The Transat bakery. Prologue. St Malo. France Pictures of Loïck Peyron (FRA) onboard the classic yacht Pen Duick II on which he will complete the solo transatlantic race Image licensed to Lloyd Images/ OC Sports

The Transat bakery. Prologue. St Malo. France.  Loïck Peyron (FRA) onboard the classic yacht Pen Duick II.   Image licensed to Lloyd Images/ OC Sports

Today Loïck Peyron, skipper of Pen Duick II, informed The Transat bakerly Race Management that his nostalgic voyage from Plymouth to New York had come to an end following damage to his staysail which has torn off the bridge of his boat.

Peyron reported: “Hello. Staysail plate torn off the bridge, but no problem. Unfortunately I can not continue into the wind, so for the moment I am proceeding on Quiberon Envsn. Loïck.”

Strong winds and crashing waves have played havoc with The Transat bakerly racing fleet over recent days, and Peyron’s recently restored vintage wooden ketch is the latest boat to feel the wrath of the North Atlantic.

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK  - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

Sailing over 3050nm ‘the old way’ as a tribute to the achievements of double Transat winner Eric Tabarly and sailing legend Mike Birch, triple Transat winner Peyron will now divert to Quiberon l’Ecole Nationale de Voile (ENVSN) in France midway through his voyage, no longer able to sail his boat into the wind.

This downwind delivery back to Quiberon ENVSN, where Pen Duick II has been owned and used as part of the sailing school for nearly 50 years, should take the skipper around 10 days to complete.

b_2VC3761

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the 'Transat Bakerley' solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the ‘Transat Bakerley’ solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Francois Gabart, the young heart-throb of French solo offshore sailing, completed his first solo win on board his new 100ft trimaran, Macif, today when he crossed the finish line off New York.

The 33-year-old Frenchman, who in 2013 became the youngest ever winner of the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race, sailed a brilliant race from Plymouth, covering the official distance of 3,050 nautical miles in 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes and 39 seconds. He narrowly missed out on a new race record, which was set by Michel Desjoyeaux in 2004, and still stands at a time of 8 days, 8 hours, 29 minutes.

Gabart actually sailed a total distance of 4,634 miles at an average speed of 23.11 knots in a remarkable voyage that, unusually for The Transat bakerly, took him and his close rival Thomas Coville on Sodebo, hundreds of miles south of the Azores into the tradewinds before sling-shotting northwest up to New York.

His beautiful blue, white and yellow Van Peteghem Lauriot-Prevost-designed multihull, in which Gabart hopes to set a new outright solo round-the-world record, reached the finish at 18:24 local time in New York, as recorded by the Sandy Hook Pilot Association boat, with its jubilant skipper waving to his team support boat as he crossed the line.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the 'Transat Bakerley' solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the ‘Transat Bakerley’ solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Shortly afterwards Gabart reflected on a race that, for much of the time, saw him in close company with Coville on the older Sodebo. For the first three days the two skippers were never more than a few miles apart, having crossed the Bay of Biscay in sight of each other.

The competition with Thomas on Sodebo was wonderful. It made the race incredible for me.  We are working together to organise more races for these type of boats, and when we see what happened in The Transat bakerly, and how close the competition was, we know there is a place for it. This is just the beginning of the journey.”

Gabart clearly loved his first outing on his new mile-munching ocean-racing thoroughbred, and he more than stepped up to the challenge that the 30-metre giant posed. “It was a big challenge for me. You should have 10 or 15 people to manage these boats, and it’s just me. It was my first solo race on Macif, and I didn’t know if I was able to do it, so I am really proud of what I did.

“To arrive into New York was perfect. The boat is in good shape. Me? Well, maybe not! I’m very tired, but I’m incredibly proud.”

As winner of the Ultime class, Gabart will be presented with a special watch from The Transat bakerly official timekeeper Ralf Tech.

