The long wait is finally over. After nine days, the IMOCA vessels will depart Le Havre on Tuesday, while the Class40s and Ocean50s – which managed to reach Lorient – will make a fresh start on Monday. Direction for all, Martinique, while 5 maxi-trimaran ships of the Ultim class have already completed half the voyage and should arrive at Fort-de-France on 12 or 13 November. To compensate (slightly) for the delay in start, the IMOCAs will take a direct route, which would allow the first to arrive 5 days after the Ultims, thus reducing the “breakage” in Martinique.
Like their counterparts in the two protected classes in Lorient, the Imoca team leaders used the week to return home, before returning to Le Havre this weekend. As already planned on October 29, Charlie Dallin (Massif) will cross the line before abandoning it (for medical reasons), which will allow him to remain in contention in the qualifying race for the Vendée Globe. Paul Mailhat (Biotherm), linked to Portuguese Mariana Lobato, found his monocoque on Sunday, a week later at his home in Brittany.
“Let the storm pass and save the boats.”
“As sailors, we are used to adapting to changing situations, and what was difficult to deal with was the charge of adrenaline,” explains the skipper. When you are preparing to go to sea, especially in difficult conditions, you have a strong adrenaline rush, and everything falls into place so that you have maximum energy. Getting down from that state to get back there on a date you don’t know right away is tough. Sunday evening (After cancellation of departure)I fell asleep at two or three in the morning, I was so nervous. We were supposed to walk the English Channel and not be in bed under the duvet. »
“No one wanted to see this departure postponed, but it was for good reasons,” however, Canadian Scott Scheuer (Be Water Positive) believes. I believe the race organization made the right decision to postpone the start in order to allow the storm to pass and preserve the boats.
But on Sunday morning, the blow was hard to take. “When we got the ‘postponement’ letter, we were going to put our shoes on,” Paul Milhat recalls. It’s like saying to a rugby player who’s about to step onto the field and get dressed, In the end you are not playing ! »
If Scott Scheuer made a quick trip back to Canada to find his loved ones, some technical teams would have remained on site, in particular to protect the boat. “What mobilized the team was to monitor the boat and keep it safe during the passage of the storm, which was very violent,” says the Canadian skipper. One of my team members recorded average winds of 60 knots Thursday morning from the boat. This person was not harmed, which was our biggest fear. »
Sports, media and economic issues
The organizers, for their part, had to find the perfect shooting window. “The challenge was to leave when possible, which opened a huge window of uncertainty,” Paul Milhat stresses. The storm gave us such a long notice, we knew that by canceling the departure on Sunday morning, we would not be leaving for at least a week. “The wait continued for 9 days. “The hardest part is for the sponsors, the technical teams and the organization,” Milhat says. The issues are not only sports, but also media and economic. »
For a long time, the Imuka class, angry at being the only class banned in Le Havre, demanded the same conditions of initiation as the other classes, especially with regard to television broadcasting. Even if monohulls were to form part of the gap across the direct route, timetables would also be disrupted. The start of the return race (Fort-de-France-Lorient) to qualify for the Vendée Globe has been postponed from 26 November to 1 December, which will have consequences on construction schedules. The start of construction was certainly what precipitated the Ultims’ departure, on October 28, right on schedule, as the Maxi Trimaran ships made their round-the-world tour at the beginning of January.
Some patrons were also upset, as the Transat Jacques Vabre was, for some, the only viewing window in 2023. Their guests remained at the dock on October 28, and some also had to postpone or cancel their flight to Martinique in order to arrive. “I had the opportunity to go out on an ocean race, which is a 7-month round-the-world adventure,” confirms Paul Milhat. We are not in the position of a team that includes only Jacques Fabre and around which he built the entire communication strategy. The hardest part for us was explaining why some boats left and others didn’t. Some said the imukas remained in the harbor because they were so fragile, even though they were the strongest of the four classes. There were too many of us to take cover. »
Little by little, the sailors, despite everything, returned to their original conditions. “We prepared for this transat, and not to leave would have been a failure,” believes the Biotherm captain. We all want to have great transs and save the party in Martinique, where we are expected to be.