With just two days to the monohull start of the Transat Jacques Vabre pressure is beginning to build among the 22-strong Open 50 and 60 teams

With just two days to the monohull start of the Transat Jacques Vabre pressure is beginning to build among the 22-strong Open 50 and 60 teams who are currently based in the Paul Vatine Basin in Le Havre preparing for the off.

A strong low-pressure system forecast to arrive in La Havre on Sunday morning could affect the multihull start of the Transat Jacques Vabre. The race director will take a decision on the start tomorrow morning (Friday). The monohull start on Saturday afternoon, however, is not likely to be affected.

Open 60 class

With a total of 17 boats on the start, five more than the last race in 2001, the IMOCA Class represents the biggest fleet out of the four in the TJV and boasts the most international field of skippers from eight different countries. It is impossible to predict the strongest teams as the talent is so strong across the board and the proven class designs will be pitted against some new generation Open 60s.

The 2001 winner, world champion French skipper Roland Jourdain (Sill) is defending his title on board the proven Lombard design, which is now owned by his co-skipper, 29 year old Alex Thomson. In this class, much attention is also being paid to the two new monohulls on their first offshore race. Virbac, the first Farr-designed Open 60, is in the hands of Jean-Pierre Dick. Next to her in the basin is the new Ecover, the third Owen-Clarke design after ‘Pindar’ and ‘Team Cowes’.

For British skippers Mike Golding and Brian Thompson, theirs will be a rude baptism when they hit 40 knot winds on the nose on the first night sailing down the English Channel. But if anyone is up for the job, these two heavily experienced skippers are more than capable of winning through. Golding has occupied the other two podium positions in previous races and so the only one left for him to fill is the top spot.

Another skipper on for raising the bar on his third place performance from 2001 is Aussie Nick Moloney, racing with Figaro skipper Sam Davies on Team Cowes. A boat which is likely to threaten these skippers is Pindar, which is a highly competitive boat in terms of pure speed, and with past TJV winner Emma Richards and the transatlantic record breaking Kiwi co-skipper Mike Sanderson on board, this will be a team to watch out for.

Around Alone winner, Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm, with co-skipper Christophe Lebas (Cheminées Poujoulat/Armor Lux) is renowned for his ‘heavy foot’, there are no brakes on this boat. Three ex-Vendée Globe
skippers appear in the line-up: Joé Seeten and Eric Dumont (Arcelor-Dunkerque) as well as Dominique Wavre, who has announced his new sponsor and boat name as Carrefour Prévention. The Vendée’s winning boat, PRB, is now in the hands of skippers Vincent Riou and Jeremie Beyou, new to Open 60s but well grounded in other disciplines of offshore racing. After a significant weight loss programme over the winter, VMI, the Open 60 in the hands of Sébastien Josse and Isabelle Autissier, will be for one a hard act to follow in any reaching conditions like the Trade winds. Another light and quick boat is Garnier, ex-Aquitaine Innovations, skippered by Belgian Patrick de Radigues with Elie Canivenc.

The Spaniard Javier Sanso, who played cat and mouse with the top three 60s in 2001, is back again on Objectif 3 (ex-Gartmore), this time with adventurer Charles Hedrich.

With seven boats represented in this fleet, Group Finot is still the dominant design: VMI, PRB, Arcelor-Dunkerque, Garnier, Carrefour Prévention, Objectif 3 and Loire-Atlantique (Antoine Koch and François Robert) – all these boats were constructed between 1997 and 2000 with proven downwind performance and speed.

The race will be more of a challenge for the older boats in the fleet which came out between ’89 and ’92. However, these four boats will have their own fierce competition. Gonnagitcha is being helmed by legendary skipper Mike Birch and his son Robert; Adecco is in the hands of another family team, Bob Escoffier and his daughter Servane, 60e Sud is skippered by Vendée veteran Didier Munduteguy and there is a Canadian pairing on board Ciment St Laurent Océan of Georges Leblanc and Marc Nadeau.

Open 50 class

Paul Larsen (Australian), winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2001 in the Open 50 monohull class could well put in a repeat performance. This time he’s sailing with British skipper Conrad Humphreys on board the 1996 Group Finot-designed Hellomoto (ex-Ashfield Healthcare/Cray Valley) winner of the Route du Rhum 2002 with Nick Moloney at the helm, and Around Alone 98-99 with Jean-Pierre Mouligné. Their main competition comes from ‘le Défi Vendéen’ skippered by Jean-François Durand and Stéphane Chemin. This boat won the Saguenay/Saint-Pierre/Vendée transatlantic race this summer, and the Berret/Racoupeau 2002 design is a good all-round performer.