Commenting on Gabart’s performance, The Transat bakerly Event Director Herve Favre said: “Francois and Thomas put on an amazing show at the front of the fleet and Francois has emerged a worthy and deserving winner. Over the next week we will see the winners of the IMOCA 60, Multi50 and Class40s emerge and each winner will be a hero in my book.”

The Big Apple has only been used once before in the race as the finish port and that was in the very first edition in 1960 when the winner, one Sir Francis Chichester on the monohull Gipsy Moth III, was at sea for 40 days, 12 hours 30 minutes. Sailing a multihull from a different century, Gabart was 32 days, 3 hours and 36 minutes quicker than the British legend.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the 'Transat Bakerley' solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the ‘Transat Bakerley’ solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

As Gabart crossed the line Coville was still some 118nm from the finish while the third-placed trimaran in the Ultime class – Actual skippered by Yves Le Blevec – was still 509.6nm away.

For the other classes in the fleet, the finish line is still over 800 miles away. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) continues to lead the IMOCA 60 fleet with an anticipated arrival time of 19:00 local time on Friday. Vincent Riou on PRB is 76 miles behind and still hot on his stern.

In the four-boat Multi50 class, Gilles Lamiré (Frenchtech Rennes St Malo) is continuing to extend his lead, with a 219 mile advantage between him and the chasing Lalou Roucayrol (Arkema).

Trading places at the top of the Class40 fleet is Isabelle Joschke (Generali–Horizon Mixité) and Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires en Peloton–Arsep), with Joschke currently holding a six-mile advantage.

On Tuesday Armel Tripon on Black Pepper announced his retirement from The Transat bakerly, after he sustained damage in the week’s earlier storms, leaving eight Class40s now en route to the Big Apple.

Track the race here.

The class rankings at 20:00 BST – updated every four hours. 

ULTIME
1. Francois Gabart/Macif – Finished after 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes and 39 seconds
2. Thomas Coville/Sodebo – 88.21nm from the finish
3. Yves Le Blevec/Actual – 504.50nm from the finish

IMOCA 60
1. Armel Le Cléac’h/Banque Populaire – 857.2nm from the finish
2. Vincent Riou/PRB – 76.10nm from the leader
3. Jean-Pierre Dick/St Michel Virbac – 182.74nm from the leader

MULTI50
1. Gilles Lamiré/French Tech Rennes St Malo – 950nm from the finish
2. Lalou Roucayrol/Arkema – 219.62nm from the leader
3. Pierre Antoine/Olmix – 415.94nm from the leader

CLASS40
1. Isabelle Joschke/Generali Horizon Mixité – 1421.3nm from the finish
2. Thibaut Vauchel-Camus/Solidaires en Peloton – ARSEP – 6.60nm from the leader
3. Phil Sharp/Imerys – 18.59nm from the leader

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the 'Transat Bakerley' solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the ‘Transat Bakerley’ solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA.  Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The 25 boats in The Transat Bakerly 2016 fleet set sail today on one of the great races in solo sailing, the 3,050-nautical mile passage across the north Atlantic from Plymouth to New York.

Spectators both on shore and on the water turned out to watch as the mainly French fleet gathered under grey skies on Plymouth Sound to answer the starter’s gun fired from the decks of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent at 14.30pm.

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA.  Image licensed to Lloyd Images

Ahead of the solo skippers and their boats lies one of the most daunting challenges in professional sport – the north Atlantic, complete with bitterly cold storm force headwinds, an ever-present adverse swell, freezing fog and even the danger of ice.

The forecast for this year’s race – the first time this classic has been staged since 2008 – is for a reasonably quiet start but for 45-knot headwinds and big seas for the leading yachts by Wednesday, as they head into the Western Approaches.

The fleet is divided into four classes, each of which will produce an official winner of The Transat bakerly. The fastest boats are the giant trimarans of the Ultime class, three of which are battling it out for line honours, with the first expected to reach the finish at New York in around eight days.

