Ocean racing, by its very nature, involves a series of ups and downs. And sure enough, it was the best and worst of times from beginning to end for the two dozen solo skippers taking part in the Transat bakerly this past May.
The trouble started early on for Maxime Sorel aboard the Class 40 VandB when he collided with a container ship on the second day out from Plymouth while sailing downwind in the Bay of Biscay.
After that, Erwan Le Roux sustained major damage to one of the amas aboard his Multi50 trimaran FenêtréA Cardinal, and Sébastien Josse aboard the IMOCA 60 Edmond de Rothschild was also forced to retire after breaking a batten during an uncontrolled gybe.
Finally, a deep Atlantic low decided to wallop the fleet, with the skippers in the Class 40 section catching the worst of it as they found themselves contending with sharp seas, sustained winds of 40-plus knots and gusts in the 50s.
Of course, once the storm passed the problem became not enough wind, especially for the maxi-tris in the ultime class, where race leader François Gabart aboard Macif found himself having to shift mental gears from going for a new record to simply holding off the competition.
“I’ve spent the last few hours with not very much wind,” Gabart reported while ghosting across the Gulf Stream a mere 200 miles from the finish off the Brooklyn Marina. “I’m still a little way from the finish line. The arrival in New York will be difficult, and that is the least I can say!”
In the end, Gabart did manage to prevail in the line honors contest, finishing 88 miles ahead of competitor Thomas Coville aboard Sobedo. But his time of 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes in the 3,050-mile solo-sailing classic fell just minutes short of the race record of 8 days, 8 hours, 29 minutes set by Michel Desjoyeaux in 2004.
For complete results, visit thetransat.com.
Photos courtesy of Transat bakerly