Bustling Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, has welcomed a stream of Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre IMOCA racers, round the clock over a hectic weekend, starting with a truly exceptional win for defending IMOCA champions Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière on the new For People.
The jubilant duo appeared out of the humid Caribbean darkness after finishing at 0202hrs local time in Martinique this Sunday morning, arriving some 4hrs 8 minutes ahead of Yoann Richomme and Yann Eliès (Paprec Arkéa) who race the identical sistership to theirs, a new Antoine Koch- Finot Conq design, both of which proved quicker, more easily driven and more sea-kindly in the fast downwind racing than their preceding design generation.
After getting to within 1.2 miles of Richomme and Eliès while they negotiated calms and light wind at Diamond Rock at the very first hint of dawn, Briton Sam Goodchild and his French counterpart Antoine Koch (For the Planet) settled for third on the podium. Just 9 minutes and 16 seconds behind the second placed duo, theirs was just one of a flurry of close finishes.
British-Australian Sam Davies and Jack Bouttell (Initiatives Coeur) then got almost as close to fourth placed Charal sailed by dream team Jéremie Beyou and Franck Cammas. Finishing fifth their tantalising delta was 17 minutes in the end.
But the closest, and some would say most deserved ‘steal’ was Swiss Justine Mettraux and French co-skipper Julien Villion (Teamwork.net).
From being separated almost 1000 miles to the north of the leaders a few days ago, audacious Mettraux and Villion crossed the bows of Malizia Seaexplorer (Boris Herrmann and Will Harris) by a few boat lengths on the approach to Diamond Rock going on to wrest sixth from the German flagged boat by just 1 min 5 secs.
So the top seven IMOCAs finished within a total 11hrs 28 mins today, the top three within 4hrs 20 and fourth to seventh within 34 minutes of each other.
The top seven sees also sees a strong international representation between Brit Goodchild, taking his third third place of the season after the Defi Azimuth and the Fastnet Race and also his third podium finish on the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre after finishing second in Class 40 in 2019 and third in the Ocean Fifty multihull in 2021. He is complemented by Brit-Aussie/Brit duo Davies and Bouttell in fifth, Switzerland’s Mettraux sixth and the German-Brit pair Herrmann-Harris in seventh.
Best quotes from the ponton d’honneur today,
Sam Goodchild, 3rd For the Planet: “The start was bad for us. We had a mainsail issue and lost our wind instruments and so we had to fix these things and that meant a bit of catching up to do. And we were worried about how the boat would fare against the new boats because we had only done short stuff when you struggle to see how boats are really going. And we were a bit fortunate to have a small sea state for some of the time which allowed us to accelerate, or not slow us down so much. So the trade winds were interesting. I would have signed for third at the start straight away if you’d offered it us. We are surrounded by new boats and we struggled to keep up with them at times. We just kept pushing, kept going and asking ourselves all the right questions, always asking what we can do better.”
Jéremie Beyou, 4th Charal: “We lost our biggest downwind sail. We couldn’t get the same speeds. It happened just after the Canaries. In the Canaries we started to repair the sail, but after that it was a real problem.
Thomas and Morgan had a perfect race. Brilliant in the second half. We know what we have to aim for now.
Three-quarters of the race, we were handicapped. We did what we had to. No big mistakes. There’s nothing you can do about simple damage that just happens. I accept that. It’s part of our sport. There are other races. I was pleased to sail with Franck and advanced with him. It’s promising for when I sail solo.
Franck Cammas, 4th Charal; “We didn't set out to finish fourth but given what happened to us in the Trade Winds, we couldn't have hoped for better... It's nice to have finished like that. We started well, finished well. Except that we did the entire course with a reaching sail which is 100 m2 smaller than a downwind sail so we had to find ways of sailing to compensate. But when you don't win, you learn a lot of things and that was the case with this degraded sailplan. We learned to go faster and faster, we fought and what we showed at the end was particularly reassuring! I know that Jérémie will do very well solo!”
Sam Davies, 5th Initiatives Coeur: “It was so intense from a really tough start in quite stormy conditions with a lot of decisions to be made. It has been so full on and intense for these 12 days, completely crazy, sailing these machines which go so fast and the motion is so violent, the noise is so loud. Living on these boats is very hard core. We are over the moon with fifth. We did not expect to do so well. Top ten was the target so fifth is great. I guess this the first time I have done any real downwind stuff on this boat and we had a new masthead Code Zero and just learning about the pilot, the foils the set up, the trim and how hard you can push in those conditions. I learned so much in every different area.
It was great to sail with Jack in these conditions. He brought loads to the project in a really short time. Our duo worked really well and I hope he comes back.
Jack Bouttell 5th Initiatives Coeur, “I came to the project just six weeks ago and it is always difficult to step into a project and try and do something effective and not overstep. I think we got good balance and Sam was very open to most things. It is also just nice to be here in a kind of ‘drive it like you stole’ back up and not think about too much. And just go for it. This boat clearly has the potential but is quite early in the optimisation process compared to the podium finishers. But the performance is there is and that gives us a lot of energy to go forwards to modify the boat and improve it.
Sam Davies, “I can confirm he drives it like he stole it!”
Justine Mettraux, 6th Teamwork.net: “The mountain road was not easy, it gave us a bit of a hard time, but it was worth the attempt and the fun. When we see the speeds of the leading boats, we if we had stayed with the pack would still be out there, far from Martinique at this time, fighting in a peloton a little behind and we would not have achieved this great sixth place We took the shortest route.
Julien Villiard, 6th Teamwork,net: “ It was them that took the risk to take a longer route. We looked at the routing and saw we would get ahead, but when we saw the speeds of the newest boats, we understood they would be up there. They were just so fast. And we had a problem with the hook and then an area of calms. I had to climb the mast to free the halyard.”
Boris Herrmann ,7th Malizia Seaexplorer: “To be here is very motivating for what is to come, the Retour à la Base and the Vendée Globe. The boat showed great potential. We were keeping up with the front pack and it was a great pleasure to sail with Will again who has played such a great part in the success of this project. And great respect to Justine and Julien going out west to be followed by only one foiler to start with. But she made it work coming out here with the front pack, so congratulations to them for doing this.
We wanted to stay with the pack. In 2019 we did a bit what she and Julien did and left the pack and it did not work out, the individualistic route. And this time we really wanted to test it out downwind than in the reaching modes and upwind angles. Downwind was our weak point on The Ocean Race and so we wanted to see how the boat went after the summer modifications, so the boat can now keep up with the front pack and we are very encouraged for the next race.
Will Harris 7th Malizia Seaexplorer: The first few days were really tough, really tough and then making the decision to go west or south. But I think we don’t have any regrets about the choices we made. We are happy with the boatspeed we have. And congratulations to Thomas and Morga who really proved that their boats really are the fastest for these Transatlantic crossings at the moment. I really enjoy sailing with Boris, I always learn something new with him. I think we can be happy with where we finished on this race.
The next IMOCA due in should be Maxime Sorel and Chris Pratt (M&B Monbana) around midnight local time 0400hrs TU
Text & Imager: Transat Jacques Vabre