Monday, 9 November 2009
The Transat Jacques Vabre fleet leaves Le Havre, 8th November 2009. Image copyright Marcel Mochet/AFP.
by Lucy Harwood
A 10 knot northerly breeze started proceedings at 1430 (GMT +1) Sunday afternoon, as the 14 strong IMOCA fleet set sail on the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre. It was a tight start off the line with Aviva leading the fleet as they headed out, HUGO BOSS made up ground after crossing the line in eighth. Shortly after the start the fleet split into two packs east to west. HUGO BOSS headed out east alongside the other Finot designed Open 60 Brit Air. The first poll will be at 1500 GMT, with four hourly positions reports after that at http://www.jacques-vabre.com/en
They have seen wind, rain, hail, sleet and freezing cold winds and that is before they left the confines of Le Havre. The skippers have been counting down the final days to the start of the 4,720 mile Transat Jacques Vabre Race. A two handed sprint from Le Havre France to the port of Limon in Costa Rica. Unlike the previous edition of the race in 2007 the fleet will not head to the previous finish port in Brazil, and as a result have a different route to navigate and no equator to cross.
Alex and Ross have been working closely with Andrew Cape (AUS) aka Capey, who sailed with Alex on the Barcelona World Race and most recently competed as navigator for PUMA during the Volvo Ocean Race. They have been assessing all the options that will face the British pair over the next two to three weeks, the team can receive navigation advice before the start but they are prohibited to do so after the race has begun.
Alex Thomson and Ross Daniel on board HUGO BOSS. Image copyright Alex Thomson Racing.
For Alex Thomson and his co-skipper Ross Daniel they will be looking for some heavy wind conditions to propel HUGO BOSS south, but the weather may not be as kind as they would like. The forecast is very unsettled, with no clear route to Costa Rica.
“The start looks ok,” commented Capey. “The boats should get started in a N’ly and wait for a day or two until the first front approaches. But options are limited, the traditional options of going south for the trade winds or you go for the great Traditionally it is a relatively straightforward route. Either you go south for the trade winds, or you just go a great circle route, working the weather patterns fronts as they traverse across the Atlantic. You sail upwind on the south westerly breeze until the front goes over, tack and go more towards the course. Once you are committed towards the great circle route, you are forced into a life of upwind and tight reaching. On the trade winds route you get south if the trade winds are strong and you get nice downwind sailing and you are happy. Typically that does not work and you are going against the shift to use the trade winds. It is usually best to work the fronts and get into the trades as you can, more in the west, in this case Dominican Republic.”
The crews will face a final battle at the end of the race, which might throw some challenges for the fleet. They could easily be caught in ridge of high pressure, or find themselves stuck behind a front if there is no wind. “A boat which worked the trades might be better off. But usually you pick your time, get down the trades and into the Caribbean,“ commented Capey on the dock this morning.
This is the first IMOCA event for Ross Daniel, and the pair have chosen to use this race a training tool and give Ross, the HUGO BOSS long standing boat captain an insight into Alex’s sailing style and to understand the kind of conditions both skipper and boat are subjected to on the race course. It is one thing to be briefed as to how things need to be setup, but it is another to fully understand why they need to be that way. When asked why he chose Ross as his co-skipper Alex commented, “Firstly my co-skipper is very competitive and secondly we all saw what happened in the Vendée Globe when only 11 boats finished. The big problem is reliability. It is so hard to communicate what it is like to be in the Southern Ocean, so how can you ask someone to prepare the boat when you don’t know what it is like? Ross is a fantastic sailor in his own right and will come on the Barcelona Race to get into the Southern Ocean to help me prepare the boat for the Vendée Globe.”
Alex Thomson Racing
Transat Jacques Vabre