It's THE event of the year 2023, the one that the entire IMOCA fleet has ticked off in its diary for this double-handed season. Like their 39 competitors, Justine and Julien have convoyed Teamwork to Le Havre, where the start of the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre will be given on Sunday October 29: 5400 miles await them via the Doldrums before reaching Fort de France. A demanding and comprehensive course for which the Jujus have prepared perfectly, and which they are approaching with great serenity.
We left the Jujus in Lorient yesterday, and now they're already in Le Havre, where they moored Teamwork in the Paul Vatine basin on Monday. After their fine sixth-place finish in the Défi Azimut Lorient Agglomération, with a batch of newer IMOCAs in their wake after a faultless race, Justine and Julien attended a final training course at the Pôle Finistère Course au large in Port La Forêt. Teamwork was then taken out of the water to check the hull and appendages, and it was already time to find the right weather window to reach Le Havre. "We did the delivery trip in very good conditions, with Simone Gaeta our boat captain and Tanguy Brodu the team's electronics engineer. We're happy to have done it ahead of schedule," said Justine last night, visibly "happy to be back in Le Havre, a port where I have good memories of Routes du Café as well as Figaro racing. I really like the atmosphere at Les Docks, with the public always concerned and welcoming".
This will be the third Transat Jacques Vabre for the Swiss yachtswoman, who finished fourth in 2017 in the Class40 class. The first for Julien Villion, who "wants to make the most of these ten days in Le Havre, which mark the end of a very fine season. It's been a busy year, but the work accomplished by the whole team has given us a lot of peace of mind," says the co-skipper as he takes delivery of the apartment just behind the docks, which will be Teamwork's base camp for ten days. "For us, this formula is better than the hotel, not least because Justine's brother-in-law, who is a fine gourmet, takes care of the housekeeping!" smiles Julien." It allows us to shorten all the waiting times, so we can concentrate more on the race".
The ten days leading up to the start of the race will be divided into three phases: from Friday 20th, the opening day of the race village, to Sunday in Le Havre, to deal with the final safety checks and media obligations. From the following Monday to Wednesday evening, the Jujus will return home to Lorient, far from the hustle and bustle of the docks, to come back on Thursday and start thinking about the weather and the start on Sunday October 29. "It's still too far to look, but the boat is ready and the first weekend will be one of relaxation..." says Justine.
The equivalent of two transatlantic
No stress, then! It's time to study the first routings next Thursday, in the company of Team Charal, with whom Teamwork shares the expertise of router Marcel Van Triest. If the models allow us to project ourselves quite far ahead, the focus will of course be on the exit from the English Channel and the first sequences in the Bay of Biscay and the near Atlantic. "What's special about the Route du Café is that the coastal section is quite long. And it determines the timing when the systems meet in the Atlantic, so you have to be in the thick of things right from the start," predicts Julien.
After two very short events this year (Rolex Fastnet Race and Défi Azimut), it's time for the long haul, as sailors become one with the machine and their environment, on this extended 5400-mile transatlantic race, almost double the distance of a classic crossing, which promises two weeks at sea for the duo. "We're two fairly consistent characters, and I'm not at all afraid of that aspect," says Julien, for whom this will be the first transatlantic race alongside Justine.
The exchange of information will be an essential part of the performance, particularly on strategic aspects for the tandem, which is not routed once it crosses the start line (only multihulls are entitled to this). A series of phenomena can in fact represent a series of level crossings or settlements in the fleet. This is the case for the Atlantic disturbances if the situation is low-pressure at the start, for the entry into the trade winds, but also for the two passages through the Doldrums, as the IMOCA boats have to round the archipelago of Sao Paolo and Sao Pedro in the South Atlantic. A high-risk detour before returning to the northern hemisphere and heading for the West Indies along the northern coast of South America. We had a weather day with Jean-Yves Bernot in Port La Forêt," says Justine, "and it's true that when I got out, I thought there was a lot of information and phenomena to master. This course is really like no other.
The first IMOCA boats should reach Fort de France at the same time as the other three classes taking part in the race, each following a course calibrated according to the theoretical performance of the boats. In addition to this original feature of the double-handed transatlantic race, this year's start will be sequenced every quarter of an hour, so that each class can benefit from good media visibility. The start of the IMOCA class is scheduled for Sunday, October 29, at 1:29 p.m. sharp. Set your watches!