24 Oct Runners and riders, the countdown begins (More…)
It is usually about now, just before the start of a big race that the questions start flooding into HQ. in Haslemere.
Q. How many miles is it? Ans. The Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV) is from Le Havre, France to Itajai in Southern Brazil. It is about 5,500 miles.
Q. Where do they stop? Ans. They don’t.
Q. How can they eat /sleep when they are bouncing up and down like that? Ans. With difficulty – they mainly live on freeze-dried food – they sometimes go for a days with just catnaps and rarely sleep for more than two hours at a time.
Q. Are they going to win?
I guess this perennial question is the most difficult to answer.
Team Concise have had lots of wins. We have won the Class 40 World Championships, The Transatlantic Race, The Round Britain and Ireland Race, The Royal Ocean Race Club Caribbean 600 and many more.
Equally, we have suffered disappointment. That’s the way it is with ocean racing! Prepare as much as you like, and the smallest mistake, the tiniest defect can have dire consequences. Something as simple as a “wrong” nut and bolt can bring the mast down on your head. A spike in your electricity supply can crash your computers and with it your hopes of getting on the podium.
Four years ago, in this very same race, Ned Collier-Wakefield and Sam Goodchild had just taken the lead after a heroic duel with the favourite, when they hit something in the black of night, (a log, a whale?). It stove in theirtopsides and had them limping into to the Azores for repairs. Just last year Phillippa Hutton-Squire, sailing single-handed in the Route De Rhum, was rammed by an out of control French sailor which brought her mast down. Meanwhile the errant matelot went on to finish in the top three. If it can happen it probably will!
This year Team Concise has two boats racing – Concise 8, (Ms. BARBADOS) and Concise 2, (HEDKANDI) which is in the hands of our women’s team Pip Hare and Phillippa Hutton-Squire. Pip and Pippa have literally hundreds and thousands of ocean miles behind them. Pippa circumnavigated the world a few years back in her own Class 40.
Concise 2 is solid, proven, and with the girls’ track record they are odds-on to finish the race well. There is something about women sailors – I guess they may be a little bit less “gung-ho” than their male counterparts and more attuned to their boats. Everyone remembers when Helen Macarthur broke the Round the World Record? She maintained she, ”talked to her boat.” They thought she was potty at the time. A bit like Prince Charles talking to his plants? But I think what she really meant was that she, “listened” to her boat. If something is about to break you normally have some form of warning. Hear it, and you can save the day.
Concise 8 is fast. Arguably one of the fastest Class 40’s built to date when she is broad-reaching. There is a good bit of that between France and Brazil. Jack Boutell and Gildas Mahe are both highly experienced “ figaro” racers – one the most competitive of offshore fleets and the birthplace of many racing talents.
I first met Jack about 7 years ago when he, Ned and I sailed from the Canary Islands to Antigua in our first Class 40. He was a precocious young talent then, and he is even better now. Gildas, his co-pilot, appears to be relaxed and unassuming, but boy is he all over it – fast.
I don’t want to say it myself, but the French Press have put Concise 8 and its crew right in there amongst the favourites. So all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best? Remember, no matter how good your crew are or how fast your boat is, you have to bare in mind what all of they are facing. Coming out of Le Havre they have to spend the first day or so dodging ships and each other, as they beat their way out of the English Channel. We already know from our weather forecasts’ that they are looking at winds in excess of 30 knots as they come around Ushant. Then it’s the notorious Bay of Biscay on the way to Spain and beyond. Past races have seen some of the worst wind and sea conditions off Portugal with and many boats suffering damage there or having to head in for refuge.
As they head south, one benefit is the weather warms up rapidly and they can get out of their dry suits into their lighter foul weather gear. This makes it easier for them to get around the boat and perform “normal functions”. Once past Gibraltar, things definitely brighten up as they pick their way first of all across the North Atlantic, through the Doldrums (the light air transitional zone between the North East and South West trade winds) before reaching the coast of Brazil. Here, once again the winds turn lighter, more fickle and the numerous unlit local fishing boats create perpetual problems.
It is estimated that the Class 40 fleet will take between 21 and 25 days to finish. This is, after all, a boat race – where they are whim to the fickleness of nature: – wind, rain, storms, hell and high water to get them home.
One thing you can rely on – the Team Concise crews will be giving it their all; and they can rely on their shore team being at the finish in Itajai (Brazil) with the traditional celebratory offerings of steak sandwiches and ice cold beers all round, (other than Pip, she is vegetarian).
Tony Lawson CEO