Crêpes Whaou! 3 (Photo by JEAN-MARIE LIOT / DPPI / Vendée Saint Petersbourg

Crêpes Whaou! 3 (Photo by JEAN-MARIE LIOT / DPPI / Vendée Saint Petersbourg

There are three races going on within the race this afternoon. At the front of the fleet, the two leaders are making their way out of the Oresund Straits and will soon be choosing which tack to be on, depending now on their strategy and not the obstacles lying ahead of them. In third position, the crew of Crêpes Whaou ! 2 is just preparing to enter the famous sound, while the rest of the fleet are battling it out in the Baltic.

Sometimes a race is down to a small detail. Actual, who led the way from the start of this second leg, knows that only too well.  Ruling the waves and keeping their rival at bay, Yves Le Blévec and his crew chose a route to the west of the island of Gotland. Convinced they had made the right choice, they awaited this morning’s rankings to see how far they were ahead of Crêpes Whao ! 3. Only to discover that Antoine Koch, Franck-Yves and Kevin Escoffier, by passing to the east of the island had taken the lead. It may only be a small lead, but it was a difficult blow for the crew to accept, especially when they thought they had been doing so well with the various difficulties in their path. To a certain extent, that just goes to prove how demanding the standard is that is set by the two frontrunners.

The quest for perfection
This closely fought battle between the two leaders has of course, had a consequence concerning the gap they have achieved over those following on behind. Crêpes Whaou ! 2, in spite of all the hard work, is finding it difficult to keep up and can only hope the frontrunners will be slowed down at some point to enable them to get back in the running. As they round the tip of Denmark, their hopes may be partly fulfilled: the latest forecasts from Météo France suggest that the two leaders will encounter strong headwinds and rough seas, while those following them, may well experience better conditions.
Further back still, Lalou Roucayrol (Région Aquitaine Port-Médoc) and his mates are warding off the attacks from a trio including FenêtréA Cardinal, Naviguez Anne Caseneuve and La mer révèle nos sens, who are now grouped together within three miles of each other. As on the outward leg, it is a close contact race that is now beginning for them, which is certainly more stimulating than having to sail alone. Solitude is something that the crews on CLM and PiR2 are probably beginning to feel. Hervé Cléris and his crew got left behind last night as they were leaving the Gulf of Finland, without really understanding the ins and outs of what happened. As for Etienne Hochédé, he is counting on his determination and perseverance to overcome all the doubts and demons at work at the rear of the fleet. Etienne and his crewmen already proved during the first leg that they were clever enough to make the most of the situation and enjoy sailing in these waters in the waters of Northern Europe.
From the boats
Yves Le Blévec (Actual): “We were surprised this morning. When I got the rankings, my first reaction was to say that we had gained thirty miles over them, before realising that number three was ahead of 53. We’re currently tacking in the sound. We’ve just passed under the Europe Bridge. Crêpes Whaou ! went her own way as they went over the tunnel. In any case, the situation looks very confused in the North Sea. Lots of things can happen between now and then.” 
Françoise Hanss (PiR2):  “We’re taking advantage of the situation as we have a lot of wind. For the time being, we’re not really suffering too badly from the cold: the floor is dry and we’re eating and we have gas. Paul (Coulais) thinks we’re on a windsurfing board and we’re really zooming along. We didn’t really know Yoann on the outward leg or Paul for the return leg before. So our race is also an opportunity to get to know each other well. Everything is fine on board… I’d like to thank everyone, who has sent us messages during the race, as it’s very touching.”
Ronan Delacou (CLM):  “We’re used to sailing with Hervé, as we’ve done about ten transatlantic races together. We lost some ground over Anne at the start and then the wind got up, but it certainly looks like it was stronger for those at the front. We’re passing the island of Gotland, which is very flat with strange looking houses and rather surrealistic buildings.  The cold? We’re used to it with Hervé as we’ve been up to the Arctic together to Spitsbergen. It would be nice to head up there now…” 

Rankings at 1400hrs GMT
– 1 Crêpes Whaou ! 3 (FY Escoffier) 1077 miles from the finish
– 2 Actual (Y Le Blévec) 12 miles from the leader
– 3 Crêpes Whaou ! 2 (L Féquet) 59.7 miles from the leader
– 4 Région Aquitaine Port-Médoc (L Roucayrol) 150.4 miles from the leader
– 5 FenêtréA-Cardinal (E Le Roux) 166.3 miles from the leader
– 6 Naviguez Anne Caseneuve (A Caseneuve) 167.7 miles from the leader
– 7 La mer révèle nos sens (P Hingant) 169.8 miles from the leader
– 8 CLM (H Cléris) 264 miles from the leader
– 9

