UPDATE: Saturday November 2nd
Gale force winds sweeping in from the Atlantic over the weekend in Le Havre have forced the race committee to postpone the start of the 11th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre. Initially scheduled for Sunday 3 November, the start will now be on Monday at 14:15 CET for the IMOCA 60, Class 40 and Multi 50 fleets.
Oman Air-Musandam will line up with fellow MOD70 Edmond de Rothschild for a 20 nautical mile prologue on Monday starting from the northern-most point of the race start line and racing up the coast and back, before returning to the dock in Le Havre to wait for their official start, currently planned for Wednesday 6 November.
The prologue results will define the starting time on Wednesday, so winning will be important, but as Oman Air-Musandam’s French skipper Sidney Gavignet pointed out: “Most importantly, the idea for the prologue is not to make a mistake and break something before the start of the race. We want to sail clean and simple and I think Edmond de Rothschild is on the same page as us.”
Co skipper onboard, Damian Foxall, Ireland’s most celebrated offshore sailor and recent winner of the Volvo Ocean Race onboard Groupama, explained the weather situation that has prompted the race committee’s decision: “We are into a typical November situation with intense lows following each other across the Atlantic and bringing a lot of wind to the North of France, the Bay of Biscay and the race course area. The tidal current is very strong as well, so for six hours twice a day we have wind over tide, which really makes the sea state very difficult and dangerous.
“For the race committee it is a case of finding the least dangerous and difficult window to get the fleet off safely. The start will be upwind and bouncy – there is a really big sea out there and it is really a case of finding the safest moment. The goal of trying to finish all the classes together is really out of the window now, the main thing is to get everyone started safely,” he added.
Looking forward to Wednesday’s MOD70 start, Sidney Gavignet said: “It is going to be very hard for the whole Transat Jacques Vabre fleet until we reach Finisterre – Biscay is very rough with a 4-5metre swell. We will have a strong upwind start to the race, but the committee is open to delaying more if necessary. The conditions at this time of the year are constantly changing and evolving. Their decision to delay is a good one.”
In the meantime, the Oman Air-Musandam duo is looking forward to getting cold and wet again on Monday: “We went out last Tuesday to sail the area a bit and to stay fresh and sharp and we are looking forward to going out again on Monday. We have been sitting around for a week so it is time to get back out there and stay fresh!” said Foxall.
Friday, November 1st
Originally scheduled for this Sunday, November 3rd at 1302hrs (local time Le Havre), the start of the eleventh edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre may be postponed due to the difficult weather situation which is forecast for what would be the first night at sea for the monohulls. The decision as to when the start will take place will be announced during Saturday late morning 2nd November.
At the skipper’s briefing this morning, the organisers of the Transat Jacques Vabre told the assembled crews that they will delay the final decision until Saturday.
In fact part of the reason for the uncertainty is that the three main weather models which were presented by Météo France’s Richard Silvani, Arpeggio, GFS and CEP, do not concur on the timing and exact track of the Atlantic low pressure which is due to pass up the Channel. If it tracks close to the channel as some models suggest then winds with be average 35kts, gusting to 50kts but if it tracks further to the north then winds will be a more manageable 20kts.
And so the organisers of this 11th Transat Jacques Vabre have chosen to wait until the next update of the weather models and decide after tonight, and so the start times and dates for the monohulls will be announced Saturday morning as will decisions about the Mulihulls’ prologue and the timing of the starts for the Multi 50’s and MOD70’s.