Flotte Imoca The Transat CIC

The Transat CIC: analysis

The start of The Transat CIC was given last Sunday from Lorient to New York (to be followed on our website). As with every major race, Tip & Shaft brings you an in-depth analysis in the company of a number of experts. In this case, this Friday, Franck CammasYann ElièsCorentin Douguet and weather routing specialist Jean-Yves Bernot.

After five days of racing, our four experts agree that the weather scenario is rather unusual for an east-west crossing of the North Atlantic, with more downwind conditions than expected“I have memories of the English transatlantic race where they were much upwind conditions. This can be explained by the fact that the lows are low at the moment over the Atlantic, which is offering them a downwind route that’s tough but fair, but it’s great, it’s a really good rehearsal for the Vendée Globe, sums up Jean-Yves Bernot.

“It’s been a super interesting race, because all the points of sail and wind strengths have been traversed since the start, so we’ve been able to see the boats in all the conditions, with even a fair amount of downwind sailing in the breeze, which is relatively rare in this sense,” adds Franck Cammas. However, downwind sailing doesn’t mean an easier race, as Yann Eliès points out: “The weather phenomena have followed on from each other very quickly, and we can see that it’s been tough in all the classes, with a fair number of technical problems and retirements. We’re heading for a record time, but speed comes at a cost.”

After five days at sea, 5 Class40s out of 13 starters and 7 Imoca boats (out of 33) have had to retire, while Clarisse Crémer has put her race on hold. Among the favourites, Charal turned back after 24 hours, following damage to J2’s forestay. As Yann Eliès put it: “It’s heartbreaking because they’re spending a lot of energy, time and money to do something good, but it’s in line with what we’ve seen, which is that the boat is polished and performs well, but some of the reliability basics aren’t guaranteed. It’s going to be hard to find the keys and make the right choices to get back on track for the Vendée Globe.”


Small strategic choices


While the scenario since the start hasn’t given rise to any major options, the sailors have nonetheless had to make some choices, as Jean-Yves Bernot describes: “There have been trade-offs on the first low-pressure centre to the south-west of Ireland between going very far north to benefit from the north-westerly wind afterwards – which is what Charlie (Dalin), Yoann (Richomme) and Yannick (Bestaven) did – and spending less time in it, so going further south – like Paul Meilhat and Nico (Lunven). Those to the north fared a little better.”

He continued: “After that, there was a fast downwind period in which the big guns assumed their status, then a small ridge of high pressure in which everyone was looking for the magic spot, but there weren’t any big differences. And on Thursday, there was a new low-pressure centre to negotiate: if you went too far into the centre, you’d get stuck, and if you didn’t go far enough, you didn’t have a good angle of exit.”

In this game of strategy, Charlie Dalin managed to come out on top, although people were wondering whether he was going to push hard on Macif Santé Prévoyance, given the stakes involved in qualifying for the Vendée Globe. We know Charlie well, and it’s like him to go full steam ahead. What’s more, he’s had a favourable start to the race for his boat, particularly upwind and closed reaching, so he’s done the job well,” notes Corentin Douguet.

Whilst he agrees with the assessment of the Verdier design’s ease upwind and reaching, as well as in light airs, Franck Cammas does note that “she’s less above the pack in these conditions than was Apivia [Dalin’s previous boat, of which the current one is an evolution], which was sometimes untouchable. We can see that on his preferred points of sail, some boats can now match him.”

In the lead for the first four days of the race, Charlie Dalin handed over the reins to Yoann Richomme on Thursday. Firstly, because the sailor from Normandy was surely forced to repair after going off road – a 55-mile gap at the time we were putting the finishing touches to Tip & Shaft. Secondly, because Paprec Arkéa seems to have a plus downwind: “We already saw last year that the Koch-Finot Conq designs have a plus in these conditions,” confirms Corentin Douguet. “Yoann is right where we expect him to be, but it’s still astonishing to see how quickly he has mastered a boat that was unknown to him a year ago,” notes Yann Eliès.


