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Heading west

© The Transat bakerly
© The Transat bakerly

With less than a month to go until the start of the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) on May 29th, getting to the Big Apple is the priority for the competitors. To reach the United States, each of the 17 skippers has decided on a method that works for them: a race through the tradewinds, setting sail from the Canary Islands; a transatlantic slog, the ‘hard way’ reminiscent of the classic races of old; or a straight forward delivery trip.

Via the north face

Meanwhile, the six competitors in The Transat bakerly have chosen the hardest passage. The race from Plymouth across the North Atlantic, one that is traditionally against the prevailing winds and weather systems, is no picnic. Forced to drop south almost to the Azores, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), Vincent Riou (PRB), Jean-Pierre Dick (St-Michel Virbac), Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Richard Tolkien (44) are set to face several deep depressions and gale force winds. The sixth competitor, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), had to retire after suffering mainsail damage. The incident did not affect the boat’s integrity, but it did prevent Josse from continuing to compete.

While the top trio are giving themselves a severe shakedown prior to the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne), the objective is a little different for Paul Meilhat, who is counting on the race to qualify him for the main event in the autumn, also allowing him to compete in the New York – Vendée, without this requirement hanging over him.

Three other skippers have already finished their respective training periods during the Calero Solo Transat and have arrived in the USA. Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Sébastien Destrémau (Face Ocean) and Alan Roura (Un Vendée pour la Suisse) headed for the USA via this long route from Lanzarote to Newport, RI, initially in the northeasterly tradewinds. Though Sébastien Destrémau was first to finish, this result is really just a detail, the primary objective of all three competitors being to qualify for November’s Vendée Globe.


Salt sea scribes

For some of the others, the delivery trip to New York will be accompanied by an email conversation with a writer who is passionate about the sea…

This initiative, sponsored by Gallimard publications following a proposal by the organisers of the Grand Prix Guyader, aims to record the sailors’ thoughts while they’re at sea. The idea is to lift the veil on the daily lives of IMOCA Ocean Masters sailors as they cross an ocean: Their concerns, their joys and the issues they experience along the way. Through these revelations, each writer will have to react and develop their imagination through striking up a genuine dialogue with each skipper. The ultimate goal is to compile this material into a book, which will be published prior to the start of the Vendée Globe. Of the eight sailors delivering their boats to New York, five are involved with this: Yann Elies (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir), Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut), Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) and Stéphane Le Diraison. 

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