The 19-strong monohull fleet lined up for the start of the 5th edition of the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre yesterday. The multihulls will start today

The 19-strong international fleet of 12 Open 60ft and 7 Open 50ft monohulls lined up for the start of the 5th edition of the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre and finally set off from Le Havre, France on their 4,340m race to Bahia, Brazil at 1250hrs (French time) on Saturday 3 November under a crisp blue sky.

The fleet was towed out of the Paul Vatine Basin one by one three hours in advance and headed out to the start line to the north-west of Cap de la Hève. At exactly 1250hrs French time the start was given, and the fleet of 18 crossed closely grouped on port tack. Engine trouble on Olympian Challenger (Taylor/Pajkowska) meant that the Open 50 was badly delayed and had to wait until the fleet had rounded the first buoy to cross the line safely.

As the boats crossed it was Bobst Group-Armor Lux (Stamm/Riou) ahead, followed by Sill Plein Fruit and (Gallay/de Pavant). ‘Adecco-Etoile Horizon’ (Escoffier/Mace) was the only boat recalled. The 5 – 6 knot easterly wind in the start area began to die off as the boats headed in fits and starts towards the shore in search of the slightest puff of air.

The inshore course marked out after crossing the line brought the fleet towards the beach off St Adresse, to round the Paul Vatine buoy to port, then sent them back in a north-westerly direction to the Grande Rade Sud buoy, and finally round the Metzinger Buoy in the Seine Bay.

Three Open 60s soon got clear of the mess of boats to round the Paul Vatine buoy first. Bobst Group-Armor Lux had eeked out a lead of nine minutes by the time second placed Ecover (Golding/Hutchinson) turned the mark, with ‘Temenos1 (Wavre/Paret) a boat length behind. Ecover then found the ENE breeze off the headlands and heeled over slightly, making fractional gains on Temenos. These latter two boats were notably optimised for such conditions.

The First Open 50 in fifth place round the buoy was SetraBio (Denamiel/Amblard), the old Cray Valley, followed by the 60s Un Univers de Service (Merron/Brulé), the ex-Gartmore SME-Négocéane (Sanso/Dumont), and This Time (Tolkein/Wingate). Some 25 minutes after the leader, Sill Plein Fruit and Casto-Darty-But (Moloney/Turner) rounded, trailed by Fila (Laurent/Rufini).

Now, each will have to decide whether to play with the currents near the coastline, or go off in search of a more stable wind mid-Channel but in less favourable spring tide. The beginnings of this race are proving to be extremely tactical and each fraction of a mile will count on the exit of the English Channel, in view of the conditions to come in the next few days.

Positions round the Paul Vatine buoy

1-Bobst Group-Armor Lux (Bernard Stamm-Vincent Riou) 1316hrs French time

2-Ecover (Mike Golding-Marcus Hutchinson) 1325hrs

3-Temenos (Dominique Wavre-Michèle Paret) 1326hrs

4-Sollac Atlantique (Joé Seeten-Eric Drouglazet)

5-SetraBio (Eric Denamiel-Jean-Pierre Amblard) – 1st Open 50

6-Un univers de services (Miranda Merron-Frédérique Brulé)

7-SME-Négocéane (Eric Dumont-Javier Sanso)

8-This Time (Richard Tolkien-Robert Wingate)

9-La Rage de vivre (Loïc Pochet-Patrick Tabarly)

10-Saving (Renaud Le Youdec-Jean-François Pellet) – 2nd Open 50

11-Sill Plein Fruit (Roland Jourdain-Gaël Le Cleac’h)

12-Casto-Darty-But (Nick Moloney-Mark Turner)

13-Fila (Bruno Laurent-Massimo Ruffini)

14-Branec (Roger Langevin-Henriette Lemay) – 3rd Open 50

15-Voilà.fr (Bernard Gallay-Kito de Pavant)

16-Tredici (Simon Accati-Alessio Stefani) – 4th Open 50

17-One Dream-One Mission (Alex Bennett-Paul Larsen) – 5th Open 50

18-Adecco-Etoile Horizon (Bon Escoffier-Christian Macé) – 6th Open 50