Arrival At The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

Arrival At The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

It was a perfect, swashbuckling finale to bring the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed transatlantic race towards its final conclusion. Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier played the starring roles some days ago, Guillemot the hero of the Vendée Globe winning the top prize, but the final full day of racing proved a cliffhanger.
      After over 5,300 miles and nearly 20 days of racing, when all four protagonists, scrapping over 5th to 8th places emerged from the cover of stealth mode at 1000hrs GMT/UTC (0400hrs local) this morning, less than eight miles separated fifth placed Veolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain and Jean Luc Nélias) from seventh placed Aviva (Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson).
And Akéna Vérandas (Arnaud Boissieres and Vincent Riou) was a further 15.1 miles behind the British duo
Having held fifth place for five days – since they broke into the Caribbean – the Spanish duo on W-Hotels, were never going to give it away easily.
Passed for the second time in the final 12 hours by Veolia Environnement, when the French duo rocketed off into the rainy gloom of yet another squall, on the strength of a sail change the Spanish pair just could not make in the gusty 25 knots breeze, they felt that they were destined for sixth.
But their determination never wavered.
The next squall brought them back to rescue their fifth, arriving like a spectre from out of the murk at 17-18 knots to haunt Veolia for the third and final time, just half a mile from the finish.
It was perhaps appropriate that the surprised Spaniards – on their own voyage of discovery, racing an IMOCA Open 60 for the first time ever – cemented their success arriving Puerto Limon, in the wake of their legendary forebear Christopher Columbus who sailed to the New World in here in 1502.
Ribes and Pella finished four minutes and 16 second ahead of their French rivals, exhausted but pleased to have taken fifth, in between two of the most successful IMOCA Open 60 racing skippers, Michel Desjoyeaux and Jourdain.

Akena Verandas Making For The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

Akena Verandas Making For The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

They had only sailed together for a few days before embarking on this race, and learned as they came down the track. Standing smiling in the torrential rain on the dockside they admitted to many mistakes and ‘beginners errors’ but they can be justly proud of their result in this highest quality field.
The Spanish were delighted. But there was disappointment for Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson on Aviva. At one point they were, according to Ribes, 100 metres away from Aviva.
They waited for the British pair to tack and, in the end, chose to do their own thing, gaining 15 miles in to the finish.
The British pair slowed in a final light zone, losing out to Akéna Vérandas in the last stages to finish eighth, just 27 minutes behind the 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou and skipper Arnaud Boissieres.

Caffari and Thompson’s disappointment in losing out in the high stakes scuffle, which was largely carried out in torrential tropical rain and changeable winds, was obvious but Caffari reflected enthusiastically on how much she has improved since she competed in the last edition in 2007 as an IMOCA greenhorn.

Gitana Eighty Crossing The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet /AFP/

Gitana Eighty Crossing The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet /AFP/

All four boats finished within just over three and a half hours. 1876 was due to finish by around 1800hrs GMT and Sam Davies and Sidney Gavignet on Artemis later tonight.

Pepe Ribes, (ESP), W-Hotels:

“ The last 36 hours have been no sleep, no eating, nothing. We played the stealth card and so did everyone else at the same time. And when we played the stealth it was the first time that we saw a boat, with Veolia just crossing our bows, that was yesterday morning. Then since then we passed them once and then they passed us again, then we passed them again just half a mile from the finish line. I really don’t know what made the difference in the end. We went to the beach and then we saw Aviva, who were very close to us, only 50 metres away.
We went with Aviva to the beach and we waited for them to tack but they did not tack, and so we tacked and from there we were reaching really, really fast maybe 18-19 knots.
Then we saw a light and thought it was a cruising boat. We were sure Veolia were way ahead. In one of the squalls they managed to drop their spinnaker and put up their masthead genoa and go straight, so we had to bear away. So they left. And when we saw a green light we thought it was a cruising boat. I looked with the binos and told Alex and we could not believe.”

“ I think it is good result for us, very very good. We were not expecting such a good result at all. We did not know the level, and for me I thought between tenth and fourteenth and we finished fifth, so, fantastic. It is a good result for me, and I hope for Spain.”

