Wednesday, 25 November 2009

TJV: Happiest of memories for Marc Guillemot as Safran wins Transat Jacques Vabre

Safran crosses the finishing line. Image copyright Marcel Mochet/AFP.

by Régis Lerat

Although the duo had battled through an horrendous Atlantic storm, during which they took the lead of the 14 boat IMOCA Open 60 class back on Thursday 12th November, the hard bitten skipper from La Trinité confirmed on the dockside that the worst part of their race was the final 24 hours.

Because both they and their nearest rivals Groupe Bel (Kito de Pavant and François Gabart), who were just 90 miles behind, had chosen to go in ‘stealth' mode – during which their positions are no longer publically broadcast – he spent the final miles fighting through unpredictable light winds, squalls and shifting breezes as they closed to the Costa Rica coast through the night, being eaten up by worry that De Pavant and Gabart might still catch them with their ‘Laughing Cow' logo'd, an identical design from VPLP/Verdier partnership.

“The most difficult time was today, every time were battling under the clouds, the storms, the rain, with no wind I was imagining Kito and François with their Laughing Cow running down the slopes with 25 knots of wind, whereas we were stuck with three or four knots. It was hyper hard for the moral, very stressful. Even up to an hour before the line we were still very anxious. But the main thing is that we got in in front.” Grinned a relieved Guillemot.

A potent combination of 50 year old Guillemot's 30 years of experience multihull and monohull ocean racing, and the youthful intensity and stamina of Caudrelier's grounding in the Figaro class - in which he won the Solitaire in 2004 - the duo's win today overwrites the memory of finishing in a frustrating second place in 2007 into Salvador de Bahia, watching from astern as Michel Desjoyeaux and Manu Leborgne won.

Guillemot's win will be a hugely popular one in his native France, and throughout the global sailing community who readily recall how he stood by his injured friend and rival Yann Elies during the solo Vendée Globe round the world race last December. For nearly 48 hours Guillemot spoke from only metres away by phone and radio to Elies, who was stuck unable to move after smashing his thigh bone, immobilized with pain just two metres from his medical kit.

As well as pit-stopping twice in remote islands to try and repair his mainsail mast track, Guillemot sailed the final 1000 miles of the solo, non stop round the world race with no keel on Safran. After being damaged in the Southern Ocean some weeks earlier when he struck a sea-mammal, his keel unexpectedly dropped out of his boat. Regardless, he nursed Safran home to finish in third place.

Behind Safran when they finished into Puerto Limon are double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, who was lying fourth before he and co-skipper Jérémie Beyou went into stealth mode, and 2004-5 Vendée winner Vincent Riou who lies ninth of the 14 boats which started in Le Havre on Sunday November 8th.

Marc Guillemot, FRA, Safran:
“ This is a win which was done without the hand of Thierry Henry, that should really be underlined. It really touched me to see my wife jump on the boat first, but at the same time knowing I am still in race mode, and it takes me a little time to come down, but I am so pleased she is here, so pleased that everyone is here now on board.

“This win is brilliant for all those who gave their time and their talents to this project, the people of Safran, the designers, and all of my team, everyone who has invested so much interest and passion. This win is just fantastic. It is brilliant, we said we would come back and do better than in 2007, so here it is. It is done.

“It was not easy. We had to do a lot of work on the boat, these boats are demanding, and we ourselves knew we could never let up at all.

“ We made a good pair with Charles to push the rate and rhythm, you have to do thaty when you are being pursued from behind, and so that really pleases me. And to the end we really pushed, and so I really am just so happy, It was a great Transatlantic race, for its length and by the high level of the competitors, and the keenness and drive, all desperate to win. And so, for us, the victory is all the sweeter to savour later.”

Safran finished at 08:52:10hrs GMT/UTC (02:52:10hrs local time Tuesday 24th) after 15 days 19 hrs 22 mins 10 secs. Co-skippered by France's Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier-Bénac Safran won the 14 boat IMOCA Open 60 Class in the Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race which started on Sunday 8th November from Le Havre.

Safran sailed 5263 miles at an average speed of 12.46 knots.

Transat Jacques Vabre

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