armel Le Cléac'h will unleash the winged horses of his Maxi Banque Populaire the Transat, but this victory feels good after a difficult year for our team (marked in particular by the agitated disembarkation of Clarisse Crémer from the Bankers monohull). With Corentin Horeau also winning the Solitaire du Figaro, we find a positive dynamic. We are here to race and win them. We won't be bored in the Transat Jacques Vabre, because with Edmond de Rothschild and SVR-Lazartigue (François Gabart and Tom Laperche), we are very close in speed. The crossing to Martinique will be great training in sporting terms to review all the maneuvers. Technically, as our boats will be in the round-the-world configuration, it will be a good test. And fifteen days on the Transat, that corresponds to a third of the world tour.”
The naval battle promises to be as intense as it is eventful over the 7,000 miles of the course involving two passages of the legendary Doldrums. “Caudrelier’s boat remains the boat to beat. The Gitana team is in control and maturity. We are reaching maturity and we are starting to have some small advantages at certain paces. Downwind in medium wind, we manage to fly a little earlier. We still have a phase of progress.” Hoping to avoid technical glitches (the serious damage to the 2018 Route du rhum had forced the sailors to postpone the solo round-the-world trip).
Also read: The impressive images of a windsurfer hit by a whale
“In fact, we must not break down in the Transat two months before departure, even if we have spare parts. But if we hadn't fought it, we would have gone sailing and the risks of hitting something are greater off Lorient than offshore. In any case, today our boats are ready for the round-the-world race; it took time and a lot of adjustments to the structures and appendages in recent years to reach this level of reliability. The Ultims remain a young class but today, we are ready to go. It’s no longer a crazy project, we’re no longer heading into the unknown, except in the sailors’ ability to last forty-five days at this pace.”
The last thief of the favorite hat-trick to be the first to taste the victory coffee in Fort-de-France, confirms the trend and the good level of preparation of these (admittedly friendly) war machines. “We are going to set off in a round-the-world configuration, apart from a few details,” explains François Gabart. We're on time, we're ready. The three leading boats are very close and Sodebo (Thomas Coville and Thomas Rouxel), we do not know his level after his big modifications. Is Caudrelier’s boat still a step ahead? The Route du rhum (which he won) responded last year, the Transat Jacques Vabre will respond this year.” One last coffee for the (long) road.