Photo: Nicolas Boidevezi

Hugo Boss heads for Vigo

Further casualties in the Transat Jacques Vabre

Wednesday October 28th 2015, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

The leading pair of Ultime multihulls, leading the 5400, mile Transat Jacques Vabre course from Le Havre to Itajaí, are fighting through light winds just a few miles off the West African coast between Western Sahara and Mauritania while the last of the Class 40s are contemplating another Biscay bashing, still 220 miles NW of Cape Finisterre. In the IMOCA Class Britain’s Alex Thomson and Spanish co-skipper Guillermo Altadill had been hove to since 1530 this afternoon trying to deal with an unspecified technical problem.

Stewart Hosford, Managing Director of Alex Thomson Racing said: “It is important that we ensure the repairs are made before continuing across the Atlantic. The skippers are well and working hard to ensure a swift solution to the problem if possible."

This evening, after unsuccessfully attempting a repair at sea they made the difficult decision to proceed to Vigo. This partial repair will not allow the duo to cross the Atlantic. The Alex Thomson Racing technical team is currently en route to Vigo, Spain, to join the crew and try to effect longer lasting repairs.

As the leaders of the IMOCA class passed the latitude of Cape Finisterre this afternoon, hopefully with the worst of the weather behind them, the leaderboard has a very familiar look as the teams from the Pole Finisterre occupy the top four places. Yann Eliès and Charlie Dalin on Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir lead PRB by 12 miles with Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly up to third on the new Banque Populaire VIII as they reach again in WNWly winds The foil-assisted Banque Populaire was quickest these afternoon by 1.5 to two knots, 16 miles behind Queguiner. To date Banque Populaire is the only one of the latest ‘foil’ generation to have not reported any technical issues so far.

PRB skipper Vincent Riou commented:  "Like every day, it's war. The boat is making 20 knots and we have to be on it all the time. Last night we had a slightly quieter time, 20-25 knots of wind and we made two tacks. And here, again we have the southwestrely win. It should drop again quickly but we are not at all comfortable at this speed. On board life is simple. We rest, we push, we rest. The thing that is getting us down is the wetness. We have been soaked since Sunday. We are upwind and we should have better conditions than those who are behind us. It will not be so windy tonight with a small calmer zone to pass through. In fact I think there will be wind all the time. We work at it all the time, pushing to and finding the limits, staying reasonable. We make some manoeuvres, course changes. The worst is behind us now. We have two days on starboard, some sail changes to manage. I start looking to the Azores, which side to pass – windward or leeward – what is clear is that we will pass close to the islands. It is going well on PRB, for the moment, we’ll keep it up!”

Charlie Dalin, co-skipper of Queguiner - Leukemia Hope added: "To move around the boat on deck you are soaked. There was a lot of wind, between 30 and 40 knots. We are very happy with our position, everything is fine on board. We sleep well since the start of the race even if sometimes a little one gets "airtime" in the bunks, like this morning banging my forehead with a cross sea. To sleep in such conditions is not simple. We still have a few hours of strong wind with gusts which hit regularly. We are at over 20 knots, but it will ease in the next 3 to 4 hours. Then we will enter a zone of light winds before it strengthens with another strong depression with 40 knots, maybe more. All is well on board Queguiner, we were able to repair all the problems, the boat is 100%. "

Tanguy de Lamotte, on Initiatives Coeur reported: "It is going well. Let’s say it's pretty invigorating sailing conditions. You are jumping waves when you are over 20 knots. We have two or three small minor problems, little damage to the boat, like a damaged hydro (generator) and one reef. But we are happy to be where we are. The wind is set to drop in the day. It was a nice introduction to the race, well tough conditions. Now now we're going South. It’s good for morale. I eat better now. I struggled to eat but I feel better. We are not so far from the three big guns. We are happy with our position. We are in good shape. Sam [Davies] is pushing the boat, we are making over 20 knot averages. There is a lot of waves and the boat is submerged every 15 seconds. The sea is white and above it bobs our white boat.”


A broad swathe of light airs caused by an elongated Azores high has forced Sodebo Ultim’ and MACIF to the skirt the coast to avoid the no-go area which bars the most direct route. On Wednesday afternoon the race leaders, Thomas Coville and Jean Luc Nélias on Sodebo Ultim’ were only three miles off the beach, gybing downwind in 10-12 knots of southeasterly breeze. They are south of the latitude of Madeira, still making good speeds. In the lighter airs the newer, lighter Macif had caught back some miles on Sodebo Ultim’ but Francois Gabart and Pascal Bidégorry on MACIF were still over 34 miles astern and on the opposite gybe from the leaders. Both will almost certainly pass east of, or through the Canary Islands.

Life may appear easier for the two leading multihulls. They have done their time scything through the depressions to their north, largely outrunning the worst of the conditions, but the smaller Class 40s still have bad weather to come before they can escape Biscay. After the retirement of Team Concise yesterday with structural damage, this morning it was their Frenc sparring partners Nico Troussel and Corentin Horeau who confirmed they have had to retire. Persistent problems with the autopilots on Bretagne Credit Mutuel Elite had rendered the duo exhausted. A gashed lip for Horeau this morning only served to underline how beyond tired they wehre and with no possible fix the pair, who had led the race until yesterday, had no choice but to tell the Race Committee of their retirement.

The Class 40 has been pared back to a head to head match race at the front of the 12 boat fleet. 2011 winner Yannick Bestaven on Le Conservateur with Pierre Brasseur have Maxime Sorel and Sam Manuard on the 2015 Manuard design V & B five miles off their starboard hip, but seeming to be significantly quicker on the mid afternoon position report.

Speaking late last night Lionel Lemonchois told of the capsize of and subsequent helicopter rescue from the upturned Prince de Bretagne, the 80ft tri he was racing with Roland ‘Bilou’ Jourdain.

“It is the sky falling on your head.” Double Route du Rhum winner Lemonchois said, “The helicopter arrived above us and then a guy lifted us off, one after the other, Bilou first and then me. In total, it lasted twenty minutes. It was very impressive to see it after its cable swung around above the boat swung in all directions, but soon we could see they do this kind of thing all the time because it was very slick and very professional. "


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