On Thursday, July 4, at 7:02 pm, a fleet of 19 Class40 will sail across the Bay of Biscay, to discover (rediscover) the beautiful Azores archipelago. But before exploring this dream destination, the participants of this 4th edition will have to deal through a high-level fleet and tactical course that has many pitfalls.
A demanding course
The skippers will compete on a technical and varied course of 2 540 nautical miles where the weather can change completely, from one edition to another. If northeast winds settle and remain sufficiently powerful, the leg can be completed in just five days. On the contrary, if a low pressure system moves over the Atlantic, the road can turn into a long wait. A course that requires maximum concentration until the finish, as both Jean-Christophe Caso and Aymeric Chappellier know well, to have sailed to Horta harbor many times: “On the 150 to 200 last nautical miles before arriving to the Azores, we will have to be really careful. This last portion of the course is particularly delicate to negotiate because of lack of wind caused by the islands and the site effects around the archipelago… There are often surprises on the arrival!". In short, a good study of the weather files and a detailed tactical preparation before departure is essential expect to be on the podium.
The best class specialists
Uncertainty weather is also part of the race interest. The number of recidivist proves it. Not less than 10 skippers have already sailed on this event, such as. Lionel Regnier, local sailor, La Rochelle skippers Jean-Christophe Caso, Stéphanie Alran and Olivier Grassi, the team Patrice Bougard / Gilles Dadou or still the Norman sailor Christophe Coatnoan, among others. This edition will also be the champions’ return. Aymeric Chappellier on Group Picoty is the recent winner of last summer Les Sables-Les Açores on a Mini 6.50. As well as Stéphane Le Diraison on a Class40 who took the lead in front of Yannick Bestaven for 25 seconds only in 2011. A revenge in the race? No doubt that both competitors will work hard to resist the tandem Halvard Mabire / Miranda Merron, Jörg Riechers / Sébastien Audigane or even the surprising crew Victorian Erussard / Thibaut Camus-Vauchel. Sébastien Rogues, who was full of trustworthy after three consecutive wins, teamed with experienced Armel Tripon (Les Sables -> Horta) and Fabien Delahaye (Horta -> Les Sables), in brief yet a strong team. As in every edition, the race remains faithful to the Class40 spirit offering an international registered list (7 different nationalities) including the Sardinian, Gaetano Mura associated with Samuel Manuard, the Australian duo Michelle Zwagerman / Patrick Conway, or the US-British couple Emma Creighton / Dan Dytch represents their country. Faithful race to the Class40 spirit also by its registration list well balanced between professional and amateur sailors. Half of the fleet can claim podium when others come hoping to surprise and especially to sail properly, to have fun while respecting the fundamentals of ocean racing: perseverance, tenacity and transcendence.
A strong maritime character destination
A place famous due to its low pressure system but finally little known by the general public. And yet, when you listen to the ocean stories told by the sailors, you feel all the major maritime history that makes this archipelago. Now became a stronghold of the modern ocean racing, if the Azores is much appreciated by sailors, it is primarily due to its strong maritime character. Islands steeped in history with a real meaning in terms of ocean sailing routes. These lands in the middle of the Atlantic offer exceptional volcanic landscapes. We find moderate climates, often rainy, which favor the development of extraordinary flora, in particular thanks to its positioning between two continents. The sailors in stopover can enjoy the incredible kindness and hospitality of the locals. Between the visit of the island, the rise of the Pico volcano and the good atmosphere of Peter’s Cafe Sport, a real complicity is created as testify some the eternal frescos drawn by the passersby in stopover, on the quays of the marina.
Meeting with the Vendée public
All these racing boats are based in Les Sables d'Olonne and can be seen by public since Sunday, June 30 on the Vendée Globe pontoon in Port Olona. The skippers are invited to a reception at the City Hall on Monday evening July 1. Les Sables’ inhabitants will be able to enjoy the show by the coast on Wednesday afternoon, July 3rd at the prologue of the event. Finally the departure, so much expected moment, will be given on Thursday, July 4 to 7:02 PM with an exit of the channel and a sound presentation of the tandems from 5PM. The head of the fleet is expected in the Azores from Wednesday, July 10 with a prize giving ceremony scheduled for Saturday, 13. The sailboats will sail back Sunday, July 14th off the Horta marina. The Class40 arrival in Vendée is estimated from Friday, July 19 with a prize giving ceremony sets for Sunday, July 21 (to be confirmed).
To follow the Class40 fleet, visit the official race website www.lessables-horta.com. The race news are also on the Class40 Facebook page and Twitter account.