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The history of the Transat Jacques Vabre

The history of the Transat Jacques Vabre

In its 26 years of existence, the biannual Transat Jacques Vabre has managed to establish itself as the toughest and longest-running two-handed transat. The race is equally revered by the sailors and an enthralled public, reaffirming its relevance and the investment of its partners with each edition. The original concept is simple: the source of this great race is an historical route: the coffee route. It is an event with an expert mix of tastes, vintages, aromas and characters.

1993: The creation of a great race

Le Havre - Cartagena (Colombia)

Le Havre, the ultimate coffee port, was transformed into the start for the first transat with a coffee flavour: 1993 saw the birth of this new oceanic event for solo skippers racing from Cartagena in Colombia. On October 31, 13 soloists on 8 monohulls and 5 multihulls were on the starting line of this first edition of the coffee route.

In the multihulls, after a difficult start, Paul Vatine and Laurent Bourgnon began an incredible duel in blistering trade winds. Vatine, the Normandy skipper, came out on top after 16 days and 46 minutes, even though he finished an hour and 17 minutes behind! The explanation lies in the fact that Vatine, the victim of a collision with a support RIB, benefitted from a time bonus of nine hours and ten minutes.

In the monohulls, Yves Parlier negotiated the Azores High pressure system perfectly, handled the high pressure zones coming from the south deftly and left his rivals far behind. He won this first edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre in 18 days 23 hours and 38 minutes.


Monohull 60: Cacolac d’Aquitaine- Yves Parlier (18d 23h 38min)

Multihull 60: Haute Normandie - Paul Vatine (16d 00h 46min)

1995: A double espresso

Le Havre - Cartagena (Colombia)

1995 was the edition when one became two, as the race went double-handed with eleven starters: 6 monohulls and 5 multihulls, for a crossing of the Atlantic, which connected Le Havre with Cartagena in Colombia for the second time.

The weather conditions were favourable, as just over two weeks later, Paul Vatine again put his name at top of the list, this time accompanied by Roland Jourdain.

In the monohulls, the Jean Maurel - Fred Dahirel duo dominated the fleet, finishing more than a day ahead of Jean-Yves Hasselin - Hervé Besson in Colombia. 


Monohull 60: Côtes d’Or- Jean Maurel & Frédéric Dahirel (21d 08h 40min)

Multihull 60: Région Haute Normandie : Paul Vatine & Roland Jourdain (14d 12h 25min)

1997: A full-flavoured edition

Le Havre - Cartagena (Colombia)

36 sailors answered the call for this third edition. 18 boats were at the start: 6 ORMA multihulls, 8 IMOCA monohulls, 2 50-foot multihulls and 2 50-foot monohulls.

In the ORMA multihulls, the brothers Bourgnon, Laurent and Yvan, went it alone and finished the race more than a day ahead of the Vatine-Nélias duo. Likewise, Yves Parlier, who was joined by Eric Tabarly, in the IMOCA. They finished well ahead of the Thiercelin-Wavre duo in the overall standings.

On the 50-footers, Hervé Cléris and Ronan Delacou won in the multihulls; Pete Goss and Raphaël Dinelli, in the monohulls.


Monohull 50: BMW Performances- Pete Goss & Raphaël Dinelli (24d 09h 00min)

Multihull 50: Climat de France- Hervé Cléris & Ronan Delacou (29d 17h 15min)

Monohull 60: Aquitaine Innovations- Yves Parlier & Eric Tabarly (19d 23h 19min)

Multihull 60: Primagaz- Laurent Bourgnon & Yvan Bourgnon (14d 07h 37min)

1999: A bitter taste

Le Havre - Cartagena (Colombia)

This Transat Jacques Vabre saw a delays start for the 20 boats: 8 ORMA multihulls, 10 IMOCA monohulls and 2 50-foot monohulls. The monohulls had to sail nearly 4,500 miles, while the multihulls had to cover more than 5,500 miles. A formidable storm would  unfortunately meet them and be responsible for the tragic disappearance of Paul Vatine.

In the ORMA multihulls, Loïck Peyron and Franck Proffit were the first to round the mandatory waypoint at Barbados. The duo would never be caught.

In IMOCA monohulls, Catherine Chabaud and Luc Bartissol were leading throughout the race, but were forced to make a technical stopover to recover a spinnaker. Thus, Thomas Coville and Hervé Jan crossed the line first in Cartagena.

In the 50-foot monohulls, the duo of Emma Richards and Miranda Merron took line honours. 


