Mark Lloyd /

Up and away

MACIF leads away from Plymouth as the Transat bakerly departs Plymouth

Monday May 2nd 2016, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

The 25 boats in The Transat bakerly 2016 fleet set sail from just outside Plymouth breakwater on the 3,000+ mile passage across the North Atlantic to New York.

Spectators both ashore and on the water turned out to watch as the mainly French fleet gathered under grey skies on Plymouth Sound to answer the starter’s gun, fired by the late Eric Tabarly's wife Jacqueline from the decks of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent at 14.30.

Ahead for the singlehanded skipper lies one of the most daunting challenges in professional sailing – the north Atlantic, complete with bitterly cold storm force headwinds, and an ever-present adverse swell.

The forecast for this year’s race – the first time this classic has been staged since 2008 – is for a reasonably quiet start but for 45-knot headwinds and big seas for the leading yachts filling in on Tuesday.

With a cold front crossing Plymouth at around start line, several skippers were forced to throw out reefs as the wind veered into the northwest and abated.

Among the leaders in the 10-12 knot southwesterly, as the fleet headed out to sea, was the Multi50 Fenêtrea-Cardinal skippered by Erwan Le Roux who ripped across the startline flying-a-hull ahead of two Ultimes, Sodebo skippered by Thomas Coville and the blue-hulled MACIF, skippered by François Gabart.

Also among the quickest away was Armel Le Cléac’h on the IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire VIII who flew out of the blocks to establish an early lead in the IMOCA 60 class.

The IMOCA 60 class will see a fascinating battle over the next two weeks between the three entries with new generation foils – Banque Populaire VIII, Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) and St Michel-Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick), and those with more conventional underwater profiles – PRB (Vincent Riou), SMA (Paul Meilhat) and 44 (Richard Tolkien).

Earlier there were pre-start nerves on a damp and overcast Monday morning as the skippers enjoyed a final big English breakfast and prepared to depart from Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour Marina and Plymouth Yacht Haven.

Edmond de Rothschild skipper Sébastien Josse was in a realistic mood about what lies ahead: “I am in the mindset of someone who is about to experience very demanding times physically and mentally,” he said. “The Transat bakerly is not much fun but I am very happy to be here. I know I am going to be cold and it’s going to be tough, but I know why I am doing it. I want to do well and I am just thinking through all the things I must not forget and the mistakes to avoid."

Armel Tripon on the Class40 entry Black Pepper also talked of the jitters as he prepared to take on the north Atlantic: “Although I slept well I feel I have a little ball of nerves in my stomach but it will disappear once I am on the water,” he said.

Like all the skippers, Tripon was eyeing the forecast and trying to assess his routing choices, whether to head north or south once clear of the southern Irish coast. “It is not obvious – there is a strategic choice to make at the outset,” said Tripon.

Hervé Favre, Event Director commented: “This race is one of the classics in solo sailing and after it was not staged four years ago we at OC Sport are proud to relaunch it this year. I am delighted to see this hugely competitive fleet of sailors on state-of the art racing machinery now taking on The Transat bakerly 2016 and we wish them all the best for the undoubted challenges that lie ahead.”

Photos by Mark Lloyd and Vincent Curuchet /



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