At 14:38 hours local time in Lorient, the IMOCAs will set sail for a 48-hour sprint across the Bay of Biscay.

At 14:38 hours local time in Lorient, the IMOCAs will set sail for a 48-hour sprint across the Bay of Biscay. The four crews in The Ocean Race mode will cross the line first, followed at 15:06 hours by the 24 solo sailors. With a well-established N’ly wind over the coming days, the 550-mile triangular course promises to be a quick passage at every point of sail… Exactly what the 28 IMOCAs were after in signing up for the Défi Azimut.

At 08:30 hours this morning in the offices of Lorient La Base, Christopher Pratt, performance manager for Maxime Sorel, was checking the Arpège grib files (weather) one last time to validate the road map, which he’s preparing for the skipper of V&B-Monbana-Mayenne. “The aim is to script the course on an easy-to-read document so that Maxime can anticipate the key points and run through the whole programme prior to the start, like a kind of mental road map.” Sailors like Christopher, an expert meteorologist like Marcel Van Triest, who works for Holcim PRB, or someone who’s a mixture of the two like Pierre Le Roy (an engineer at Météo France and winner of the last Mini Transat) who works with Apivia, are among a number of people sharing their expertise with the skippers prior to the start, in the knowledge that routing is subsequently prohibited during the race according to the IMOCA rules.

Downwind, reaching and beating along a 550-mile triangular course

There’s some slight uncertainty about the wind angle at the start and hence which sail to choose, but after that, in a well organised N’ly wind, the IMOCAs should be able to get a shift on downwind,” continues Christopher Pratt. Indeed, an initial stretch of 215 miles will take the boats to a waypoint located in the middle of the Spanish coast, level with Arcachon. The front runners should be able to hang a left at around 06:00 hours tomorrow morning towards a second point located due East. After this short 92-mile reach, the boats will head back towards Lorient, launching onto a beat for nearly 24 hours.

With short seas and waves set to reach 2 m, these 48 hours will be the first real test for the 6 new boats competing in the Défi Azimut, a sentiment echoed by Charlie Dalin, winner of yesterday’s speed runs: “The start won’t be very windy, but it’s soon set to build with heavier seas. We’ll notably see what the spatulated bows are capable of as that’s the point when they should really be able to show what they’re made of. The return beat will call for strategy, but it will also enable the competitors to size one another up in close-hauled conditions. These are the conditions we’re likely to encounter at the start of the Route du Rhum so it’s especially interesting.”


Follow the start:

 Live on the website from 14:25 hours