Strong, gusty winds and choppy seas made for a spectacular start to the 16th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre for three of the four race fleets.
While the ULTIM, Ocean Fifty and Class 40 races set off on time, in 20-25kts the 40 boat IMOCA fleet remain in Le Havre after their start was postponed due to forecasted storm force winds.
After starting in sequence from 13:07hrs Sunday afternoon the ULTIM, six Ocean Fifty and 44 Class 40s revelled on the tough, gusty conditions on the Bay of Le Havre, but they will just race a 320 miles passage to Lorient on the French Atlantic coast.
There they will re-start when the weather outlook improves. Their race to Martinique is likely to be on a shorter course distance. But it is unclear when their re-start will be.
The IMOCA 60 fleet remain on standby for a start but it is not likely to be for several days at least.
SVR Lazartigue, the giant blue VPLP design of Francois Gabart and Tom Laperche – the newest in the fleet – was leading the ULTIM class by over four miles, making steady speeds of 25-29 knots set to pass the tip of the Cherbourg peninsula before mid-afternoon.
In the Ocean Fifty class the early leader was newcomer to the class Pierre Quiroga – winner of the 2021 La Solitaire du Figaro – racing with Ronan Treussard on VIABLIS OCÉANS, a 2017 boat which was previously Sam Goodchild’s Leyton.
The first miles for the Class 40 race was impressive with 44 boats close reaching at high speeds – up to 18-20kts at times for the latest scow designs.
Italian favourite Ambrogio Beccaria on Allla Grande-PIRELLI, which finished second in last year’s Route du Rhum solo race to Guadeloupe, set the pace on the short circuit, despite hitting the only turning mark and having to take a penalty.
They were leading Credit Mutuel – sailed by the highly favoured Ian Lipinksi and Antoine Carpentier, the 2019 race winners. Britons Brian Thompson and Alister Richardson were fourth and showing good speed on Tquila.
Three boats Café Joyeux, Seafrigo-Sogestran, and Movember had to make a U turn after collisions and return to Le Havre to try and effect repairs.