Bye Bye Plymouth!
A low pressure front, synonymous with deteriorating conditions punctuated by a change of wind direction and speed as well as rain, was set to roll across the start zone for the Transat bakerly this Monday. These forecasts played out to perfection on the water with the sky and the sea merging into a very English grey monochrome when, at 14:30 GMT+1 on the dot, the 25 solo sailors set sail for New York. The atmosphere was also pretty lively off the breakwater, which protects Plymouth Sound, with a WNW'ly wind of around fifteen knots or so and a big but manageable swell. At the helm of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse managed to skilfully position himself on the line for a careful start in the leading group.
Whether you're driving a boat with one or several hulls, regardless of the potential horsepower under the bonnet', casting off to set sail alone across the Atlantic is never easy. Sébastien Josse has made competition his profession and experience obviously helps in these personal moments where concentration and emotion both take centre stage. The skipper of Gitana Team is well aware of the strengths of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild as well as the unknowns he hopes to discover over the course of the very demanding 3,000-mile crossing. For now, the weather forecasts are still raising some questions, but the major options are set to quickly be revealed. Indeed, from tonight we're likely to get a more accurate idea of the intentions of the various skippers: will we see the fleet spread out, with one part favouring the north and the other the south, or will we see, in contrast, a bunching of the fleet?
Quietly confident and happy to be tackling his 2016 sporting season with this legendary transatlantic race, Sébastien Josse shared his thoughts with us shortly before he climbed aboard the most recent of the Gitana fleet: “After analysing the latest grib files, there still appears to be two weather trends: a northerly course, with a very boisterous passage in a low at 50 degrees north, and a second trajectory, a little further south, which is fairly uncharacteristic of The Transat. Indeed, the latter would take us via the Bay of Biscay, Cape Finisterre (NW tip of Spain) and near the Azores, before linking onto a course due west towards the iceberg exclusion zone off Newfoundland. It's a very quick downwind trajectory, since we could be at Finisterre by tomorrow evening To the north, it's a very different ball game with upwind conditions towards the Isles of Scilly and average speeds of around 10 knots involving a series of tacks, but that too is a shorter course. As such, we need to weigh up the pros and cons However, from tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest, the skippers are likely to have revealed their hands. Aside from that, I feel good. I know that we haven't managed to rack up many hours of sailing on the boat this year yet, so I'm setting sail with what I already know and the idea is that I'll get my bearings first of all and then gradually pick up the pace. However things pan out, as ever, it's the weather that will dictate a great many things "