Transat Ecover B to B: they’re off!
The Transat ‘Ecover B to B', "from Bahia to Brittany". At 14:00 UTC, the five solo sailors were released into All Saints' Bay, under a cloudy, stormy sky in a very light 7 knot S'ly breeze. On the line, it was Gitana Eighty (Loïc Peyron) who was the quickest off the mark, immediately followed by Safran skippered by Marc Guillemot, on port tack at the mark, ahead of Generali skippered by Yann Eliès.
The fifteen solo sailors participating in this brand new single-handed transatlantic race, a qualifier for the Vendée Globe, must first complete the requirements of a small course around the bay (a single mark to round, 5 nautical miles from the line), prior to having to attack the 4,200 mile free course bound for Port-la-Forêt, without weather routing.
Just before leaving the pontoons of the nautical centre at Salvador de Bahia, two hours prior to a light airs start, Marc Guillemot seemed relaxed for this his first single-handed transatlantic race aboard Safran, his new Imoca 60 footer. Having obtained 2nd place in the Transat Jacques Vabre, with his co-skipper Charles Caudrelier, the sailor from La Trinité sur Mer, South West Brittany feels reassured. This race confirmed the boat's technical choices, with very impressive speed on every point of sail. "Once again the primary objective for this Transat Ecover BtoB, is above all to get to the other side, in order to qualify for the Vendée Globe", confirms Marc Guillemot.
As regards weather, "it will be upwind sailing with eased sheets as far as the Azores, then we'll have to wait and see where this elusive high pressure system of the same name can be found. From then on, we may very well end up with some big depressions with strong winds of 30-40 knots or more". Initially in any case, "the focus will be on speed, speed, speed... trimming, trimming, trimming" predicts Marc Guillemot. The latest weather forecasts seem to indicate upwind conditions at least as far as Recife, then some 15 to 20 knots of E'ly wind until the doldrums. It's not necessarily going to be a barrel of laughs but it will certainly be a great battle for speed between the fifteen pretenders to the Vendée Globe who, just for the anecdote, may well cross tacks with the nine other Open 60 footers, the latter in the Barcelona World Race.
Life heeled over
At the first and only course mark in All Saints' bay, Safran was right in the action: still second, behind Gitana Eighty (Loïc Peyron) and ahead of Brit'Air (Armel Le Cléac'h). Ahead of the bow of Marc Guillemot's large monohull lie 4,200 miles of ocean, and most likely a first week heeled over…
Safran second at the start