Multihull 50: Pindar- Emma Richards & Miranda Merron (25d 07h 54min)

Monohull 60: Sodebo- Thomas Coville & Hervé Jan (19d 17h 31min)

Multihull 60: Fujicolor- Loïck Peyron & Franck Proffit (15d 02h 08min)

2001: A (long) drawn espresso

Le Havre - Salvador de Bahia (Brazil)

Colombia gave way to Brazil, Salvador de Bahia replaced Cartagena. And so, it became necessary to cross the Doldrums to arrive “chilled out” in the Southern Hemisphere. The 12 IMOCA monohulls and 7 50-ft monohulls took a direct route, while the 14 ORMA multihulls were required to deal withthe Ascension Island.

The ORMA trimarans benefited from favourable weather conditions; the duo of Franck Cammas - Stève Ravussin blew the speedometer to arrive in the Brazilian port three and a half hours ahead of Alain Gautier and Ellen MacArthur.

In the IMOCA monohulls, the duos did not have a course mark to round and they quickly descended towards Brazil. Roland Jourdain and Gaël Le Cléac'h were crowned victors in Salvador with five hours margin over Mike Golding and Marcus Hutchinson.

In the 50-foot monohulls, the British duo of Alex Bennet and Paul Larsen were the winners.


Monohull 50: One Dream One Mission- Alex Bennet & Paul Larsen (18d 16h 34min)

Monohull 60: Sill Plein Fruit- Roland Jourdain & Gael Le Cléac'h (16d 13h 23min)

Multihull 60: Groupama - Franck Cammas & Steve Ravussin (14d 09h 03min)

2003: A strong coffee

Le Havre - Salvador de Bahia (Brazil)

38 boats were moored in the Bassin Paul Vatine: 14 ORMA multihulls, 17 IMOCA monohulls, 5 50-foot monohulls and 2 50-foot multihulls. The departure of the multihulls was delayed: a gale prevented them from launching the day after the cannon fired to send the monohulls on their way. They left four days later and no longer had to round Ascension Island. So, it was direct route for everyone.

In the IMOCA monohulls, the duo of Jean-Pierre Dick-Nicolas Abiven emerged at the head of fleet from the Doldrums and made a successful break, while the race for second place was fiercely disputed by Jourdain-Thomson and Golding-Thompson, who were separated at the finish in Salvador de Bahia by just 19 minutes.

As for the ORMA trimarans, they made their descent in a hurry and Franck Cammas, partnering with Franck Proffit this time, did the double by winning with more than an hour margin on Jean-Luc Nélias and Loïck Peyron.

In the 50-footers, the British duos of Conrad Humphreys - Paul Larsen and Rob Hobson - Alex Newman won the monohull and multihull classes respectively.


Monohull 50: Hellomoto- Conrad Humphreys & Paul Larsen (22d 06h 21min)

Multihull 50: Mollymawk- Rob Hobson - Alex Newman (27d 15h 58 min)

Monohull 60: Virbac - Jean-Pierre Dick and Nicolas Abiven (17d 15h 18min)

Multihull 60: Groupama - Franck Cammas & Franck Proffit (11d 23h 10min)

2005: A vintage Robusta

Le Havre - Salvador de Bahia (Brazil)

This edition saw 10 ORMA multihulls, 12 IMOCA monohulls, 6 50-foot monohulls and 7 50-foot multihulls on the start line.

2005 will be remembered as one of the hardest in the history of the Transat Jacques Vabre: a large depression swept across the fleet in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. 10 boats abandoned.

In the ORMA multihulls, Pascal Bidégorry and Lionel Lemonchois finished like rockets after two weeks at sea, three hours ahead of Fred Le Peutrec and Yann Guichard.

In the monohulls, Jean-Pierre Dick with Loïck Peyron were unflappable despite the pressure of the Roland Jourdain - Ellen MacArthur duo, who finished only half an hour behind them!

On their new 50ft trimaran, the Escoffier father and son combination rose above it all by completing the course in just over 12 days.

In the 50ft monohulls, Joe Harris and Josh Hall were first across the line.


Monohull 50: Gryphon Solo- Joe Harris & Josh Hall (19d 09h 05min)

Multihull 50: Crêpes Whaou!- Franck-Yves Escoffier & Kevin Escoffier (12d 06h 13min)

Monohull 60: Virbac - Paprec- Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron (13d 09h 19min)

Multihull 60: Banque Populaire- Pascal Bidégorry & Lionel Lemonchois (14d 01h 46min)

2007: A spicy aroma

Le Havre - Salvador de Bahia (Brazil)

The Transat Jacques Vabre opened up to the new class of 40ft monohulls that brought 30 starters. The IMOCA monohulls arrived in force with 17 crews; 8 50ft multihulls and 5 ORMA multihulls completed the fleet. That made a record of 60 boats on the start line.

