A Highly Competitive Race

The twelfth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre will be remembered for all the right reasons, a tough race emerging in each of the four classes, marked by a challenging opening across the Bay of Biscay and great finishes into Itajai, Brazil.

After a great week of build up during which 450,000 people visited the race village, forty two duos started from Le Havre on Sunday 25th October. The rate of attrition proved relatively high with 17 boats abandoning the race, reflecting the brutal conditions of the first week and the fact that a high proportion of the IMOCA fleet were new and untested.

Good weather in Le Havre for the preliminary period ensured the entertainment and exhibitions were popular and well attended. And the Paul Vatine basin was a buzzing for most of the week, with thousands turning out to see the fleet which, for the first time in the 22 year history of the race, included the giant Ultimes as well as a strong IMOCA fleet in this pre-Vendee Globe year. Against that backdrop there was considerable excitement, and some trepidation among the skippers because while the first day of the course looked straightforwards, a big low pressure system was set to hit the fleet, a big threat to the new IMOCAs some of which had only sailed a few days.

Of the IMOCA 60 fleet of 20 boats, five were latest generation new boats fitted with foils - Edmond de Rothschild, Safran, St Michel-Virbac, Hugo Boss, Banque Populaire VIII. Also brand new and ready to make  her race debut was Francois Gabart's new Ultime trimaran MACIF and two Class 40s, V and B and Eärendil. Others were new to their co-skipper duos, such as the Ultime Actual, 60 foot monos Bastide-Otio, Adopteunskipper.net and the Multi50 Ciela Village ...

The Sunday start takes place in benign conditions, unseasonably warm sunshine and a very gentle breeze. In fact the 42 duos struggle to get across the start line. An hour later the wind starts to fill in and the race proper is under way. And from then the pace starts to pick up in a 20kts SE'ly breeze. The four Ultimes are already past Ushant by the middle of the night, the four Multi50s at sunrise Monday. The IMOCA and Class40 are each divided into two groups, the leaders heading towards the NW tip of Spain and the others towards SW Ireland.

After just 36 hours the race leaders Sodebo Ultim and MACIF are off Cape Finisterre. It was in this area in a sudden squall that Prince de Bretagne capsized. Three days later Actual had to retire with a rigging problem. So the Ultime race turns into a duel, working the coast of Morocco. Off the Cape Verde Islands  François Gabart and Pascal Bidégorry manage to take the lead ahead of Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias which is closed slightly during the passage of the Doldrums. But a small lead out of the Doldrums into the trade winds is magnified when MACIF gets into stronger and more lfited breeze before Sodebo Ultim, and although the lead shrinks between Rio and the finish, it is a maiden race victory for Gabart and Bidegorry on MACIF.

The Multi50 they remain fairly compact as a grou as they sail en route towards Cape Finisterre. Then Gilles Lamiré and Yvan Bourgnon hits a container on French Tech-Rennes Saint Malo and are foreced out with substantial damage to their port float and main hull. Thierry Bouchard and Olivier Krauss lead on Ciela Village but have to stop into the Cape Verdes to repair, while Prysmian FenêtréA tear their mainsail. Arkema (Lalou Roucayrol and Cesar Dohy) have to stop into Salvador as their main hull suffers some structural delamination. But it is Erwan Le Roux and Italy's Giancarlo Pedote who finish first on Prysmian FenêtréA , the third Transat Jacques Vabre win on the boat for Erwan Le Roux.

For Class 40 the weather proves hard all the way to Madeira. Three depressions hit one after the other with almost no respite. Sometimes the winds are over 45 knots along with big, and often chaotic seas. But only three teams have t retire from the race. all Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Elite suffer autopilot problems.
Victory in the Class40 is only secured in the final miles to the finish line. Le Conservateur (Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur) had build a buffer of more than 300 miles before the Doldrums after making a nice getaway at the Canaries. But they are snared for three days and V and B (Maxime Sorel and Sam Manuard) and Carac Advanced Energies (Luis Duc and Christophe Lebac). In the end it comes down to just a couple of hours between winners Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur on Le Conservateur ahead of the new 2015 V and B while the 'old' 2008 launched Lombard design of Carac/Advanced Energies takes a great third place on the podium for Luis Duc and Christope Lebas.

Three big depressions take a toll in the IMOCA class. Most of the main players head west towards Ireland to take on the first one. But boats are eliminated successively, some with more serious structural issues, others with smaller problems which prove impossible to fix. Safran, Edmond de Rothschild, Hugo Boss and Virbac St Michel are the new boats which have to abandon their Transat Jacques Vabre hopes. Foils do prove effective in the ideal conditions but these boats have had insufficient lead time to be properly tested before the start.

Paul Meilhat and Michel Desjoyeaux are forced to head to the West Indies after losing the trailing edge off their keel fin. The top three to battle it our remains Banque Populaire VIII, the only 'foiler' left in, PRB and Quéguiner-Leucemie Espoir. Armel Le Cléac'h and Erwan Tabarly on Banque Populaire VIII take command in the Canarian trade winds using their foils to good effect, but the Doldrums see the three duos very west. Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col on PRB get out the Doldrums traps first and stay ahead to the finish ahead of

Le Cleac'h and Tabarly in second. So for  PRB it is a second straight victory for Riou while Yann Elies and Charlie Dalin take a well earned, hard won third place.

This twelfth Transat Jacques Vabre is a valid test for so many skippers who are preparing for next year's Vendée Globe. The foils have demonstrated their potential but require further development and further reinforcement of highly stressed structures and so a winter of work in the boatbuilders beckons.