“ I feel very, very tired. But we made many, many mistakes. At the beginning, not so much now. We made a lot of mistakes and lost a lot of miles. But we are going forwards.”

“ I think we were pushing the boat very, very hard and broke a lot of things. We were good together. We tried to share everything and learn about each other. He has a lot of strong points and I have strong points and it works well. He is more like an offshore sailor, more relaxed and I am more go, go, go. It is a good mix, I am always 100%. We pushed, I don’t care, I sail it like a Volvo boat, we keep pushing and I don’t care if the boat breaks.”
“But we made mistakes, it is double handed and it is new for us.”

Alex Pella (ESP) W-Hotels:

“ The boat is OK, but we broke a lot of small things, the spinnaker. We had problems with the pilots, sometimes they worked, sometimes they did not work. But we fived them with a spare compass, and they worked, and then two days later they did not. But the boat is nice and work towards the Barcelona World Race.
Pepe is a very good sailor. He has so much experience and pushes very hard, he has experience with the Volvo boats which helped, and I learned so much from sailing with Pepe.”
“ On the one hand he is a very methodical guy, very ordered but he wants to push all the time, to push hard.”
“ At the beginning of the race we had decided to go south, but then when we saw some going west, we said ok we try to catch this option but it was too late. In fact there was a time when we tried but we were too late. We went with the wrong option.
But we are here!” 
“ Foncia and Akena went further south. We had a maximum of 50 knots in the third storm and big waves.”
“ I am really, really happy. We are hear to learn the boat. This is a training for the Barcelona World Race and here we are in Costa Rica, it is incredible….in between Foncia and Veolia. It is fantastic!”

Dee Caffari (GBR) Aviva:

“ The race was long and it was hard, in three different parts, the beginning and the stormy stuff, getting sorted out and then the final in the Caribbean Sea. So it was very eventful, highs and lows. We have things to deal with and obviously a frustrating finish, but to be this close at the end of a race has been cool.
This is in a different league to my last Transat Jacques Vabre. Sailing with Brian has been great. He is cool and calm and you think: ‘ok this is fine and you get on with it.’ So the intensity I have dealt with is much greater than I am used to. It was a much more enjoyable race than the Vendée Globe, and it was nice to be in among the people who were leading. The company I am keeping now is something I never even dreamed of..
Now I want to carry on. I need to find the backing but I feel like I am growing at such a speed. This was a great race to do, you learn so much with the right person on board.”

Brian Thompson (GBR) Aviva:

“It was an interesting place to have the stealth play. Ther were light winds to the south on the more direct course, so people were deciding how far north to go, and we went a fairly direct course. It turned out there was a front which came through from Panama which gained us, we got through it early in the day and had clear skies for the rest of the day. Then when had nice sailing for the afternoon, maybe a little slower but we sailed less miles. But then we were next to W-Hotels and we thought it was Akenas, but it was W-Hotels who had been 100 miles ahead. Then we were in constant squalls one after the other and were never becalmed until right near the end. They must have had the one squall which drove them all the way in.”

Roland Jourdain:

“Before, it was the English, now we have the Spanish! It was hard.! It was tough but fun, a great race for first place in this second group! It was intense with many challenges. We knew this course would be more varied in terms of the different weather conditions  and that really was the case. We even had our small technical pit stop, we like them with Jean-Luc. That’s why I plan to make stages races. We would like to have played with the top of the fleet. The technical stop we could have done without.  We did not think it would cost us. We were optimistic but saw time slipping.
Marco went very fast and I agree they went the right way, with the good options, but they went really, really fast.
Yesterday morning it was hell. We waited for the wind from the east and north and had southerly. We saw a boat behind and managed to escape. Yesterday evening we saw it again and gybed away. In a squall we tacked and put five miles on them. And then this morning we were sitting all but still and a racing car arrived, someone so quick we thought it was a motor boat.”
“But our boat is OK, it went well but on the other hand it is not a new boat. Veolia has gaps compared with the new boats. We still go well and make results because I know this Mobylette but it is nevertheless frustrating.”

Jean-Luc Nélias, FRA (Veolia Environnement):

“We passed W-Hotels in a squall, but they negotiated them better. When we cam out from stealth, we realized we had made five miles on them, and then this morning we took another squall and got it back. From a result point of view we are not that happy. We could have battled it out with boats such as Mike Golding but the others are faster. It is nevertheless frustrating because out mainsail mast track was broken. The first reef has been very useful. But we are glad we got here. We laughed a lot with Bilou. It was a good adventure.”

