A total of 60 entries prepare for this weekend's Transat Jacque Vabre start from La Havre 1/11/07

A total of 60 boats will line up at the start of the 8th edition of the Transat Jacque Vabre race which takes place from Le Havre this weekend.

The monohulls (IMOCA and Class 40) will set off on Saturday and the multihulls (ORMA and Open 50 multihulls) will start on Sunday.

In the 17-strong IMOCA fleet (Open 60) most of the IMOCA skippers will be sharpening their skills for the next Vendée Globe (2008) whether on brand-new boats: Ecover ( Golding / Dubois), Groupe Bel (de Pavant / Col), Generali (Elies / Audigane), Foncia (Desjoyeaux / Le Borgne), Gitana Eighty (Peyron / Levaillant), Safran (Guillemot / Caudrelier), Brit Air (Le Cléac’h / Troussel) or optimising their existing boats before their new formula Ones are being delivered: Aviva (Caffari / King), Artemis (Malbon / Tourell), VM Materiaux( Le Cam / Morvan), Cheminées Poujoulat (Stamm / Cariou).

Those to watch out for include Jean Le Cam on VM Matériaux (launched in 2004) and Bernard Stamm (CH) on Cheminées Poujoulat (2003). With fully optimised machines, they will be a benchmark for the performances of the new generation of boats such as Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois’ new Ecover who finished in second place at the monohulls prologue last Saturday.

Artemis (2003 -Malbon / Tourell) will have to play tactics and weather to keep up the pace. As for Maisonneuve (2005 – Dejeanty / Levaillant) she has yet to perform. How well the Spanish boat Pakea Bizkaia (2005 – Basurko / Gandarias) will do is also an unknown.

Despite being skippered by proven talent, the oldest boats in the fleet – those built between 1998 and 2000 – will find it difficult to keep pace with the newer designs. Aviva (Caffari / King) Roxy (Davis / Grégoire), Akena Verandas (Boissières / Chomette), Cervin EnR (Bestaven / Guérin), and Great America III skippered by Rich Wilson (US) and Mike Birch (CA). The latter will celebrate his 75th birthday before the start.

Weather forecast for the first days of racing

With three days to go before the start for the monohulls, the weather forecast is becoming more and more reliable. The initial phase of the race us predicted to be fairly quick due to the anticyclone centred over the British Isles which will lead to a northerly flow between 8 and 14 knots.

Sylvain Mondon, the Meteo France weather expert and router for Gitana 11 and Safran explained: “According to its precise position at the start for the monohulls, there may either be a bit of a westerly hint or an easterly touch. In any case, as time goes by, it will veer slightly to the right. The multihulls are likely to set sail downwind from the outset, with a north-easterly blowing at around 15 knots.”

A thundering start that could well enable the multihulls to catch up the fleet of monohulls. We can look forward to a traffic jam on Monday evening off the coast of Spain. Mondon continued: “After that, things start to get a bit more complicated. A deep low is forming over the Azores. It will stop the trade wind from blowing in the south, but also right across to Africa. It will be a bit like the Doldrums in the Canaries. It’s a wide area at least 300 miles across, with inside it winds blowing at less than seven knots. They could easily start to slow down as they reach the latitude of Lisbon, or in other words on Tuesday for the trimarans, and mid-week for the others.”