Jesse Naimark-Rowse, Third in Class in 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre

The 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV), which is traditionally dominated by the French, featured standout performances by sailors from the United States, New Zealand, the UK and Northern Europe in the 16-boat Class 40 fleet. Among the nine teams that finished were American Jesse Naimark-Rowse and British sailor Hannah Jenner.

The 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV), which is traditionally dominated by the French, featured standout performances by sailors from the United States, New Zealand, the UK and Northern Europe in the 16-boat Class 40 fleet. Among the nine teams that finished were American Jesse Naimark-Rowse and British sailor Hannah Jenner aboard 40 Degrees, who together battled multiple storms between Le Havre, France, and the finish in Costa Rica to take third in class. The pair’s success was all the more remarkable given they had barely sailed together before the start. SAIL caught up with Naimark-Rowse to get the inside scoop.

SAIL: How did you and Jenner end up doing the race together?

JNR: I had been brought in through Owen Clarke Design to do some rig tuning and other optimization before the TJV. Hannah had been forced out of the Global Ocean Race due to lack of funding. The owner of 40 Degrees decided at the last minute to race the TJV with Hannah, and then came to the conclusion that he was really too busy with work and asked me to take his place.

SAIL: What were the challenges of joining the campaign at such a late date?

JNR: Lack of time on the boat and with my co-skipper. We set off immediately on a 500-mile qualification sail, which helped alleviate any concerns about us not being able to sail together. That went quite well, which was a really good sign. I think my biggest concern was that we had an all-new sail wardrobe and had never lined up against any of the other boats with it. This left us with a great unknown as to how our speed was going to be in various conditions against the rest of the fleet.

SAIL: This was a tough race. What was it like knowing your competitors were dropping out all around you?

JNR: It was really unfortunate to hear about all the abandons in the early parts of the race. We were particularly sad to hear about [the British boat] Concise as Ned [Collier-Wakefield] and Sam [Goodchild] are talented young sailors and were leading the race when they dropped out...It left us feeling very aware of how we were treating our boat and checking constantly to make sure there were no signs of any major failures.

SAIL: What were the high and low points?

JNR: The biggest high of the race is easy: punching through the final weather front and almost immediately jumping to third in the ranking. We committed ourselves to a really tough route, and there were times we questioned it while sailing upwind in 50-plus knots and violent waves. The satisfaction of this all paying off was huge. In the last 100 miles we were becalmed under terrible rain squalls with shifting wind while our nearest competitor to the north was still posting speeds of 10 knots straight toward the finish. We knew we had a good margin on them, but it is not a good feeling to think that you could possibly lose a podium position right at the end.

SAIL: Do you think your finish, and the sixth-place finish of team 11th Hour Racing, with American Nicholas Halmos and Kiwi Hugh Piggin, says something about North American sailors and their ability to compete in these events?

JNR: I think our podium position and the solid result from 11th Hour Racing absolutely shows that North American sailors can be competitive in this realm of offshore sailing. Maybe when one of us wins a race we can prove that at another level! I found we were all getting a very high level of respect from the French sailors after the race, and they were all very positive about making the class more international and encouraging us to race more­—and bring some friends.

Photo courtesy of Transat Jacques Vabre



VIDEO: Sailing Not just for Millionaires

Sailing and boating can come with a hefty price tag, but there are plenty of ways to get on the water without breaking the bank. In this episode of Boat Talk, SAIL's managing editor Lydia Mullan and Power & Motor Yacht's executive editor Charlie Levine share tips on getting out more


Elcano Challenge Resurrected

In late 2020, sailing legend Jimmy Cornell set off on his Elcano Challenge, a green-powered circumnavigation aboard the custom Outremer Aventura Zero. Unfortunately, shortly after setting out, the boat encountered major power-generation issues. "I took the decision to turn more


Book Review: The Figure 8 Voyage

“What is the color of the ocean that rolls beneath Pacific trades? How does a wave curl and crash at 47 degrees south? Can an albatross remain awing in the worst of weathers?” Randall Reeves has always found images to be the most compelling part of the stories we tell about the more


VIDEO: Capsize in the Prada Cup

American Magic's Patriot capsized during day three of the Prada Cup. If you haven't yet watched the catastrophe unfold with your own eyes, check out the above video or any number of others that are circulating on social media. It's truly a tip that has to be seen to be believed. more


Prada Cup: Brits Take First Two Races

Who saw that coming? After getting skunked in December, INEOS Team UK has swept the first two races in the Prada Cup elimination series of the 36th America’s Cup  Racing took place on racecourse “C,” sheltered between Auckland’s North Head and Bastion Point to take advantage of more


Hutchinson: 36th America’s Cup will be a Close On

On the eve of the Prada Cup challenger series, the official start of the 36th America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson says it’s anyone’s game. "As we've seen in the last week, everyone's gotten faster," said Hutchinson said at the event’s more


Sailing Docuseries Released Online

Endless Media's Reaching Reality is the story of three friends, a 24-foot sailboat and 1,200 miles. With candor and humor, this series proves that you don't need to be an expert or a millionaire to cast off on the journey of a lifetime. Produced by Emmy-award winner Barry more


Prepping for a Transatlantic

Growing up on the coast of northern England, I dreamed about crossing oceans on my own boat. Like most of us, though, education, a family and a career took precedence, and before I knew it, we had mortgages, young children and endless work obligations. We also became landlocked, more