UPDATE: Phil Sharp and crew are in a solid second place and seem to be grinding the leaders. Follow them here!
At 13:00 local time the start of the Transat Québec Saint-Malo saw the four Multi50’s cross the start line first, followed by the 19 Class40’s fifteen minutes later.
Favourites Phil Sharp (Imerys) and Vauchel Thibaut Camus (Solidaire In Peloton-ARSEP) went head to head as they crossed the line first, meanwhile Isabelle Joschke (Generali) and Armel tripon (Black Pepper) were recalled having crossed the line in error.
In 25 knots gusts and heavy rain clouds the fleet tacked relentlessly up wind to dig in to their 3000nm adventure to France. Follow team Imerys throughout the race with the Georacing live tracker, news updates, and social media, all accessed through the official website at www.philsharpracing.com.
Georacing online: bit.ly/29I0OVO. For Iphone: apple.co/29FrXtY. For Android: bit.ly/29rkefS
Just before departing, we did a quick Six for Six Q and A with Phil…
SA – Why this race?
PS – This race route is just awesome – it is the fastest way to cross the Atlantic. The icebergs are far north this time of the year so we can go close to the great circle route and able to ride the North Atlantic depressions across, making for some very high average speeds. If you ever want a proper downwind blast across an ocean, then this is it. Also, with crew onboard, you can actually get some sleep.
SA – How tough are the 40’s to sail fast?
PS – The Class 40’s sweet spot is definitely reaching and broad-reaching, in strong breeze, and so they are amazingly well balanced and highly responsive when sailing fast. It is important that downwind you reef the main quite early, particularly in waves, and hold on to the spinnaker as long as possible to keep the bow flying, which allows you to drive the boat very hard. When you are sailing at over 15 knots the motion does become pretty violent and quite deafening below, and when you are surfing at 20-25 knots you are wondering if the boat is just going to fly apart!
SA – How much faster are the new boats, if at all?
PS – Over the last 10 years since the birth of Class 40, there has been a massive increase in form stability and also the boats are much stiffer which means they accelerate a lot better and are faster reaching. More recently, over the last 2-3 years I think the performance improvement has started to plateau a little, but for sure the rules are “open” enough to allow for continued development and the boats will get faster still.
SA – What are your strengths on a race like this?
PS – For this race I am sailing with Adrien Hardy and Milan Kolacek who, like myself are short-handed sailors that started in the Mini Transat circuit. I think we are all fighters onboard, and will stay focused from beginning to end. They also have ample Figaro experience, which is a very tough class where consistency and ruthless competitiveness is required to be successful.
SA – How do you see the onboard dynamics going with a crew of three? isn’t that an odd number?
PS – 3 is the minimum crew allowed for the race and I think it will work really well. We are all used to solo or double-handed sailing so having three people on board will be like and extra pair or hands when you need them, and an extra couple of hours sleep per day! But really it allows everyone to have a strong input on the strategy and be fully involved, which is important I think, and it means you are definitely lighter once you take into account the extra food and water you have to carry across for a long race like this.
SA – If you could get a new 40, what would you get?
PS – I am actually really happy with Sam Manuard design, second-generation Mach 40 I am on now. Although 3 years old now it is still a seriously competitive boat and I would prefer to hold onto this for a couple of seasons and develop the sail plan. If I had to get a new boat I would go for a new-generation Mach I think, but I wouldn’t want to develop the hull shape much from what it is today, which is a really good compromise between upwind and reaching performance.