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Transat Jacques Vabre - The coffee route race is ready

Sunday sees the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Atlantic Crossing for two-person teams from Le Havre, France to Bahia in Brazil, with five different Classes.

The 38 competing boats are now moored in Le Havre waiting the start. Sixteen Class40, Six Multi 50, thirteen Imoca and three Ultime.

Of the six Multi 50s here, five competitive and four with foils all vying for victory. At just over 15 metres - half the length of Ultime - they have a budget that is more accessible to those starting out in multihulls.

Spectacular will be the race of the three Ultime trimarans.

Head & shoulders over them all is the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, the latest of the great Ultime-class boats coming out of the boatyards, is so big it has its own Bassin.

At 23 metres wide, it was 50cm too large to fit through the docks into the Bassin Paul Vatine, where the other 37 boats are moored, so it had to stay around the corner in the Bassin de l’Eure.

The only record Seb Josse, the 42-year-old French skipper, is interested in is how long it will take to finish. “Eight days,” he says matter-of-factly, as if the 4,350 miles to Salvador de Bahia in Brazil is short hop.

Class40 are the largest fleet at sixteen boats and definitely the most competitive and international fleet with no clear favourites.

Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde - Click image for a larger image

Britain’s Phil Sharp (Imerys Clean Energy), the clear leader of the Class40 championship this season, is one name on everybody’s lips.

The former GDF Suez that won the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2013 - is an optimised stallion and Sharp has the experienced Pablo Santurde, Alex Pella's former teammate, with him.

A confident Sharp picks out just three boats:

“Aïna, a brand new Mach 40 (designed) evolution of this boat. Also V and B are going to be right up there as well, they’ve done a lot of racing together and the boat is very fast."

"Then there’s a brand new boat, Carac, which is a beast in strong winds, but with very good and experienced sailors on board - you can push that boat hard in strong winds and it will eat up the miles.”

Then come several serious outsiders like Sidney Gavignet and Fahad Al Hasni (Oman Sail) and Bertrand Delesne and Justine Mettraux (Teamwork 40).

Click image for a larger image

In the IMOCA Open 60 class thirteen boats will be on the starting line with one big favourite.

There are few more relaxed skippers at the start of a Transat Jacques Vabre than Jean-Pierre Dick. The tall sailor from Nice is a top soloist, but an even more formidable double-handed specialist.

He has the boat – the latest generation foiling St Michel–Virbac and the co-skipper . . . Yann Eliès to match.

Along the Quai de la Réunion, where the 13 Imoca are moored, lie the other latest generation foiling boats launched in 2015: Bureau Vallée, Des Voiles et Vous, Malizia II.

Initiatives-Cœur, is the old Maître CoQ, a 2010 boat with foils added by Jérémie Beyou for the Vendée Globe 2016, but Tanguy de Lamotte and Britain’s Sam Davis are a team that are as formidable.

Louis Burton and Servane Escoffier’s Bureau Vallée 2, is probably the fastest in the fleet, being the old Banque Populaire VIII that won the 2016-17 Vendée Globe, but the partners, a couple on land as well as at sea, are still learning to control their new Imoca.

The start from Le Havre is Sunday 5 November at 12:35 (UK time)

The fastest finish to Salvador (4,350 miles) remains Groupama 2’s astonishing 10day 0h 38min win in 2007 in the 60ft multihull class.

Seb Josse’s best finishing time was his 11day 5 hours 3min win with Charles Caudrelier on the MOD70 trimaran Edmond de Rothschild in the 2013 edition – that time to Itajaí, Brazil.

Transat Jacques Vabre event website

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