It has been a beautiful thing to behold. The 2013 Transat Jacques Vabre delivered all that it promised and more. Building on its long, colorful tradition, the race provided 20+ days of top flite ocean racing. After a rough and stormy start, the fleet flew across the Bay of Biscay and down the coast of Portugal. Strategic pit stops in Spain, the Canary islands, Madeira and Recife kept broken boats moving and allowed the two front running IMOCA boats to remain in touch – and yes, even in the race. A capsize simplified the Multi50 class and turned it into two sets of match racing trimarans. The story of the rescue was a classic sea story on its own! Tough decisions were made in the Doldrums and then a long blast reach down the coast of Brazil, before the final tactical, nail-biting finish into Itajai. Hours, minutes and sometimes only seconds separated the competitors as they worked their tall boats to best advantage. For all the skippers involved – Giant MOD70 catamarans, MULTI50 trimarans, IMOCA Open 60 Monohulls and Class 40 boats – a hearty round of applause, thank you and well-done!
IMOCA Start in Le Havre
If Macif had not lost her mast, would PRB have caught her on the last day and led into Itajai? We will never know, but it is great fun to speculate. The next time these two boats meet, we anticipate it will be neck and neck again and the boat that can stay together throughout the event will be the winner. Reliability becomes more and more important as performance at the top of the fleet gets tighter and tighter.
The Old Lions Win – Riou and Le Cam whoop it up in Itajai
Old men won this race – old crafty men who know how to sail a boat by God. Old crafty men who have a love and respect for each other as brothers in arms – a relationship forged in a wild ocean wilderness that we will never completely understand.
And what about the older boats? When the new semi-one-design IMOCA boats take to the water, will they be faster, slower or equivalent to the older boats?
Will there still be a place for the “adventurer” to participate?
How will reduced spending by sponsors be reflected in the character of coming races? With fewer big bucks available to fund a MOD70 or IMOCA campaign, will the professional classes of the Class 40′s be where all the action is?
Will we still be enthralled by the Alessandro’s and Tanguy’s of this sport. I hope so.
It is important, I think, that the poetry and beauty of the sport be preserved as it goes forward. Below are photos of Team Plastique and Initiatives Coeur at the finish in Brazil. The two boats were only 9 seconds – 9 seconds! – apart, after 21 days of racing across vast oceanic distances. It is amazing – and fascinating too – that these two back bench IMOCA boats had such a hotly contested race. Alessandro Di Benedetto and Tanguy de Lamotte (the two skippers and Vendee Globe veterans) are two of the most engaging, heart felt and enthusiastic characters in ANY sport – let alone ocean sailing. IMOCA must make room for such as these two gentle men and let us ride along with them as they fearlessly launch their humanity into the wild blue.