If you read Sailing Anarchy regularly, then you know that we have a major hard-on for all things related to the French shorthanded offshore racing scene; from the larger than life Vendée Globe to the ultra-extreme Mini Transat to the pinnacle-of-boat-porn-cool maxi trimaran scene to the biggest spectator scene in the sport at the Route du Rhum, we love it all and go out of our way to bring it live to your web browser.
That includes the biennial Transat AG2R which currently sees a fleet of one-design, 33-foot Beneteau Figaro II”s racing doublehanded from Concarneau in Brittany to St. Barth in the Caribbean, some 3,890 miles away. The single most competitive ocean racing fleet on the planet, the Figaro class has put 15 boats on the line for this AG2R with a smattering of former Figaro winners, Vendée Globe vets and even ‘Le Professeur’ himself, Michel Desjoyeaux.
Departing Brittany on Sunday, the fleet navigated a 10.5-mile coastal route before putting to sea and immediately beating into the leading edge of a cold front. Upwind on port tack in big breeze, defending champs Gildas Morvan and Charlie Dalin on Cercle Verte assumed their position at the pointy end of the fleet alongside Mich Desj before suffering a port lower shroud failure and dismasting. The defending champs are safe after cutting the rig away and have motored to Port La Forêt.
Almost in unison, all 14 remaining Figaro’s tacked to starboard on the passage of the front and began reaching south in westerlies which gradually backed to northwest and finally to the prevailing north/ northeast flow. Currently sailing downwind off of Cape Finisterre, this AG2R has seen it’s first major tactical gamble, almost splitting the difference to the east and west of the infamous Finisterre Traffic separation scheme.
The five inshore (easterly) boats are making out ahead for the time being with Classé MIni standout Gwenolé Gahinet and former MACIF Figaro skipper Paul Meilhat stretching out to a small lead over Made in Midi, co-skippered by former Groupe Bel IMOCA skipper Kito de Pavant who’s surely relieved to make it past Biscay and the separation scheme after being haunted by the region in the last two VG’s. Long-term forecasts show that the fleet will battle light air to reach the mandatory turning mark at La Palma before sailing downwind in the northeast trades to St. Barth. Mich Desj and Corentin Horeau on Bretagne-Credit Mutuel Performance currently lie in 7th, some 15 miles back from the leaders (and far west), while Roland Jourdain and Martin Pope on La Cornouaille are currently in fifth place at the tail end of the leading (easterly) group.
Check the front page and read the official Transat AG2R thread to stay hip to the latest on this under-appreciated and almost unknown race.
April 9th, 2014