Heavier and older yachts, Branec III (Langevin/Lemay) and Labesfal (Diniz (POR)/Taylor (ENG) are pinning their hopes on a long upwind slog in heavy conditions for the first few days of the race in order to play their advantage. Labesfal weighs 13.4 tons, Branec III weighs 8 tons – a real drag compared to Hellomoto’s 5.5 tons.

The wild card is Storagetek, the smallest boat in the fleet. Winner of the 2000 Europe1NewMan Star with Jean-Marie Arthaud (Biotonic), Storagetek won Class III of the Route Rhum 2002 with helmsman Régis Guillemot, who then elongated the hull by 5ft in order to comply with the Class II monohull category for this event.

Entry list

Open 60 Multihulls ORMA Class 2 FICO ( Loa: 18,28 m)

1 Banque Populaire, Lalou Roucayrol & Pascal Bidégorry Fr

2 Banque Covefi,

Stève Ravussin & Yvan Ravussin CH

3 Belgacom,

Jean-Luc Nélias & Loick Peyron B & Fr

4 Biscuits La Trinitaine,

Marc Guillemot & Yann Guichard Fr

5 Bonduelle,

Jean Le Cam & Kito de Pavant Fr

6 Bayer CropScience,

Fred Le Peutrec & Julien Cressant Fr

7 Foncia,

Alain Gautier & Ellen MacArthur Fr & UK

8 Géant,

Michel Desjoyeaux & Hervé Jan Fr

9 Gitana,

Lionel Lemonchois & Marc Guessard Fr

10 Sopra Group,

Philippe Monnet & Laurent Bourgnon Fr & CH

11 Groupama,

Franck Cammas & Franck Proffit Fr

12 Sergio Tacchini,

Karine Fauconnier & Damian Foxall Fr & Irl

13 Sodebo,

Thomas Coville & Jacques Vincent Fr

14 TIM,

Giovanni Soldini & Vittorio Malingri Ita

Open 50 Multihulls ( Loa: 15,24 m )

1 Atlantic Nature,

Anne Caseneuve & Christophe Houdet Fr

2 Mollymawk,

Ross Hobson & Andi Newman UK

Open 60 Monohulls IMOCA Class 2 FICO (Loa: 18,28 m )

1 Adecco,

Bob Escoffier & Servane Escoffier Fr

2 Arcelor-Dunkerque,

Joe Seeten & Eric Dumont Fr


Bernard Stamm & Christophe Lebas CH & Fr

4 Ciments St Laurent,

Georges Leblanc & Marc Nadeau Can

5 Ecover,

Mike Golding & Brian Thompson UK

6 Loire – Atlantique,

Antoine Koch & François Robert Fr

7 Objectif 3,

Charles Hedrich & Javier Sanso Fr & E

8 PRB,

Vincent Riou & Jérémie Beyou Fr

9 Pindar,

Emma Richards & Mike Sanderson UK & NZL

10 Sill,

Roland Jourdain & Alex Thomson Fr & UK

11 60ème Sud,

Didier Munduteguy & Juan-Mari Odriozola Fr & Esp

12 Garnier,

Patrick de Radiguès & Elie Canivenc B

13 Carrefour Prévention,

Dominique Wavre & Michèle Paret CH & P

14 Virbac,

Jean-Pierre Dick & Nicolas Abiven Fr

15 VMI,

Sébastien Josse & Isabelle Autissier Fr

16 N.C,

Mike Birch & Robert Birch Can

17 Team Cowes,

Nick Moloney & Sam Davies .Aus & UK

Open 50 MONOHULLS (Loa: 15,24 m )

1 Branec III,

Roger Langevin & Henriette Lemay Fr

2 Défi Vendéen,

Jean-François Durand & Stéphane Chemin Fr


Conrad Humphreys & Paul Larsen UK & Aus

4 Storagetek,

Régis Guillemot & Olivier Salnelle Fr

5 Labesfal,

Ricardo Diniz & Mark Taylor Por & UK