A highly instructive Transat Jacques Vabre

A highly instructive Transat Jacques Vabre
Marc Guillemot, skipper of Safran, IMOCA World Champion 2009

This Transat Jacques Vabre, which culminated in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, with the arrival of Sam Davies and Sydney Gavignet aboard Artemis II, saw victory go to the duo Mar c Guillemot – Charles Caudrelier (Safran), thus enabling Marc Guillemot to pocket the IMOCA World Champion 2009 title.

Prior to the start in Le Havre, it was Armel Le Cléac’h (Britair) who stood the best chance of winning ahead of Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) and Marc Guillemot (Safran). However, with the skipper of Britair suddenly forced to retire from the race, Marc Guillemot (Safran) could only snatch championship victory if he finished at least two clear places in front of Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia). Fortunately for Marc Guillemot, the very fine second and third places that went to Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel) and Mike Golding (Mike Golding Yacht Racing), deprived the double Vendée Globe winner of the 2009 title. Indeed this particularly lively 2009 edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre initially saw the supremacy of the two sisterships, Safran and Groupe Bel, contested by crews who were especially at ease in the breezy conditions, namely Roland Jourdain – Jean-Luc Nélias (Veolia Environnement) as well as Sébastien Josse – Jean-François Cuzon (BT). However, once the storm had passed, the two leading boats really stole a march on their pursuers. This unquestionable speed potential combined with weather phenomena which favoured progress at the front of the pack, explain the considerable separation between the fleet at the finish.

Another big lesson learnt during this race was that, when faced with some particularly difficult conditions, the IMOCA fleet handled themselves very well. Aside from the incident that affected BT, the other retirements weren’t related to the boats’ overall integrity: Britair retired after its mainsail track became detached, DCNS due to concerns with the keel pivot joint and Hugo Boss following a collision with a UFO, which didn’t stop Alex Thomson and Ross Daniel bringing the boat safely into port in the Azores with the wind and sea conditions against them. As regards the incident suffered by BT, it has to be admitted that, even when full of water, BT was able to be towed to the port of Terceira in what were some especially difficult sea conditions. As such, the latter once again proves the validity of the class rules, which stipulate that the boats must be unsinkable.

Finally, the IMOCA 2009 ranking sees victory go to a Champion whose human qualities no longer need to be proven, but for whom a big win in a classic race has been lacking for some time. This record has now been set straight in grand style, because in addition to this great victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre, Marc Guillemot (Safran) has also won the World Championship title into the bargain, crowning off what has been an exceptional season.
Ultimately ranking 3 points ahead of her French rival, the battle between Dee Caffari (Aviva) and Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) went all the way to the wire in Puerto Limon, and they are flanked in the general ranking by th eir Transat Jacques Vabre co-skippers, Vincent Riou and Brian Thompson.

IMOCA 2009 Ranking
1 Marc Guillemot (Safran) 362 pts
2 Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) 357 pts
3 Armel Le Cléac’h (Britair) 338 pts
4 Sam Davies (Artemis II) 321 pts
5 Vincent Riou (PRB) 304 pts
6 Dee Caffari (Aviva) 295 pts
7 Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) 292 pts
8 Brian Thompson (Brian Thomson Racing) 281 pts
9 Steve White (Spirit of Weymouth) 250 pts
10 Richard Wilson (Great American III) 220 pts