The Transat Races: Broken Rudders, Dismastings and Sharks, Oh My!

Long known for testing some of the top sailors in the world, this year’s Mini Transat and Transat Jacques Vabre have lived up to its reputation.
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Long known for testing some of the top sailors in the world, this year’s Mini Transat and Transat Jacques Vabre have lived up to their reputations. Besides facing severe weather delays, several sailors fell victim to dismastings, including co-skippers Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux of MACIF, and U.S. sailor Jeffrey MacFarlane. Others, such as Brian Thompson and Mike Gascoyne, sailing Caterham Challenge, caught a shark in their starboard rudder. They were far from being the only sailors with rudder trouble, however. British co-skippers Ned Collier Wakefield and Sam Goodchild aboard Concise 8 were forced out of the race because of rudder damage, while other sailors made pit stops to make repairs.

The races are beginning to wrap up, though, with French sailors Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam aboard Open 60 PRB crossing the finish line first on Sunday. They sailed 5,450 miles from Le Havre to Itajaí in 17 days and 41 minutes. “It was a bit of a race for hard-headed nuts. You just never had time to stop and think—it was incessant keep your head down, and it was wet from beginning to end,” said Cam. The MOD70 fleet finished their course on November 19, with Edmond de Rothschild winning over Oman Air – Musandam.

Multi 50 sailors Erwan Le Roux and Yann Elies have claimed victory, and Yves le Blevec and Kito de Pavant placed second. Meanwhile, mid-fleet Class 40 skippers are sailing through the notorious Doldrums, which had brutal weather last week, leaving sailors with broken mastheads and battens. Still, the rest of the fleets are battling on, as trailing Team 11th Hour enters the Doldrums.

Life aboard the Mini 6.5s has been no less difficult, thanks to unstable trade winds and squalls building from the northeast. This race, however, is tight, with only a small distance gap between skippers Giancarlo Pedote and Benoît Marie, both fighting to cross the line first.

Photos courtesy of Jean-Marie Liot

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