In the Class40, the competition was intense for the Italian duo of Giovanni Soldini-Pietro d'Ali, who sailed a faultless race to finish ahead of Dominic Vittet and Thierry Chabagny.

Franck-Yves Escoffier won again, this time with Karine Fauconnier, in the Multi50.

In the IMOCA, Michel Dejoyeaux, partnered by Manu Le Borgne, took line honours in Salvador de Bahia after being chased by Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier, who arrived just three-quarters of an hour behind them. It was a fiercely fought race with no fewer than sevensuccessive leaders.

Franck Cammas wrapped up his third victory on the Transat Jacques Vabre, back in the company of Stève Ravussin, with a ten-day crossing.


Monohull 40: Telecom Italia- Giovanni Soldini & Pietro D'Ali (22d 13h 02min)

Multihull 50: Crêpes Whaou!- Franck-Yves Escoffier & Karine Fauconnier (15d 22h 27min)

Monohull 60: Foncia- Michel Desjoyeaux and Emmanuel Le Borgne (17d 02h 37min)

Multihull 60: Groupama- Franck Cammas & Steve Ravussin (10d 00h 38min)

2009: An astringent flavour

Le Havre - Puerto Limon (Costa Rica)

Brazil made way for Costa Rica, meaning there were no more Doldrums to cross. It was replaced by the Caribbean Sea. Six 50-foot multihulls and fourteen IMOCA monohulls were at the start

The new course was very attractive and very elitist, especially after a huge depression settled down across the direct route in the middle of the Atlantic! The storm divided the IMOCA fleet into two; those who made it round to the other side without breaking anything lead on to the West Indies,with Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier at the front until Puerto Limon.

In the Multi50, Franck-Yves Escoffier, this time with Erwan Le Roux as a teammate, won the battle in the Caribbean Sea.


Multihull 50: Whaou Crêpes!- Franck-Yves Escoffier & Erwan Le Roux (15d 15h 31min)

Monohull 60: Safran- Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier (15d 19h 22min)

2011: A coffee shake

Le Havre - Puerto Limon (Costa Rica)

The start was postponed by 74 hours as the Channel was very rough. 14 Class40, 6 Multi50 and 13 IMOCA started.

Three successive depressions thinned the ranks of the three classes, with 15 abandonments. The monohulls (Class40 and IMOCA) headed straight to Costa Rica, while the Multi50s were required to round St. Barts and Barbados.

There was a great contest in Class40, Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet got away quickly and just over three weeks after leaving Le Havre, Puerto Limon welcomed them as winners.

Only two Multi50s arrived safely, with Yves Le Blévec and the yacht designer, Sam Manuard, coming out on top.

In the IMOCA, the boats that took the northern route came out ahead and Jean-Pierre Dick scored another victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre, this time with Jérémie Beyou as a teammate, in just over two weeks.


Monohull 40: Yannick Bestaven & Eric Drouglazet (21d 17h 59min)

Multihull 50: Actual- Yves Le Blévec & Samuel Manuard (17d 17h 07min)

Monohull 60: Virbac - Paprec 3- Jean-Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou (15d 18h 15min)

2013: The Brazilian notes

Le Havre - Itajaí (Brazil)

Gales followed storms in the middle of autumn in the Channel and particularly in the Bay of Biscay. The start was delayed for everyone, and then there was temporary stopover in Roscoff for the Class40. 26 Class40, 6 Multi50, 10 IMOCA and 2 Mod70 were on the start line for a new destination: Itajaí (Brazil).

Though the crossing Channel remained manageable, a new depression produced a storm-tossed sea off Cape Finisterre. The Class40 made a pit-stop in the bay of Morlaix.

The Class40s racked up some incredible average speeds. Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye won the race, followed by Spaniards Alex Pella and Pablo Santurde and the Franco-German duo of Jörg Riechers and Pierre Brasseur respectively.

In the Multi50, the pairing of Le Roux-Éliès established a lead, but only actually broke away in the bay of Rio.

In the IMOCA, Vincent Riou with Jean Le Cam won in Brazil, crossing the line four hours ahead of Marc Guillemot and Pascal Bidégorry.

In Mod70, the Josse-Caudrelier duo took just eleven days to arrive in Itajaí, five hours ahead of Gavignet-Foxall.


