The Transat CIC

Who will win The Transat CIC?

33 Imoca boats, 13 Class40s (and 2 “Vintage” boats) set off on Sunday at 1:30pm on The Transat CIC, the solo race between Lorient and New York. To analyse the forces at play in this 15th edition, Tip & Shaft polled several experts: skippers Sam GoodchildBenjamin DutreuxChristopher Pratt and Yann Eliès, the presidents of the Imoca and Class40 classes, Antoine Mermod and Cédric de Kervenoael.

“This historic race is a technical challenge that requires meticulous preparation by the teams, as it’s the first transatlantic race of the season. It’s also a sporting challenge because it’s 10-12 intense days, with quite a few fronts and storms.”  This is how Antoine Mermod presents The Transat CIC, which offers a demanding course of 3,000 miles in the opposite direction to the circulation of the lows.

“However, it’s not hard to imagine that with today’s foilers, the race will be a little different and less upwind,” says Yann Eliès. “Its quite possible that some of them will deviate from the direct route, either going very far south to seek out the trade winds or slightly lighter winds, or taking a very committed route to the north to try and get around the lows.”

Prior to this first big gallop across the North Atlantic, a first training session between some fifteen Imoca boats took place in Port-la-Forêt at the beginning of April. And according to Yann Eliès, who was there as trainer for the Finistère Course au Large training center, all those with new foils, like CharalTeamwork-Team SnefMacifInitiatives Coeur and Maliziamade enormous progress upwind. I had the feeling that the fleet had homogenized. Teamwork-Team Snef in particular has made big gains, as has Initiatives Coeur, which I haven’t seen sailing so fast upwind for a while.” 


Advantage for Macif Groupe Prévoyance


When it comes to making predictions, according to Antoine Mermod, there are “at least a dozen sailors who are strong enough to be on the podium”, but it’s Charlie Dalin (Macif Santé Prévoyance) who our experts see as the frontrunner“During the training session, we felt he was very diligent, very happy to be back on his boat and racing,” continues Yann Eliès. “You can tell he’s keen to make up for the two transatlantic races he missed out on last year [he was forced to give them up due to a medical problem, editor’s note]. He’s hungry for a fight and he’s got the right boat for it, upwind.” The Verdier design seems “quite versatile, even very fast,” adds Sam Goodchild, who will be sailing to New York on a delivery trip to race in the New-York Vendée. “But it’s perhaps a little less suited to rough seas than the Finot-Koch designs.”

The main difficulty for Charlie Dalin “will be to find the right balance between competition and reason in order to finish this transatlantic race, as he is not yet free of all qualifying constraints for the Vendée Globe”, points out Yann Eliès. Sam Goodchild, however, doesn’t see him “lifting his foot and sailing in any other way than his own”. The latter also wonders how Macif Santé Prévoyance will perform in rough conditions, as we haven’t seen her in such a context yet, apart from at the start of the Fastnet, but that only lasted 12 hours”. Which leads Yann Eliès to say that the Verdier plan may have “a slight lack of experience and reliability compared to what the other racers have been able to validate over the year 2023.”

And in particular in relation to Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa)winner of Retour à la Base and 2nd in the Transat Jacques Vabre, placed on the second step of the podium by our experts. “He’s more relaxed than Charlie on the subject of Vendée Globe qualification,” notes Christopher Pratt. For Sam Goodchild, the format of The Transat CIC should also suit Paprec Arkea well, because the shape of her hull is more suited than others in heavy seasand when the wind starts to pick up, her foils are very strong upwind and reaching.” “Yoann is the right man at the moment,” adds Yann Eliès, even though he “won’t have his new foils until next June, which will certainly be a slight disadvantage.”


“Charal is one of the most
competitive upwind”


For our experts, Jérémie Beyou (Charal), 2nd on Retour à la Base on his Manuard design, is right on the heels of the top two. “Charal is one of the most competitive upwind,” comments Christopher Pratt. “Her hull has a little less rocker than the others and is also a little narrower. And the team has worked very well on the sails and drag, so it really has a bit more upwind.” His weak point? “I think they got a bit lost in the details,” replies Yann Eliès. “Last year, they weren’t able to do what was essential, i.e. finish a race with a boat with integrity, since they broke the J3 on the Fastnet and tore the large gennaker on the Jacques Vabre.”

A number of competitors will be hot on the heels of this leading trio, such as Justine Mettraux on her VPLP Teamwork-Team Snef, “which works quite well upwind, but up until now has suffered from the age of its foils,” stresses Christopher Pratt. “The new pair should give the boat a real boost.” Benjamin Dutreux, who will be racing only the New-York Vendée, emphasizes the Swiss yachtswoman’s audacity: “She’s strong enough to take routes that aren’t easy, as was the case in the Transat Jacques Vabre (which she finished 6th), where she took a great northerly option.” For Dutreux, the tough weather conditions the skippers are likely to encounter mean that it can advantage “a boat whose reliability we can be sure of. And I think that Boris Hermann (Malizia-Seaexplorer), who did The Ocean Race, can have that confidence in his boat. And he’s someone who knows where to place the cursor between attacking and staying calm.”

Also mentioned were Nicolas LunvenPaul MeilhatSamantha DaviesLouis Burton, Yannick Bestaven and Damien Seguin, “who was sailing very fast upwind last year before he broke his boom in the Transat Jacques Vabre”, notes Benjamin DutreuxChristopher Pratt agrees: “Even though his boat is older, he has a generation of foils that work well. And when it comes to solo sailing, Damien is a really solid, hard-nosed guy.”


Class40: Italians take the lead


On our experts’ podium, it’s unquestionably Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grande Pirelli), winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre, who holds first place in Class40. “He really pushes his boat forwardwith him it’s make or break,” stresses Class40 president Cédric De Kervenoael, before adding that he has “a very well-built and versatile Guelfi design.” Behind him, another Italian skipper is considered by our experts to be a candidate for victory, Alberto Bona, on the Mach 40.5 IBSA“He was already pretty good in the Figaro class, but now I have the impression that he’s found his series and the exercise in which he’s comfortable”, stresses Yann Eliès.

Behind the two Italians is Fabien Delahaye (Legallais), who, according to Christopher Pratt, can prove “very strong on a solo exercise”, and who is racing on a Lift V2 that goes very well upwind“, adds Yann Eliès. Good outsiders include Axel Tréhin (Project Rescue Ocean) and Ian Lipinski (Crédit Mutuel), even if “their Raison designs are likely to penalize them, as they are less suited to upwind sailing”, according to the same Yann Eliès. He adds that “for the Class40s, there’s going to be a big reliability issue, as the scows are very much oriented towards reaching and downwind sailing, so upwind, there are big constraints on the structure. So it may also come down to elimination.” Finally, our experts will be keeping a close eye on the performance of Vincent Riou (Pierreval-Fondation Good Planète), who arrives on the circuit with a Pogo S4 that he has customized with a trimer on the keel and a single rudder.

Last minute: Jean Le Cam’s team announced on Friday that the skipper of Tout Commence en Finistère-Armor Lux would take the start of The Transat CIC (a necessary condition to validate his qualification for the Vendée Globe) but would not make it to New York, “forced to stay ashore, for serious health reasons of one of his family members.”

Photo: Erwan Tabarly / Pôle Finistère Course au Large

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