Start of the Transat Jacques Vabre: a weather window may open on Thursday
There was another dramatic turn of events in Le Havre last night. Indeed with those competitors racing Class 40 and Imoca 60 monohulls as well as Multi50 trimarans believing they were spending their final night on land, Race Management suddenly announced a further delay to the start of the 11th Transat Jacques Vabre. It was a tough and rather late decision motivated by the forecast of a deterioration in the weather conditions, particularly overnight between Monday and Tuesday, with the fleet still not entirely clear of the English Channel. Such a configuration would mean that the safety of all the sailors could not be guaranteed. For the Multi70s, whose start had been set for Wednesday 6 November, this announcement didn’t have a great impact, other than the cancellation of the prologue, which awaited them off the Norman city. This morning, the organisers seem to have pinpointed a favourable weather window which, if confirmed, could signify a general start for all the competitors this coming Thursday.

Sailing isn’t an exact science as the sport relies on the elements, namely the sea and the wind. As such both the organisers and the sailors will just have to accept the situation. Obviously flexibility and the ability to adapt is a prerequisite during such times and, let’s not forget, it is this close relationship with nature that is part of the beauty of offshore racing! There is nothing extraordinary about the weather conditions that have been reigning over the neighbouring Atlantic for several days over this early autumn period, but the frequency of the succession of lows and the intensity of their activity has been giving the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet a rough ride as they continue to sit it out in the Bassin Paul Vatine.

Unfavourable combination

“On Sunday evening, Race Management had to announce further delays,” Sébastien Josse explains. “There are several reasons for this I believe, the most significant of which is related to the weather of course. The forecast wind direction and the timing of the various phenomena rolling towards them have been pretty reliable of late, but the same is not true of the strength and intensity of the wind. We’re under the influence of an unsettled westerly breeze and we’re in a complicated situation because we’re on the limit of the wind that our boats can handle (the Multi70s): 30 – 35 knots is okay but the grib files are predicting 40 or even 50 knots in the gusts. In conditions such as these, it’s no longer reasonable, especially as very heavy seas are forecast. There’s a big tidal range at the moment and the minimum waves predicted are 4 metres, peaking at a possible 6 metres on rounding the north-west tip of Brittany. All this is further exaggerated by the fact that we have to negotiate our way out of the English Channel. We’re all too aware that it’s not a zone where you can go wherever you like given the shipping, the TSSs and the fishing boats, etc.”

For the two competitors in the Multi70 class, in which the Edmond de Rothschild trimaran is competing, this latest delay has little impact: “This hasn’t affected the way we tackle the race as today, Monday, we were only scheduled to race in the prologue, whose initial 40-mile course had already been shortened. Conditions would have been manageable for a coastal course as the wind was forecast to shift round and ease at midday. However, the exit from the basin to make for the start zone would have meant negotiating some very windy conditions (30/35 knots) and the in-port manœuvres would have been tricky. This could have been further hampered by the threat of the locks being blocked by the dockers too…”

Bound for a bunched start

However, this latest delay might well enable the large 70-foot trimarans to set sail with their playmates from the other classes, though this won’t be on Wednesday as was originally announced on Saturday. Indeed, the organisers have arranged for all the sailors to get together this Wednesday at 1500 hours for a start briefing, the idea being that all the classes can leave the port of Le Havre together bound for Itajai during the day on Thursday.

To be continued…

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