Thursday, November 12, 2015

We sailed the whole race by feel!

 Inside PRB : onboard with Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col

From Vendee Globe and Transat Jacques Vabre

At 1252 hrs today (Wednesday 11th November), Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col won the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre, adding their name to the list of winners after an exceptional edition, which saw the first battle between the new IMOCA monohulls  and those from the previous generation.
They fully deserved this win after a transatlantic race they took control of from start to finish. It is a victory for a boat that is perfectly adapted to racing.
It also marks a fine victory for Vincent and Sébastien, who had never sailed together until a few months before tackling the Atlantic.

During the seventeen days of racing, the duo on PRB never gave up an inch after setting off from Le Havre.
Vincent and Sébastien found the perfect route with a series of tactical choices keeping the pressure up ion their rivals.
In particular, they found themselves in a battle against Banque Populaire VIII skippered by Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly and Groupe Queguiner sailed by Yann Eliès and Charlie Dalin, a battle that raged all the way across the Atlantic.

This second win in a row for Vincent in the Transat Jacques Vabre comes after a perfect season for the winner of the 2004 Vendée Globe.
With the boat he launched in 2010, he has asserted himself in every race against the newer IMOCAs, the foiling IMOCAs like Banque Populaire, but also against the 60-foot boats from the same generation.
Taking on board one of the top match racers, Sébastien Col, he didn’t make any mistakes.
Winner of the Artemis Challenge and the Rolex Fastnet Race, Vincent and Sébastien brought their complementary skills together to dominate this transatlantic race.
Vincent Riou: “It was a great contest, as in the end, our rivals never allowed us to ease off. Before yesterday morning, they were always within 35 miles of us.

Vincent and Sébastien had this goal in mind from the start in Le Havre.
They were of course, up there among the favourites, but the two sailors stressed their goal was to avoid any damage to their boat in the heavy seas in the first 36 hours of racing.
They were cautious but confident in the ability of their boat to ward off the attacks of the more recent boats in the class.
They knew where to place the cursor to ensure PRB made it through without letting Banque Populaire get away.
The latter in strong winds and on calm seas appeared at ease in this race.
Having to make do without their wind instruments from the first night of racing, Vincent and Sébastien had to sail for a long time using the age-old techniques, as they were unable to get any useful info at the nav desk.
Without info concerning the wind strength and direction, their race was no easy matter, but they never gave anything away and as they entered the Doldrums, put the pressure on Le Cleac’h / Tabarly.

After making it out of this area in the lead, Vincent and Sébastien found the perfect strategy to keep their opponents at a reasonable distance.
They spent the last few days of the race at the helm of PRB and showed utter determination, reading perfectly the weather conditions, which were more favourable for their monohull.

 Photo: B. Stichelbaut/PRB

Vincent Riou, skipper de PRB: “We’re pleased as this was no easy matter to finish in one piece. We can’t remember what we thought when we set off, but we do know that we wanted to remain cautious and that the first part of the race with all its dangers was going to be a key element. We knew we had to make it through and be at the front at the Azores. We managed to do that and after that we built upon that success. I think everything went to plan. With Seb, we worked well together. Honestly, it all worked out well for us."

It was a good battle behind us. They gave us no respite at all. Until yesterday morning I think there was never more than 35 miles of difference between first and second. On a race of 5400 miles that is permanent engagement. There was a bunch of lead changes, everyone seemed to get a crack at the top of the fleet. It was a good race and we got what we came for….competition! The choice to go west for the depression to the west of Ireland was the only option. For me it was safer for the boats because those who went left earlier were bounced around much more. On the long reach down the Atlantic then you just have to  keep the pace up. After eight days we found ourselves with a strange Doldrums. There it was game on a bit. But we got out well. You have to have strong nerves. It was complex. At the horn of Brazil it was interesting. I wanted to go offshore right away but (Jean Yves) Bernot our weather trainer had warned us about the coast of Brazil but it was still quite risky. But we got a little jump there. Everything went good. We got through the stormy front (at Cabo Frio) well, ahead of the others.

On the Transat Jacques Vabre:
“Today The Transat Jacques Vabre is for me a great classic of French sailing and should be considered as such. We came with intentions of winning the race. It was a hard race. If it lasted two or three more days, I think that the organizations would have suffered. "

What about the new generation of IMOCA?
"The new generation are very much in the learning phase, it is a time of discovery. We do not play in the same category. We led a boat which has foils. They are in discovery mode. Foils are the future of sailing. We will all have them one day. We cannot halt that progress. Today is a period of history, a hotbed of development. But what happened on this race needs to be analysed.”

Sebastien Col, co-skipper of PRB
"It was fun, it was impressive to see Vincent racing. It's a great chance I had to sail with him. He is  very complete. He is a master of many things like navigation. Physically it went well. Four years ago with François (Gabart), it was really hard, it's hard to get a new boat here safely.”

On his beautiful images of the race:
"The images….well there are rough seas with six metres waves on the first front. Then each part of the race has it specific things. We passed in between the Azores islands and between the islands of the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. These are memorable things "

Vincent Riou
"We made a very special race. We worked this Transat Jacques Vabre by feel. From the first night race we had a navigation system failure. After that we did everything with one single display, COG and SOG. We never had wind strength or direction. We even thought of putting ribbons in the rigging as we did when we were sailed our 420 dinghies as nippers. We did everything without electronic help. But if you had told me before the start we would do this, I would have said not a chance. It’s not possible. But we had to sharpen up our senses and make it work. Then with some simple benchmarks, it's not too hard to find the right settings. But you always want to be well pressed for the best feelings. But for us the lesson is that you can learn from the feelings and it’s not so bad.” "

Sebastien Col
"Ultimately, this electronic damage is a good lesson. We realize that we are increasingly reliant on gizmos in life in general. As human beings we are capable of doing great things by instinct and feel. There is a nice lesson for a performance. And I learned how complete you need to be to sail an IMOCA. "

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