Times summary

Breaking the finish line at 11:41:44hrs GMT Friday 27th November (05:41:44hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 18d 22hrs 11mins  44seconds at an 10.41knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, Spain’s Pepe Ribes and  Alex Pella on W-Hotels took fifth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Ribes and Pella sailed a distance of 5790 miles at an average of 12.75kts.
W-Hotels finish 3 days 2 hours 49 minutes 34 seconds behind the winner Safran. 

Breaking the finish line at  11:46:00hrs GMT  Friday 27th November (05:46:00hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 18d 22hrs 16mins 00 seconds at an 10.41 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, France’s Roland Jourdain and Jean Luc Nélias on Veolia Environnement took sixth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Jourdain and Nélias sailed a distance of  5734miles at an average of 12.52kts. 
Veolia Environnement finish 3 days 2 hours 53 minutes and 50 seconds behind the winner Safran.
Breaking the finish line at 14:50:12hrs GMT  Friday 27th November (08:50:12hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 19d 1h 20m 12s seconds at an 10.34 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, France’s Arnaud Boissières and Vincent Riou on Akena Veranda took seventh place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Boissières and Riou sailed a distance of 
5823miles at an average of 12.73kts. 
Akéna Vérandas finished 3days 05hours 58min 02s seconds behind the winner Safran.

Breaking the finish line at 15:17:12hrs GMT  Friday 27th November (09:17:12hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 19d 1h 46m 12s seconds at an 10.33 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, Great Britain’s Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson on Aviva took eighth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race.
Caffari and Thompson sailed a distance of  5700 miles at 12,45 knots average .
Aviva finished 3d 06h 25min 02secs behind the winner Safran.

Crepes Whaou (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

Crepes Whaou (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

 A huge, noisy Costa Rican welcome greeted Franck Yves Escoffier (FRA) and Erwan Le Roux (FRA), co skippers of the Crêpes Whaou when they emerged out of the Caribbean darkness, comprehensively winning the Multi 50 class and taking line honours for this ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre race which started from Le Havre on Sunday 8th November.

Emerging out of the darkness to break the finish line off the historic port town of Peurto Limon at 2231hrs local time Monday 23rd (0431hrs UTC/GMT Tuesday) the French duo with their new build Crêpes Whaou! 3, only launched in August, maintained Escoffier’s unbeaten record in this biannual classic, also scooping the IMOCA Open 60’s to take line honours for the third consecutive time.

Escoffier and Le Roux took 15 days, 15 hours, 31 minutes and 50 seconds to complete the course which took the Multi 50 fleet south of Barbados on a course which for the winning pair was 5805 miles, which they completed at an average speed of 13.41 knots.

The new destination for the coffee route race, finishing in Costa Rica, served up a carnival greeting for the winners, Escoffier remarking immediately that without doubt the high point of their race was the warmth of finish. Sailing with Le Roux, a successful former Mini 650 Class 40 and multihull sailor who has completed two previous Transat Jacques Vabre races, the pair chose a prudent southerly routing to avoid the very worst of a very active depression before then building a big lead over their Multi50 Class rivals.

Asked about the memories, the key moments, Escoffier said
“You have to start with this finish, the arrival here has been an extraordinary reception. We have seen some great welcomes but here in Peurto Limon between the fireworks and the whole world out to greet us on the dock, that was a great moment. But so, too the start was interesting too. There is always a build up of adrenalin you need pumping as a competitor, and I felt like we made the strongest start of the Multi 50’s. And a strong memory yesterday when we just stopped ourselves from tipping the boat over. It was not funny. Erwan, who is younger than me really had to rein me in from time to time. We can smile looking back…”

On the subject of the Class 50, and asked if they did not feel out on a limb without much competition in the end, Escoffier explained:
“ We are about to succeed in making it (the Multi 50) take off with the new boats in the class. Unfortunately the two other newest boats are not at the finish too. We missed competition a little, but we should not forget Guyader pour Urgence Climatique who are a good crew. In the multihull there is not much to teach them, but they lack the finance to have a boat like Crêpes Whaou! And it would be good if they could find it. And I hope that before I leave this class there will be a proper class of boats like ours. But the objective was always, as well to beat the IMOCA Open 60’s in and we pushed hard to do that.”