Monohull 40: GDF SUEZ- Sébastien Rogues & Fabien Delahaye (20d 21h 41min)

Multihull 50: FenêtréA Cardinal - Erwan Le Roux & Yann Eliès (14d 17h 40min)

Monohull 60: PRB- Vincent Riou & Jean Le Cam (17d 00h 41min)

Mod70: Edmond de Rothschild- Sébastien Josse & Charles Caudrelier (11d 05h 03min)

2015: A full-bodied edition

Le Havre - Itajaí (Brazil)


42 duos took off from Le Havre on Sunday, October 25 heading for the Brazilian port, Itajaí: 14 Class40, 4 Multi50, 20 IMOCA and 4 Ultimes.

The weather conditions were hard, even brutal, for the majority of the fleet.

In the Class40, the identity of the victor was uncertain until the finish line. Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur were in the lead at the entrance to the Doldrums, but were caught up by their pursuers. It took all of the duo’s battling instincts to keep barely two hours ahead of Maxime Sorel and Samuel Manuard at the finish.

In the Multi50, Erwan Le Roux and Giancarlo Pedote led them into Itajaí, the skipper notching up his third victory with the same boat in the Transat Jacques Vabre.

The IMOCA saw the arrival of foils. Armel Le Cléac'h and Erwan Tabarly took command in the trade winds, but the Doldrums shuffled the pack. Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col were the first to emerge from the old sailors’ trap and held off their rivals’ comeback all the way to the finish. For Riou it was his second consecutive victory.

In the Ultime class, the race turned into a duel between François Gabart - Pascal Bidégorry and Thomas Coville - Jean-Luc Nélias. The gap between them remained almost the same all the way to the finish in Itajaí, in favour of the Gabart-Bidégorry duo.


Monohull 40: Le Conservateur- Yannick Bestaven & Pierre Brasseur (24d 8h 10min)

Multihull 50: FenêtréA Prysmian- Erwan Le Roux & Giancarlo Pedote (16d 22h 29min)

Monohull 60: PRB- Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col (17d 00h 22min)

Ultime: Macif - François Gabart and Pascal Bidégorry (12d 17h 19min)

2017: The grand crew 

Four record-breaking fleets raced to a finish returning to Salavador de Bahia, Brazil. Before the start in Le Havre they all said the 13thedition would be the fastest Transat Jacques Vabre ever – and they were right. The drama started early; the huge Ultime Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was, at 23 metres, 50cm to wide to get into Bassin Paul Vatine with the other boats. The decision by Sodebo Ultim’ to position themselves further west towards the South Atlantic paid out in stunning fashion as they turned a 70-mile deficit into a 60 mile lead.

Arkema’s win struck another blow for the underdog in the 50ft multihull class – the Multi50 had foils for the first time - as they beat the favourites, FenêtréA-Mix Buffet. The Multi50 fleet, with foils for the first time, had looked more competitive than ever in Le Havre. It was ninth-time lucky for the 53-year-old Lalou Roucayrol. His co-skipper, Karine Fauconnier, was injured three months before the start and Spaniard Alex Pella stepped up in stunning fashion. Behind them Eric Defert and Christopher Pratt were rescued on Thursday morning by crew from the Dutch cargo ship, Beautriton after Drekan Groupe capsized380 miles from the island of Terceira (Azores).

The IMOCA was the cleanest cut, with Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès on St Michel – Virbac, the heavy favourites at the start in Le Havre, making no serious mistakes in 13 days of racing. They were helped by the fact that the skippers on the other latest-generation foilers were still getting to grips with their new beasts.

The Class40 saved the best until last. In one of the closest finishes in Transat Jacques history, Maxime Sorel and Antoine Carpentier on V and B, claimed victory after their match race down the coast of Brazil. Aymeric Chappellier and Arthur Le VaillantonAïna Enfance and Avenir arrived second in the Bay of All Saints, just 17 and 42 seconds behind. After over 4,500 miles of crossing the Atlantic, Phil Sharp (Britain) and Pablo Santurde (Spain) on Imerys Clean Energy were only 35 miles behind in third on an older generation Manuard design. 


Monoull 40: V and B  – Maxime Sorel and Antoine Carpentier (17 days 10 hours 44 minutes and 15 seconds)

Multihull 50: Arkema– Lalou Roucayrol (France) and Alex Pella (Spain) (10 days 19 hours 14 minutes and 19 seconds)

Monohull 60: St Michel-Virbac – Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès (13 days 7 hours 36 minutes and 46 seconds)

Ultime: Sodebo Ultim’– Thomas Colville and Jean-Luc Nélias (7 days 22 hours 7 minutes and 27 seconds)