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Who will win the New York Vendée?

Three weeks after the arrival of The Transat CIC, 28 skippers will set sail on 29 May in the New York Vendée-Les Sables d’Olonne, the last qualifier for the Vendée Globe. As it does before each major event, Tip & Shaft surveyed a panel of experts, including Charles Caudrelier, Armel Tripon, Alain Gautier and Tom Laperche, to take stock of the forces at work.

Just over five months before the start of the Vendée Globe, the New York Vendée concludes the qualification and selection process for the solo round the world race (see table). Of the 42 candidates for the start of the latter, 28 are taking part in this transatlantic race, including some who were not in The Transat CIC, such as Thomas Ruyant and Sam Goodchild. All the Vendée Globe favourites are lining up and, according to our experts, they will all want to make their mark, especially as they have been freed from the problems of qualification (the last 9 not yet qualified only have to cross the start line to get their ticket).

“With the sword of Damocles gone, you inevitably manage things differently, it changes the level of the cursor that you’re going to put on, and I think that in the way you push the options and the boats, it’s perhaps going to go up another notch compared to The Transat CIC,” notes Armel Tripon, who is expecting his Imoca Les P’tits Doudous, built in the moulds of Boris Herrmann’s boat, to be ready next summer. It’s only when you’re racing that you really pull on the boats over time, you put on more sails than when you’re training,” adds Charles Caudrelier, skipper of the Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild [he took part in a leg of the last edition of The Ocean Race on Holcim PRB, editor’s note]. For his part, Alain Gautier, team manager of MACSF [his skipper Isabelle Joschke is not taking part in the NY Vendée, editor’s note], sees this second solo transatlantic race in a row as a great test, with the boats almost in their Vendée Globe setting”.

“Thomas knows how to keep things fairly simple”

Who do our experts see on the podium? While their predictions inevitably depend on the weather, they all agree that four sailors should be at the front of the pack, in order: Thomas Ruyant (Vulnerable), Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa), Charlie Dalin (Macif Santé Prévoyance) and Jérémie Beyou (Charal). “For me, these are the four who have just one objective when they start a race: to win“, confirmed Charles Caudrelier. Thomas Ruyant is just ahead of Yoann Richomme, with Charles Caudrelier himself believing that “he has the most experience and has won almost everything for the past three years, with a very good boat”. For Tom Laperche, skipper of the Ultim SVR Lazartigue and who also sailed aboard Holcim-PRB in The Ocean Race, “Thomas and his team were impressive in terms of speed when they won the Transat Jacques Vabre, and we feel that in solo sailing, he knows how to keep things fairly simple and set the right priorities.”

As for Armel Tripon, he believes that the fact he didn’t take part in The Transat CIC could be an advantage: “Even though the race was fairly short, it requires a lot of concentration, you put the boat to a severe test, and that can leave a few marks, so I think the choice of only doing one transatlantic race out of two is a good one.” Alain Gautier doesn’t share this analysis: “In a one-week transatlantic race, you have to get into the swing of things straight away if you want to be up with the frontrunners. When you’ve done one three weeks before, you’ve got your bearings, which will be less the case for Thomas, who didn’t do the delivery trip.”

In any case, everyone agrees that Thomas Ruyant, but also Yoann Richomme, have formidable machines in their Finot Conq-Koch designs – “unbeaten in three transatlantic races”, underlines Alain Gautier -, especially if the conditions offer downwind sailing in strong winds and seas. “These boats are very well suited to solo sailing,” analyses Charles Caudrelier. “I sailed on Thomas’s boat, and I was impressed by the comfort, the passage through the sea, the average speeds – she doesn’t stop, which changes everything! A boat that has a constant speed is easy to trim, but one that stops at 15 knots and then starts again at 30 knots is very hard to sail. You only have to look at Yoann’s trajectory on The Transat CIC, it’s very smooth, with very few sail changes. At the end of the race, when you start to feel tired, that makes all the difference.”

Charlie Dalin “at 200%”

Hot on Thomas Ruyant’s heels our experts place Yoann Richomme, who, according to Alain Gautier, “is in a period of flawless solo sailing, between his victories in the Solitaire du Figaro [2016 and 2019], the Route du Rhum in Class40 [2018 and 2022] and his last two solo transatlantic races [Retour à La Base and The Transat CIC], this succession of solo successes on three different supports is remarkable.” Armel Tripon added: “Yoann knows how to place the cursor in the right place, he’s not afraid to put in the commitment and he’s been able to surround himself with a good team who had Imoca experience, it’s a good alchemy.”On the third step of the podium, our experts place Charlie Dalin, fourth in The Transat CIC after leading at the start of the race and experiencing technical problems. “Charlie is a little behind the others because he didn’t race in the two transatlantic races at the end of the year [due to a medical problem], but I don’t think we should question the boat’s performance,” comments Tom Laperche. “And I’m sure that now that he’s validated his qualification, he’s going to be at 200%.

The fact remains that our experts believe that Le Havre’s Verdier design has a deficit downwind. “On flat seas and on reaching, she is formidable, but downwind in heavy seas, she is very hard, which plays on the mental side and on the mechanical stress,” analyses Armel Tripon. “He has a boat which is perhaps a little more difficult, but he also has some great strengths, particularly on the starts where there can be some light airs,” moderates Charles Caudrelier. “And there, he’s capable of making big differences.”

Beyou, “the knife between his teeth”

What about the other contenders for the podium? Fourth in our experts’ rankings, Jérémie Beyou, who was quickly forced to retire from The Transat CIC, “will have the knife between his teeth”, according to Armel Tripon. Charles Caudrelier is expecting a lot from this transatlantic race to measure Charal’s potential with her new foils: “They had some big strengths upwind with the V1, but now they’ve typified this V2 downwind, so we’ll see if the gain makes up for what they’ve lost upwind.”Also mentioned is Sam Goodchild (Vulnerable), with Tom Laperche estimating that, “if they have slippery conditions, with medium conditions and fairly calm seas, he’ll have all the cards in his hand, especially as in terms of skills, he’s on a par with the best.” However, as Alain Gautier reminds us, “Sam must first think about finishing as he’s not safe in terms of miles [36th]Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer), second in The Transat CIC, also has what it takes to do it again according to some of our experts, with Armel Tripon explaining that, “with the new foils, they are in the process of erasing their shortcomings while retaining their advantage in the breeze.”

Other sailors are cited as “semi-favourites”, according to According to Alain Gautier, such as Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ), sixth in The Transat CIC, Nicolas Lunven (Holcim PRB) and third in The Transat CIC, Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur). “In her head and the way she sails, we feel she’s more liberated, her boat is now well accomplished and she knows she can rest on it,” notes Armel Tripon. For Alain Gautier, “Sam has shown her talent and her boat’s ability to go fast, but does that mean she has the means to keep up with some of the others?” To which Charles Caudrelier replies: “Boris and Sam have very good boats for solo sailing with great new foils, but I don’t see them putting the same intensity into it as the four favourites, who, for me, are killers.”

Our experts’ podium: 1. Thomas Ruyant, 2. Yoann Richomme, 3. Charlie Dalin

Photo: Jean-Louis Carli / Alea

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