The latest race news from the race

4 classes on the water, 3 different courses

4 classes on the water, 3 different courses

The race will set sail off Sainte-Adresse, to the north-west of  Le Havre. One to two hours later, the fleet is expected to  reach the Etretat mark, celebrated as the perfect vantage  point for spectators. Indeed, the Transat Jacques Vabre  Normandie Le Havre always kicks off with a show sequence  before heading offshore. 

The first section of the course involves a common-core  syllabus for all the different classes. This will start with the  exit from the English Channel, either by hunting down a  trajectory along the English coast or skirting the Cotentin  peninsula, according to the weather conditions. In the  English Channel and at the north-west tip of Brittany, the  skippers will have to be on their guard against the  abundance of shipping. 

Next up will be the negotiation of the Bay of Biscay, which  can sometimes be a theatre for quite potent gales in  November. Once around Cape Finisterre, the sailors will  drop down the North Atlantic in a bid to hook onto the trade  wind. It’s here, to the south of the Canaries, that the three  courses will part ways. 

The Ocean Fiftys and Imocas will both set a course towards  the Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, in a  nod to the race’s historical destination. The complete circuit  equates to 5,800 miles. These boats will cross the equator  twice over, which translates as two passages through the  doldrums, though the second, further out to the west, should  be less hazardous. The Ocean Fiftys are expected to be first into  Fort-de-France after 12 to 15 days at sea. Meantime, the  Imocas could take 14 to 17 days.

The course adopted by the Class40s will be shorter in  distance at 4,600 miles. They’ll have to leave the island of  Sal to starboard, at Cape Verde, before powering eastwards  to Martinique. They won’t have to negotiate the doldrums or  the equator so the Class 40 circuit should be completed in  17 to 22 days. 

Finally, the course for the Ultims, the fastest boats on the  circuit, is inevitably the longest: 7500 miles. The  designated waypoint rounding is another Brazilian  archipelago, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro : Trindade and  Martim Vaz. Here too, the crews must double up on their  passages across the equator and through the doldrums.  They are estimated to finish after 16 to 17 days.