Good points for Davies, Herrmann and Meilhat


Behind this duo, our experts highlight the excellent performance of Sam Davies, who battled with Boris Hermann for third place on Friday afternoon. “Her debut wasn’t very smooth with this boat [the Manuard design launched in 2022], but she’s coming back strongly, she looks happy on the water and she’s making some great trajectories,” commented Corentin Douguet. “I have the impression that Sam is getting her second wind,” added Yann Eliès. “I’d noticed during training that she was shining, and this race confirms it. It would be great to see her on the podium at the finish.” 

To do so, she will no doubt have to put up a good fight against Boris Herrmann who, after a timid start to the race, is coming back strongly, thanks in particular to the downwind power of his VPLP Malizia-Seaexplorer design, which has already been noted in the southern seas in The Ocean Race. “Boris gives the impression of being a diesel, with a slightly long warm-up time, but once he gets going, he really kicks,. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a potential winner of the Vendée Globe, as he has a machine that’s made for this exercise”, continues Eliès. For Franck Cammas, “Malizia is certainly the best boat in big downwind breezes. With her new foils, she’s going to be one of the reference boats around Antarctica next winter.”

Another pleasant surprise for our experts is the good performance of Paul Meilhat on Biotherm, even though he has been losing ground since Friday morning. “We saw him in difficulty during The Ocean Race downwind in a breeze, but we can see that he’s turned a corner. He’s not the most at ease, but he can have fewer complexes than before. He also manoeuvred well, took a good option further south in the fleet and didn’t have any big gaps in his speed, praised Franck Cammas.

As for the daggerboard boats, Benjamin Ferré was doing really well before his damage, he was even keeping pace with the foiling boats”, notes Franck Cammas, whilst the prize of the moment goes to Tanguy Le Turquais, first in this unofficial ranking on Friday. “He’d already shown some great things on Retour à La Base with his comeback, but it was difficult to compare, because he set off after everyone else and didn’t have the same conditions,” comments Yann Eliès. “In any case, this time he’s confirmed this impression and we can see that he’s revealing himself in an exercise which, I think, is made for him, more so than the Figaro, which was more of a compulsory passage.”


Three-way match in Class40


What’s next for the Imoca boats? “They should have more or less established downwind conditions until 400 miles from the finish, after which there is more uncertainty,” analyses Corentin Douguet. “There will at least be a transition between the NE’ly wind which will be with them until Sunday and a light SW’ly, which probably won’t last very long. Will they manage to keep it until the finish [Monday or Tuesday] or will they have to manage another transition? One thing’s for sure, there’s still a lot of work to be done!

In the Class40s, the battle is raging this Friday between the three leading skippers, Ian Lipinski, Fabien Delahaye and Ambrogio Beccaria, who are all within 10 miles of each other. Is Ian Lipinski’s performance on the first scow to be launched (summer 2019), and therefore older than those of his rivals, a surprise? “I thought he would be a little more struggling at the start of the race, but he kept the pace in the conditions in which his boat is reputed to be less at ease,” replies Yann Eliès. “That’s where you can see that the skipper really manages to make a difference, he puts in a lot of commitment.”

Corentin Douguet added: “Crédit Mutuel remains a versatile boat that Ian knows like the back of his hand, so he’s really getting the most out of it. And frankly, the fleet is fairly homogenous. Over the past two or three years, every model of scow has won a race.” And when asked about the scenario leading up to New York, he confides: “They’re going to have some strong downwind sailing all weekend with some very bumpy seas. They have to manage not to get unstuck, not to break and to keep their eyes on the holes, because the rest is going to be very uncertain with a succession of small systems that are moving quite quickly”.

The verdict will be in by the end of next week.

Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Tip & Shaft est le média
expert de la voile de compétition

Course au large

Tip & Shaft décrypte la voile de compétition chaque vendredi, par email :

  • Des articles de fond et des enquêtes exclusives
  • Des interviews en profondeur
  • La rubrique Mercato : l’actu business de la semaine
  • Les résultats complets des courses
  • Des liens vers les meilleurs articles de la presse française et étrangère
* champs obligatoires

🇬🇧 Want to join the international version? Click here 🇬🇧