Henry Bomby is covering the Transat Jacques Vabre for us, and here is his first look…
The 2015 edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre is going to be one of the most interesting in years. Just over a year out from the Vendee Globe a lot of the attention will be on the IMOCA 60’s. Even more so as this is the first time there has ever been an interesting competition between the new and old builds thanks to the introduction of foils.
What will be fascinating here is that the weather will have the biggest effect on who wins. The newer boats are designed for the race track that is the Vendee Globe which predominantly sees a lot of time downwind in heavy air. The older boats, also designed for these conditions but relative to the new builds perform best against them in upwind conditions where they aren’t dragging a huge lump of unnecessary carbon around to leeward. The initial forecast looks like 48 hours of upwind sailing, so what we could see here is two things. The new and old boats taking different options, and the older boats getting a jump ahead and then the newer boats coming back strong at the end, both providing a great armchair spectacle!
Best of the old boats are PRB, SMA, Queguiner and Matire Coq with new builds Hugo Boss, Banque Pop, St Michel – Virbac, Edmond de Rothschild and Safran all expected to be up there. Big shout out to my buddy Sam getting his first ride on a 60 in a big race on board Comme Un Seul Homme, anything in the top half would be a cracking result for them.
As a Brit of course I will be backing our veteran of the circuit Alex Thomson who has stated if he is ever going to win the Vendee Globe, this is going to be the boat to do it in. His boat is reportedly the best all rounder and having launched last it has benefited from more design time. Although training by himself and not against the other frenchies I think limits his chances here, and having only having just been launched we can’t expect too much from this team for now. The mighty Boss is sexy as hell though and that has to count for something right?!
The Ultimes will also be a great watch. Macif is obviously the new kid on the block and it will be interesting to see how shes goes against Sodebo who was my favourite in the Rhum before crashing out on the first night. Ultimes will undoubtly become the most ‘extreme’ class in the world soon enough and the ‘pinnacle’ of offshore racing. With well established teams like Gitana looking to put their considerable design team behind a new build Ultime 100, Spindrift chasing the Jules Verne and with private owners (Phaedo3, Lending Club, Concise8) getting into the big offshore tri game chasing records and line honours in the classics, it is certainly the way our sport is going. All we need to help promote these efforts is for big races to actually allow trimarans to compete (cough Sydney Hobart) and for other big races to actually award the first boat across the finish line, ‘line honours’. It is the 21st century, let’s not be multihullist. Another interesting aside here is Macif is going with just 1 foil for the TJV (not entirely by choice) so keep an eye out for which side they choose to put it.
The Class 40 fleet is for the first time ever smaller than the 60 fleet. But it could well provide a cracking sporting contest as they have been around a while now so the speeds are not too dissimilar. On this basis keep an eye out for Jack and Gildas onboard Team Concise and Nicolas and Corentin on board Credit Mutuel de Bretagne in this one. I am biased as they are all top 10 Figaro guys with Corentin a podium overall, Nicolas two overall victories and Gildas a leg win to his name, but the Solitaire du Figaro is the greatest offshore race in the world so it is only natural.
Arkema and Fenetre Prysmian should be the front runners in the Multi50 class, this could be a much cooler class if they allowed some foil development. In the future it could be a great feeder circuit for the Ultimes.
Tomorrow we will look at the weather for the first few days to give you an insight into what to look out for.