They said:

"The Transat Jacques Vabre in 2015 was rich in emotions and exciting challenge. We are proud that this Coffee Route race has became one of the key challenges for sailors, and has allowed them, again, to excel in the sporting and the human arena. I am particularly proud that four of our winners - François Gabart, Pascal Bidegorry, Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col are all appointed by the French Federation of Sailing to compete for the title of "Sailors of the Year" following their respective victories in the Transat Jacques Vabre. What a great recognition of their performance and the ever growing success of our beautiful transatlantic race!  And what a source of inspiration for all employees of the JDE group in their daily mission as coffee champions"
 Philippe Schaillée, President Jacobs Douwe Egberts.

"With its new technical challenges and the harsh weather conditions of the first week, the twelfth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre will be remembered as a great edition. This great human adventure is seen more than ever as one of the major events in the world of ocean racing. I am pleased that this event is Le Havre's , and I look forwards to a very special edition, that of 2017, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the founding of our city! "Edouard Philippe, Mayor of Le Havre, Député de la Seine-Maritime.

Final standings

Class40 (14 starters)
1 Le Conservateur (Yannick Bestaven & Pierre Brasseur) in 24d 08h 10’ 09’’ (10,21kts average speed on the water) 2 V and B (Maxime Sorel & Samuel Manuard) in 24d 10h 04’ 31’’ (10,19kts average speed) at + 1h 54’ 22’’ after first place. 3-Carac-Advanced Energies (Louis Duc & Christophe Lebas) in  25d 21h 29’ 52’’ (9,60kts average) at 1d 13h 19’ 43’’ after first place. 4-Solidaires En Peloton-ARSEP (Thibaut Vauchel-Camus & Victorien Erussard) in 26d 09h 34’ 00’’ (9,48kts ) in 2d 01h 23’ 51’’ after first place. 5 TeamWork40 (Bertrand Delesne & Nils Palmieri) in 26d 22h 25’ 45’’ (9,42kts) at 2d 14h 15’ 36’’ after first place.  6 Zetra (Eduardo Penido & Renato Araujo- Brazil) in 28d 10h 37 ’30’’ (9,01 kts) at 4d 02h 27’ 21’’ after first place. 7 Groupe Setin (Manuel Cousin & Gérald Quéouron) in 28d 18h 08’ 10’’ (8,66kts ) in 4d 09h 58 ’01’’ after first place. 8 SNBSM Espoir Compétition (Valentin Lemarchand & Arthur Hubert) in 28d 19h 14’05’’ (8,80kts) à 4j 11h 03’56’’ after first place. 9-Concise 2 (Phillippa Hutton-Squire & Pip Hare RSA/GBR) in 28d 19h 48’20’’ (8,57kts) in

4d 11h 38’ 11’’ from first. 10 Club 103 (Alan Roura & Juliette Pêtrès) in 32d 22h 38’ 35’’ (6,83kts) in 8d 14h 28’ 26’’ from first 11 Creno Moustache Solidaire (Thibault Hector & Morgan Launay) in 33d 04h 13’ 20’’ (6,78kts) at 8d 20h 03’ 11’’ after first place.

Multi50 (4 starters)
1 FenêtréA Prysmian (Erwan Le Roux & Giancarlo Pedote) in 16d 22h 29’ 13’’ (15,06kts average speed on the water) 2 Ciela Village (Thierry Bouvard & Oliver Krauss) in 17d 17h 44’ 51’’ (15,03 kts) in 19h 15’ 38’’ after first place. 3 Arkema (Lalou Roucayrol& César Dohy) en 20j 22h 47’ 55’’ (12,60 kts) in 4d 00h 18’ 42’’after first place.

IMOCA (20 starters)
1 PRB (Vincent Riou & Sébastien Col) in 17d 00h 22’ 24’’ (14,78 kts average speed on the water) 2 Banque Populaire VIII (Armel Le Cléac’h & Erwan Tabarly) in 17d 08h 29’ 09’’ (14,69kts) at 8h 06’ 45’’ after first place. 3-Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir (Yann Eliès & Charlie Dalin) in 17d 10h 01’ 23’’ (14,49kts) at 9h 38’ 59’’ after first place. 4 Le Souffle du Nord (Thomas Ruyant & Adrien Hardy) in 18d 01h 27’ 45’’ (13,9kts) in 1d 01h 05’ 21’’ after first place. 5 Initiatives-Cœur (Tanguy de Lamotte & Samantha Davies) in 18d 07h 09' 14'' (13,95kts) in 1d 06h 46' 50'' after first place. 6 MACSF (Bertrand de Broc & Marc Guillemot) in 18d 22h 10’ 05’’ (13,22kts) at 1d 21h 47’ 41’’ from first place 7 Comme Un Seul Homme (Éric Bellion & Sam Goodchild) in 19d 02h 15’ 34’’ (13,35kts) in 2d 01h 53’ 10’’ after first place. 8 Newrest-Matmut (Fabrice Amédéo & Eric Péron) in 19d 05h 07’ 56’’ (13,09kts) in 2d 04h 45’ 32’’ after first place.  9 Bureau Vallée (Louis Burton & Romain Attanasio) in 19d 05h 11’ 33’’ (13,09kts average) at 2d 04h 49’ 09’’ after first place.

Ultime (4 starters)
1 MACIF (François Gabart & Pascal Bidégorry) in 12d 17h 29’ 27’’ (20,75kts average speed on the water) 2 Sodebo Ultim’ (Thomas Coville & Jean-Luc Nélias) in 13d 00h 47’ 38’’ (20,51kts) at 7h 18’ 11’’ after first place.