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA.
Image licensed to Lloyd Images

Behind them comes the five-strong fleet of smaller Multi50 trimarans which could fly across the “pond” in 12 days, alongside the six IMOCA 60s – the state-of-the-art monohulls used in the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race that starts later this year.

The slowest boats will be the smaller monohulls of the 10-strong Class40 fleet which should take around 15 days to complete the course, but in which we should see some of the tightest racing.

Alongside the fleet is a one-off entry by the French racing legend Loick Peyron who is sailing Eric Tabarly’s 44ft wooden ketch Pen Duick II in the same trim as she was when Tabarly raced her to victory in The Transat (then called the OSTAR) in 1964. Peyron is expecting to take around 27 days to reach the finish at New York.

Loick Peyron sets off on his voyage to New York aboard Pen Duick II. (Photo © Vincent Curutchet/Lloyd Images/OC Sport)

Loick Peyron sets off on his voyage to New York aboard Pen Duick II. (Photo © Vincent Curutchet/Lloyd Images/OC Sport)

Among the first to show in 10-12 knot southwesterly breeze, as the fleet headed out to sea, was the Multi50 Fenêtrea-Cardinal skippered by Frenchman Erwan Le Roux who ripped across the startline flying-a-hull ahead of two Ultimes, the bright green Sodebo skippered by former Volvo Ocean Race winner Thomas Coville and the blue-hulled MACIF, skippered by François Gabart.

Several skippers were caught out by the lighter-than-forecast conditions at the start and were hastily shaking out reefs as those with full mainsails took advantage. Among the quickest away was Armel Le Cléac’h on the IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire VIII who flew out of the blocks and established an early lead.

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The IMOCA 60 class will see a fascinating battle over the next two weeks between the three entries with foils – Banque Populaire VIII, Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) and St Michel-Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick), and those with more conventional underwater profiles – PRB (Vincent Riou), SMA (Paul Meilhat) and 44 (Richard Tolkien). The foilers may well be quicker but will they be tough enough to last this toughest of courses?

Earlier there were pre-start nerves on a damp and overcast Monday morning as the skippers enjoyed a final big English breakfast and prepared to depart from Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour Marina and Plymouth Yacht Haven. Sébastien Josse was in a realistic mood about what lies ahead.

“I am in the mindset of someone who is about to experience very demanding times physically and mentally,” he said. “The Transat bakerly is not much fun but I am very happy to be here. I know I am going to be cold and it’s going to be tough, but I know why I am doing it. I want to do well and I am just thinking through all the things I must not forget and the mistakes to avoid.”

His fellow Frenchman Armel Tripon on the Class40 entry Black Pepper also talked of the jitters as he prepared to take on the north Atlantic. “Although I slept well I feel I have a little ball of nerves in my stomach but it will disappear once I am on the water,” he said.

Like all the skippers, Tripon was eyeing the forecast and trying to assess his routing choices, whether to head north or south once clear of the southern Irish coast. “It is not obvious – there is a strategic choice to make at the outset,” said Tripon.

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA.
Image licensed to Lloyd Images

Hervé Favre, Event Director commented: “This race is one of the classics in solo sailing and after it was not staged four years ago we at OC Sport are proud to relaunch it this year. I am delighted to see this hugely competitive fleet of sailors on state-of the art racing machinery now taking on The Transat bakerly 2016 and we wish them all the best for the undoubted challenges that lie ahead.”

So fasten your seatbelts, this promises to be a wild ride across one of the most notorious stretches of water on the planet – the 2016 Transat bakerly is underway.

Track the race here

Find out more about the race here.

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA.
Image licensed to Lloyd Images

 

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA.  Image licensed to Lloyd Images

 

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK - New York. USA. Image licensed to Lloyd Images

The Transat Bakerly yacht race. The start of solo transatlantic race start from Plymouth UK – New York. USA.  Image licensed to Lloyd Images