Gilles Lamire scores the first big win of his pro sailing career

I am very, very happy to have completed this race because it’s a race of legend and a race I associate with Eric Tabarly. This race has been a part of my life ever since I read Tabarly’s account of winning it, and I wanted to take part and win it.

15.05.2016

Gilles Lamire had not expected to win the Multi50 class in The Transat bakerly but he did exactly that yesterday.

Gilles Lamire had not expected to win the Multi50 class in The Transat bakerly but he did exactly that yesterday when he brought his multi-coloured trimaran across the finish line off Sandy Hook.

The 45-year-old, who hails from the small Breton town of Cancale, completed the 3,050-nautical mile course from Plymouth to New York in an official time – that includes a 31-minute penalty for accidental breakage of his engine seal – of 12 days, seven hours and 51 minutes. He sailed 4,090 miles through the water at an average speed of 13.85 knots on his Multi50 French Tech Rennes St Malo.

This was a resounding win for the French skipper whose nearest and much better-known rival, Lalou Roucayrol on Arkema was still 350 miles out to sea, when the celebrations started on Lamire’s boat.

Five Multi50s set sail from Plymouth and a key moment came early in the race when the favourite for the class win, Erwan Le Roux on Fenetrea Cardinal, retired following float damage off Cape Finisterre.

It was shortly after this that Lamire made his move, crossing Arkema’s bow and heading hard south, following the Ultime trimarans ahead of him.

Guided by expert routing from the remarkable Swiss solo sailing veteran Yvan Bourgnon, Lamire then dived south of the Azores and enjoyed a relatively smooth and uncomplicated route west while Roucayrol battled on, 500 miles further north.

Speaking at the finish Lamire’s emotion at achieving his first big win was all too obvious. “Yes, I am very, very happy to have completed this race because it’s a race of legend and a race I associate with Eric Tabarly,” he said. “This race has been a part of my life ever since I read Tabarly’s account of winning it, and I wanted to take part and win it.”

Lamire arrived utterly exhausted after racing for 12 days during which he normally managed no more than one hour’s sleep in every 24. “It was very difficult because there was a succession of meteorological systems, so you end up sleeping very, very little. And you don’t sleep because you are working all the time,” he said.

For Lamire, arriving in New York was particularly poignant. He had not visited the city since leaving it by ship, bound for Le Havre, with his parents as a five-year-old. His father had decided to return to France by sea after working in Mexico City. “I made my first transat on that ship – New York-Le Havre,” he said. “For me to be here in front of Manhatten is a kind of dream.”

And he recalled too that during the war his grandmother had sheltered two Americans and one Canadian airmen who were shot down near her house. After they returned home, they sent her an American flag, something that Lamire always saw as a child. “That flag was at her house and, when I was a kid, I would always see it – that beautiful flag – so there is a strong connection there,” he said.

On a busy day of arrivals at the end of a classic race, the runner-up in the IMOCA 60 class, Vincent Riou aboard PRB, finished a couple of hours before Lamire after a voyage of 12 days, four hours and 50 minutes. Despite losing two of his sails overboard early in the race, Riou reached New York only two hours, 21 minutes behind the class winner, Armel Le Cleac’h on Banque Poplulaire.

This was all the more impressive for the fact that Le Cleac’h’s boat is a foiler and Riou’s is not. But Riou said the race had shown to him that whether a 60 has foils or not is not as important as some may think. “It is not as important as the sailor,” he said. “It was the man who made the difference – it’s Armel who did better during the race and he won the race, not because he sailed with foils.”

Ten-and-a-half hours after Riou, the third-placed IMOCA 60 skipper crossed the line in the dark. Jean-Pierre Dick on St Michel-Virbac completed the race in 12 days, 17 hours and 28 minutes. With Paul Meilhat on SMA still some way from the finish, the top-three in the IMICA 60 class have now all finished The Transat bakerly within 15 hours of each other.

Dick was happy to complete the race, having had to retire his boat with structural damage from the Transat Jacques Vabre last year. “Finishing here is something nice, to turn the page, as we say in French,” he said as he stepped ashore. “Third place is a good place – it was my comeback (solo) after a few years off and with a new machine. So the objective was really to be in contact with the others which has been the case.”

Dick said the key moment was when his two rivals ahead of him – Armel Le Cleac’h (Banque Populaire) and Vincent Riou (PRB) – went straight through the heart of the big depression early in the race and he decided to take a more prudent course to the south. “I was a little bit behind and it was dangerous for me to go there because there was a lot of wind there. Finally I decided to take a little smoother course which was somewhat less fast.”

He also talked about sailing through a weather front later on when, as he was working on the bow, St Michel-Virbac spun out of control when the rig was hit by a massive gust of wind. He said he was lucky to escape with just some sail damage and damage to one rudder. Summarising his Transat bakerly he said: “It’s the first step to the Vendée Globe (solo round-the-world race) – it’s a great race and I hope to do it again.”

Meanwhile back in the Atlantic, but now less than 780 miles from Manhatten, the leading Class40s remain locked in battle with Thibaut Vauchel-Camus on Solidaires En Peloton-Arsep just 11 miles ahead of Phil Sharp on Imerys. Sharp has managed to repair a damaged jib and has reported an ingress of water on Imerys but has not eased his pace.

“I’m spending a lot of time bailing at the moment, which is concerning,” he said. “Quite a bit of water is coming into the boat from the bow. Other than that, the repaired jib is doing a good job, touch wood. Though the temporary fix does make it much harder to change sails now, so I will be losing boat speed at times, but I would rather conserve what I have than risk any damage.

“I’m getting used to spending my time almost entirely damp or wet,” he added, “with water sloshing constantly around inside the boat. Fortunately the sea has warmed up as we are in the Gulf Stream and the water is a nice blue, so the nights aren’t too cold anymore.”

Off Manhatten, meanwhile, guests of the race were given the opportunity to sail in The Transat bakerly Exhibition Race on the huge trimarans of the Ultime class.

“I had pretty high expectations of what the experience would be like and it totally lived up to them,” said Aaron Kuriloff who sailed on Thomas Coville’s Sodebo. “We were doing runs across the harbour and we would just be flying. It was like in two seconds we’d be across (the harbour) and we’d already be gybing.”

Dan Fisher hitched a ride on race-winner Macif, skippered by Francois Gabart. “Everything on the boat is just humming when it picks up speed. I loved seeing all the high-speed, high-tech stuff on the boat,” he said.

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