Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 – The Italian charge to ocean sailing

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Transat Jacques Vabre 2023
The Class40 fleet in the dock at the Race Village in Le Havre

Cold and rainy, so welcomes Le Havre, momentarily transformed into the Mecca of ocean sailing. But the typical Normandy weather is cancelled out by the general atmosphere, with all attention shifted to the key event, the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre, the transat in doubles. And only 1.5 days to go. Ultim, Ocean Fifty, IMOCA60s and Class40s, for a Race Village full of boats (95) and full of people scurrying-curious people, fans and journalists from all over, busy shore-teams and skippers dividing their time between the public, the media and the race. Elbowing just as hard, however, is finally Italy’s ocean sailing, pushing hard to fit in and have its say.

16th Transat Jacques Vabre – The atmosphere at -48 hours to go

Five homegrown boats at the start then, four Class40s and one Imoca 60. Two brand new ones, the two Musa40s from
Riva
and Fornaro (Acrobatica and Influence 2), two-thirds of the fleet signed by Sangiorgio Marine, another Italian reality that stands out. Rounding out the “blue” list is the Musa 40 Alla Grande Pirelli by
Beccaria
(also Sangiorgio Marine) and IBSA, the Mach 5 by
Bona
. There is, of course, no shortage of Prysmian, IMOCA’s
Pedote
, here with the new foils… That makes five Italian skippers, joined by
Luciani
, co-skipper of the French Class 40 Dècuple. The topic on everyone’s lips? The weather, a weather that from the start does not leave one calm and gives one thoughts. Here is what is emerging and what “our people” think about it.

Transat Jacques Vabre 2023
Alberto Bona (skipper) and Pablo Santurde del Arco (co-skipper) aboard IBSA two days before the start of T. Jacques Vabre 2023

Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 – Weather that makes you think.

Weather is never a sure thing, models are still models and everything can change, even at the last minute. Yet he dictates the rules of the game. Yesterday (27.10) the outlined situation included a large depression area west of Ireland, with a series of frontal passages toward the English Channel. A large front also off Portugal, with a situation therefore complex and intense from the start. Especially for the Class 40s, which are smaller and “slower” than the rest of the boats. The summary of everyone’s reactions is relatively simple: leave quickly, but preserving the boat. Fornaro the first to sum up the point well at the press conference held in the morning:

“With this weather we are studying how to get the boat out of this first phase, quickly and whole. You can’t get to Portugal late, or that front could become problematic. The compromise will be in finding a balance, getting the boat away quickly, but preserving it for the rest of the race.”

Transat Jacques Vabre
Influence 2, Andrea Fornaro’s Class 40 docked in Le Havre -2 days before the start of Transat Jacques Vabre 2023

Beccaria joins in and agrees that this first phase immediately following departure needs to be addressed well: “We are all tense but, in the end, it is the Jacques Vabre. We know, and there is no shortage of security on board. But still, one has to think about the aftermath as well. Three days in the storm is a long time. Compared to last time (Route du Rhum) you should come out of the sleeve better, but then you have to see that second front.”

A second, fundamental factor is also not forgotten: currents, which are fundamental on the sleeve, must also be kept in mind. A problem or mistake at this stage could result in a major delay on the very arrival toward that second front.

Ambrogio Beccaria on his Musa40 Alla Grande Pirelli in a photo by Lorenzo Sironi

Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 – The safety factor.

After last year’s Route du Rhum, which saw the departure postponed precisely because of weather, there is no shortage of questions regarding these choices. The answers, again, are quite in agreement with each other. First to speak is Pedote, who first points out how difficult it is for an organizer to manage a regatta like this, with 4 very different speed classes. Without considering the specific peculiarities of each. Because, yes, the Imoca and Class40 are less fast and can “run less,” but the complexities of multihulls should not be underestimated.

“They suffer a lot from the sea. More than us. I assure you [mindful of his experiences on the FenêtréA-Prysmian, the Multi 50 with which he won the Jacques Vabre in 2015 ed,] handling heavy seas becomes really difficult with multihulls, which have the problem of “turning around.” In this respect, monohulls have an advantage. But, the big risk, is that conditions could worsen as the days go by, so the most difficult thing will be, eventually, delays.”

Pedote’s IMOCA at the start of the last Fastnet (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Considerations that lead to a fundamental point, and one that should indeed be kept in mind. They used to not cancel regattas, today they do, why? Inserting the issue well is immediately Riva, who touches on an important and shareable point, partly because he does not imply dogma but invites thought: “Today we have means that allow us to see a little further, with more certainty perhaps. And disasters can be avoided. In my opinion it has to be kept well in mind. We have the means and it is right to make thoughtful reflections.”

Transat Jacques Vabre 2023
Acrobatics, Riva’s Class 40, third of 3 Musa 40s built by Sangiorgio Marine – Le Havre, Transat Jacques Vabre 2023

Beccaria, Fornaro and Luciani then, in turn, insert themselves, touching on the second key point: ocean sailing is changing and, like so many other sports (e.g., Formula 1), safety is an issue that, think of it as you will, gains its importance and necessarily affects certain aspects of the “game.” After all, today’s speeds are not comparable to those of 30 to 50 years ago, the speed has doubled, and the miles ground in a day have more than doubled. And so are the impacts, efforts and risks. But more importantly, it is now a real sport. Ocean sailing is increasingly competitive, no longer a pioneering adventure, and athletes are all pushing, a lot, to the limit. And this, clearly, is kept in mind by the organization.

Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 – An Italian wave that doesn’t give up

Having overcome the weather issue, the mood becomes more relaxed and the atmosphere of challenge emerges. Everyone is ready and charged. Both those on their first run and those who are beginning to play important numbers here. Bona (IBSA) and Beccaria (Alla Grande Pirelli) the two most favored, as well as among the most “feared,” as far as Class40s are concerned. But not to be underestimated either are Fornaro and Riva, one for experience and versatility, the other for spirit and aces up his sleeve, although these may seem “disadvantaged” by projects that have only recently started. In short, the games will be played in the water.

Pedote, on the other hand, aims to fight with the leading group, strong with the new foils and improvements. The charge is not lacking, although, as he points out, the quality of the IMOCA fleet is obviously high, and there are also many newcomer boats, as well as those with major updates. But the bottom line for him is one: at the end of the day, the difference will be seen in the water, where anything can happen. Especially among prototypes.

Transat Jacques Vabre 2023
Pedote aboard his Imoca, Transat Jacques Vabre 2023

In general, therefore, there is no lack of desire to elbow out in a major way, impose oneself and be seen. He emphasizes this in the best way yet Riva, concise but able to get to the point quickly. To my question about his competitive goal he responds in perhaps the best way, despite all the obstacles and the “newness” of his project (launched just this summer): we are not here to participate.

Transat Jacques Vabre 2023
Riva with a Breton fan who came especially for the start of the Jacques Vabre 2023

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Transat Jacques Vabre: 40 nodi in arrivo in Biscaglia, l’Italia a caccia del colpaccio

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