Sébastien Josse’s weather analysis
In a few hours’ time, at 15:00 GMT, the Transat New York - Vendée will set sail off Manhattan’s Financial District bound for Les Sables d’Olonne in France; a dreamy backdrop for the 1st edition of this solo race of some 3,100 nautical miles spanning the North Atlantic. For safety reasons, the race itself will officially start at around 19:30 GMT at the exit from New York harbour at Ambrose Light. At the helm of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse is ready to go and made no secret of his desire to get back on the racetrack and do battle with is rivals. A sentiment heightened by the latest weather forecasts, which promise a quick and particularly interesting race for those Imoca60s equipped with foils, among which is the most recent addition to the Gitana fleet.

It’s always the same ritual… As a race start draws closer, the weather forecasts become more refined, the models come into line and the strategies take shape. In this way, the sailors are able to discover the physiognomy of their race. In the run-up to the start, the solo sailors always devote their last few moments on dry land to the incredibly important issue of the weather. Well versed in this analysis process, which it just so happens he is particularly fond of, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild painted us a ‘portrait’ of the programme for the 3,100-mile sprint from New York – Vendée for the fourteen competitors.

“It’s a pretty much perfect weather situation! We’ll head due East bound for France. There’s a big low measuring some 1,500 miles wide, positioned over the Grand Banks of Newfoundland! The latter is generating WSW’ly winds, which are fairly light at start time, but are set to fill in quite quickly. Twelve hours after the start, we’ll already be sailing in a medium breeze with 15 to 20 knots that will strengthen further. Indeed, this low to the South of Newfoundland is relatively static, which is why we’re left with little breeze to set off from New York. We’ll have to hunt it down, but the closer we get to the phenomena, the more punch the wind will pack. The good news is that once we hit this system, we’ll remain under its influence until we enter the Bay of Biscay, which equates to nearly 2,000 miles on a single tack, so for the majority of the race we’ll be sailing on starboard tack. I say nearly because we’ll likely have to put in a few gybes to negotiate the section to the South of the low to ensure we don’t get too close to its centre.

During this phase, we’ll have the most breeze with 25-30 knots forecast, with very manageable seas and a 2.5 to 3-metre swell. They aren’t crazy conditions, but it’ll be bracing and, however things play out, it’s going to be wet and demanding from start to finish.

The routing is currently giving around 9 days of racing so the end is a little too far off to give us a true picture of what lies ahead for the finish. For now though, the forecasts are suggesting a change of pace over the last 400 miles of the race. In fact, we are due to negotiate a ridge of high pressure with easterly winds and the prospect of some close-hauled sailing. With regards to the strength of the wind in this phase, we need to wait a little longer before we can get a proper idea. Whatever happens, if this ridge is confirmed along our route, the front runners could stall enabling their pursuers to close on them in the final days of the race. It’s a great, varied weather scenario and even though there aren’t any major strategic choices on the cards, there will be a lot of jockeying for position and plenty to play for! Sébastien Josse confirmed.

Foiler weather?

Boasting fourteen competitors, including six of the latest generation Imoca60s equipped with foils, the line-up for the Transat New York - Vendée has everything going for it. Though the match between the foilers and the classic straight daggerboards has favoured the new boats in the last two transatlantic races - Transat Saint-Barth - Port-la-Forêt won by Gitana 16 in December and more recently The Transat bakerly, which saw victory go to Banque Populaire VIII – it remains to be seen how they will fair in this second race of the 2016 season.

“Given the weather scenario mentioned above, of the 3,100 miles that make up this transatlantic race, to date 2,700 miles are more favourable to those boats at ease in downwind conditions and notably the latest generation foilers. The start of the race, namely the first 900 miles on the way to Newfoundland, are really ideal for Edmond de Rothschild and those competitors equipped with foils. To the South of the low in downwind conditions, we should be on an equal footing, but things are likely to turn in our favour again once we’ve got around the low. The beat at the end of the course doesn’t give us the advantage, but all that is still hypothetical at this stage so we’ll have to wait and see. We’ll simply have to ensure we’ve got enough of a lead prior to that section…” explained the solo sailor on Edmond de Rothschild.

Start at Ambrose Light

The first starting gun will fire at 15:00 GMT offshore of North Cove Marina, where the fourteen competitors have been moored for nearly a week. This parade along the Hudson River will take the fleet towards the official race start, scheduled for 19:30 GMT. Indeed, as a result of the obvious safety issues, the Race Committee won’t actually ‘release’ the boats until they’re just outside New York harbour at Ambrose Light. It is a course mark that is very familiar to North Atlantic record hunters, as it symbolises the start of this legendary race against the clock some twenty miles or so from Manhattan.

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