Flying and Trying

Hands up who wishes they were out there in the Transat Jacques Vabre? Well that’s all of you…what a great race they are having and it’s all action across the fleets. Lead changes, collisions, breakages – it’s a real test of survival, knowing when to push and when to back off.

© Eloi Stichelbaut/polaRYSE/Gitana S.A

Sad news last night about SiFi and JuJu dropping the rig on 11th Hour AlaKa’i as they barrelled into a wave, nose-dived, heard a bang and emerged on deck to find the rig folded in front of them before getting tangled beneath.

Shows the seamanship of one of Britain’s greatest and most understated sailors in Simon Fisher and ace Swiss sailor Justine Mettraux in cutting it away, keeping what they could salvage, saving the boat most importantly and getting back to Spain. They both look knackered and a fluffy hotel bed in Caruna must have been a blessed relief. Hard when it happens but crikey, what sailors they are. They’ll be back.

Meanwhile out at the front in the Ultimes, the Gitana Squad aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild are getting into warmer air as they dive south into the trades just before the Doldrums and the Cape Verde Isles on foils doing 30 knots in 15 knots of breeze. Ragged edge stuff and the videos coming back just make you stop, wonder, marvel and admire in equal measure.

It’s just stunning what Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and this all-star crew are doing. In my view, watching great sport being executed at the highest level, and I really don’t mind if it’s table-tennis, diving, golf, boxing, American Football or whatever, is a joyous, fascinating, wondrous experience. We all know it when we see it. We know genius is present and in sailing, we can all recognise it. Gitana are the real deal. Enjoy every second of their video footage.

And some of the footage from the IMOCAs, the flying monohulls is really something. I’m still trying to work out quite how they fly on those foils and the squat position the hull takes looks mightily precarious to my eye. Scary stuff. Fabulous to watch. But the opening shots below from the ‘other’ 11th Hour Racing Team just shows how desolate the oceans are and how small these machines rate against the vast expanses.

It must be a deeply humbling experience onboard but utterly thrilling as they harness the foils, hunker down enclosed in their cockpits and hit speeds of up to 28 knots. Remarkable. At least in the TJV you’ve got someone to talk to…but it sounds like a never ending game of repair, bodge and run.

And it’s tight racing – especially in the IMOCAs.

Overnight Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut managed to eke ahead of the fleet’s superstar in Charlie Dalin sailing the sublime Apivia, the first time they’ve been headed in the race whilst ominously just behind sits the awesome Charal of Jeremie Beyou who will charge hard and be ready to pounce on any mistakes.

Have to say my money is always on Charal – there’s something about that boat, it just looks right – but it’s anyone’s game right now.

©Charal Sailing Team

Overall the organisers of the Transat Lacques Vabre have got this format nailed. What they’ve also got is commitment from the crews to multi-media. The pictures and videos coming back from the race are stunning.

The social media channels are buzzing and what a lucky audience we are. It’s not so long ago that ocean racing was a mystical thing that we simply had no sight of for weeks. Film had to be developed in a dark room before eventually seeing the light of day in Seahorse or Yachting World. We knew the surface of the moon better than the Atlantic.

Now it’s full-on 24/7 on-demand and it’s a fascinating insight that we are afforded. The Atlantic is just a pond now. It’s a racecourse. It’s achievable. What will it look like in 10 or 15 years time? The Metaverse will probably mean that we can all dial in onboard with Franck Cammas live in real-time and experience everything first-hand. Wouldn’t that be something? It will happen.

Terrific racing. Outstanding sailors getting out there and doing it. The TJV is alive and kicking and filling the inbox relentlessly with must-read and must-see content. What a race. What a spectacle.

You’ve still got your hand up…

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