The latest race news from the race
The key new feature in this Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre 2021 version has to be the new finish venue: Fort-de-France in Martinique. What are the competitive implications of this major change? How is the course expected to differ?
The game changer is that the classes will have different courses and different distances to race before they make landfall in Fort-de-France. The start of the course will be identical for all. Next, each class will have a different mark to round and we’ve chosen islands throughout the Atlantic: the archipelago of Trindade and Martim Vaz, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, for the Ultims, Fernando de Noronha, another Brazilian archipelago, for the Ocean Fiftys and Imocas, and finally Cape Verde for the Class40s. These three courses will enable all the classes to enjoy a great celebration, together, in Martinique.
But you’ve chosen to retain certain key historical markers. Which elements will be renewed from the previous course?
We’ve sought to preserve the sporting history of the Coffee Route. The first way to achieve this has been by ensuring the race continues to set sail from Le Havre, in Normandy. The whole of the first part of the course remains identical: the passage through the English Channel, which is the first hurdle; then the Bay of Biscay, which everyone has to brave and isn’t always easy to tackle in November; before slipping southwards towards the equator.
The three courses will merge again in the final sprint. How will the finish in Martinique play out in practice?
We’ll make landfall via the south of Martinique, passing very close to the fabulous Diamond Rock, before arriving in Fort-de-France Bay. The exceptional aspect: the line will be set close to the port, and the public will have the chance to admire the boats racing across the finish line. Indeed, what’s extraordinary in this bay is that you can practically race up to the dock under sail. This is unprecedented when you compare it to other destinations.
A promising course then. Is this also true of the expected line-up?
Yes, both in terms of number and quality. New boats will have been built in all the classes. The Ultims will be back in play with some boats due to make their major race debuts. The Imocas will return from the Vendée Globe with a lot of lessons learned, together with a series of refits and intermediate races, so they’ll be especially honed. Among the Ocean Fiftys, a great deal of energy has been expended by the class to have a solid turnout, including some new additions to the fleet. The smallest, but certainly not the least dynamic group will comprise the Class40s, with a host of new projects, which always combine professionals and amateurs. Some incredible battles are on the cards then, in all the classes, so it will be game on across the board.