A gentle start
Now they're on their way! Today, it was the turn of the 13 multihulls, both 60 and 50-footers, entered in this 8th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre (Le Havre – Bahia), to get off their marks. The Lionel Lemonchois - Yann Guichard pairing at the helm of Gitana 11, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild's 60-foot trimaran, shot off on route to Brazil in the smoothest of manners. The phrase “shot of”, on reflection, might be overdoing it bit, as the start was sounded amid barely 5 knots of wind! That situation is unlikely to persist, however, and the big multihulls will be called upon to deploy all of their power in order to reach Salvador de Bahia, not without first having overtaken the fleet of monohulls which departed yesterday.

As planned, the start took place at 13:02, but in a 5-knot north-north-easterly breeze. Gitana 11 crossed the line in an unruffled fashion, mainsail and genoa up and set slightly back from her competitors. It was the trimaran Brossard who got off to the quickest start but before long, Groupama took advantage of the light air to slip into the lead. On passing the Metzinger marker, Franck Cammas was still in front ahead of Pascal Bidégorry and Lionel Lemonchois. Gitana 11's crew raised its Code Zero just before passing the marker, hoping to exploit the slight breeze which seemed to rise over the water. A very light forward mainsail, the Code Zero is specially designed for these conditions as it allows the crews to make the most of light air.

On leaving the pontoon this morning, Lionel Lemonchois was lucid and relaxed:

These starting conditions are like being in the Med! There's very little wind and the first few days look likely to remain very calm. So the accent will be on speed rather than survival! It's difficult to predict the timing, 11 or perhaps 12 days' racing, but whatever happens, the most important thing is to finish first, irrespective of the time it takes. Given the weather situation that is quite advantageous for our lighter competitors, there's a risk of us being outstripped by a certain green boat for a few days, but that was also the case on the Route du Rhum and look what happened there! One thing is for sure: we're setting off with cool heads and plenty of confidence!”

Yann Guichard, co-skipper of Gitana 11:

In this situation, you're always just itching to get going. The boat is ready and the race promises to be very open. While the conditions are very variable, we can be sure of one thing: the start's going to be calm but there will very soon be key decisions to make. We're gonna have to be on the ball right from the word go.”

Update on the night spent by Gitana Eighty, which set off from Le Havre at 14:00 hours yesterday:

During the morning radio chat at a point when she headed the fleet, Gitana Eighty's skipper Loïck Peyron admitted to having passed a difficult night: "We're a little tired. It's fair to say that this early part of the race has been anything but a walk in the park. We were sailing in pretty shallow waters all night long  and had to make no end of manoeuvres. Everything's going well on board: I'm very pleased with the boat, and passing Safran last night was very reassuring, as I have to admit that the superb way she moved up the field at the start certainly gave us food for thought!"

The Gitana Eighty skipper had declared before departing that “it's the type of race where the positions can change every couple of hours!”, and so it proved at 12:00 when Générali moved ahead of Gitana Eighty by some 0.7 of a mile.

Positions at 16:00 – ORMA multihulls

1st: Groupama
2nd: Banque Populaire, 1.1 miles behind the leader
3rd: Gitana 11, 3 miles behind
4th: Sopra Group, 3.2 miles behind
5th: Brossard, 5.5 miles behind

Positions at 16:00 – IMOCA monohulls

1st: Groupe Bel
2nd: Ecover, 0.5 miles behind
3rd: Brit Air, 0.6 miles behind
4th: Akena Vérandas, 0.6miles behind
5th: Foncia, 1.2 miles behind
6th: Safran, 1.2miles behind
7th: Gitana Eighty, 1.4miles behind


Follow the race live from Saturday 3 November, courtesy of regular updates and a detailed cartography

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