Transat Jacques Vabre: IMOCA fleet shelter from storm as race start delayed

The Transat Jacques Vabre Class 40 fleet in Lorient © Vincent Curutchet / Alea

All of the docked 90-strong fleet of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race have been kept safe and secure through last night’s Storm Ciarán, which ravaged the Brittany coast and the English Channel. Meteo France says it recorded gusts of over 80kts last night.

The Transat Jacques Vabre is a major event on the international sailing calendar, and follows the historic coffee trading route between France and Brazil.

On Thursday morning, the winds eased off, and as the tide dropped, the seas around the docks in Lorient La Base allowed skippers and technical teams from the Class 40s and Ocean Fifty classes there to be able to carry out a full check of boats and their mooring lines ahead of another storm expected Saturday.

Yesterday, (2 November 2023), MIN reported that HM Coastguard had issued a safety warning on the UK’s south coast after a number of people were filmed taking selfies in dangerous conditions.

In Le Havre, where the 40 IMOCAs are securely tied up in the Paul Vatine basin, a chop was whipped up to 80cms by the storm-force winds in the enclosed docks. The winds peaked in Le Havre at the end of the morning.

“We remained very vigilant, especially when the dock gates opened between noon and 1.10pm., with a one-metre surge, which caused the pontoons to rise by that much,” says race director Francis Le Goff. “Fortunately, the wind dropped at the same time and there was no damage.”

All-day race direction continued to work on scenarios for a new start, in collaboration with Christian Dumard, meteorologist for the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre.

“The possibility mentioned yesterday of seeing the IMOCAs set off on Sunday is now no longer possible, in particular because of the strengthening of the westerly wind, which is going to impact heavily on the coast around Le Havre,” says Le Goff. “Added to this is a time constraint with the gates of the Le Havre basins closing at 3:30pm. for sunset at 5:30pm. that day. So no start on Sunday.

The decision-making process was shared by the IMOCA class sports commission, representing the 40 duos entered in this class. The race direction team is working on a starting scenario, the first option at the moment being Tuesday 7 November 2023, at the very beginning of the morning, with an IMOCA exit out of the docks the morning open gate (from 5:00m. to 6:15am.). Other scenarios after this date are also studied. The preferred option for the course now is a direct route to Martinique.

“For the Class40 and Ocean Fifty, for which nothing was already considered possible before Monday, there is no change,” adds Le Goff. “The goal is always to go at the first opportunity, in collaboration with the classes, for next week.”

Main image: The Transat Jacques Vabre Class 40 fleet in Lorient. Image courtesy of Vincent Curutchet / Alea

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