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New York offers finishers sunshine but still dark clouds over the Atlantic

At 13 days since the fleet left Lorient just seven solo racers are still racing across the Atlantic on the 3,500 miles Transat CIC. Two IMOCAs are still making their way towards New York. With 800 miles to sail Switzerland’s Ollie Heer (Oliver Heer Ocean Racing) has no power except occasional very sporadic supply from his solar panels and Clarisse Crémer (L’Occitaine en Provence) at 1690 miles is making steady progress after leaving the Azores yesterday morning after a five-day technical pit stop.


In seventh place in Class40 young French rising star Amélie Grassi (La Boulangère Bio) will be next to finish later tonight, she tore her mainsail early in the race. She finished not far behind 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou who finished sixth on his solo Class40 racing debut. After Grassi there are two more skippers on course, as well as the two Vintage classic boats: Patric Isoard’s Uship pour Enfants de Mekong, an older Open 50, and Remy Gerin’s well known spirit of tradition 65 foot cutter Faïaoahé are also going well.

Not what he came for……Currently the Class40 class champion, Italy’s Alberto Bona was among the podium favourites on this race with his Sam Manuard designed 2022 launched Mach40.5 IBSA. His friend and rival, Ambrogio Beccaria might have taken the Class 40 win, but yesterday 'Bogi' had a grey, drizzly arrival into New York. One of the pre-race favourites Alberto Bona might now be slightly disappointed with his fifth - or more significantly the fact he could not make up ground after initial problems -but for completing what he describes as 'most diffcult race I've done' Albi was blessed with a peach of a morning for his beautiful arrival into the Big Apple. 0600hrs dawn, sunshine, light breeze, blue skies...Manhattan skyline shimmering .....blessed!

On the dock in Brooklyn Bona explained: There were a lot of problems, I’ve never had a lot of problems on this boat but this time I had a lot. Starting with the J1, the J1 was starting to deteriorate ( on the luff, I’m not sure why. With the first reaching on the second day when we started to go fast in the first low pressure.

Then there was a problem of losing time because I had a rudder that came up and broke, the line that keeps the rudder down in the fixed position broke and so at thirty five knots at one point I had no rudder in the water and so I was trying to fix that. I lost a lot of time. I then had the J2 tear. I think because they were flapping quite a lot when we were at forty five knots, I had to ease the sails a bit to go fast and then they were flapping a bit and so the sails didn’t like it, so I tore the J2. Then after a certain point, on the port side, I heard a strange sound in reaching the second low pressure. It was a new sound for me, the boat was slamming on the water and making a new sound. I realised that something went wrong with a bit of delamination on the hull. We don’t know yet if we hit something from the external side and so this is our major issue, working out what happened there.”



Belgian’s golden ticket….Meantime during the small hours of the morning Belgium’s Denis Van Weynbergh (D’Ieteren Group) arrived into the ONE 15 marina having completed the course in 24th placed in 12 days 3 hours in the IMOCA class. His result represents the final requirement to ensure the 56 year old former businessman should now take the start of the Vendée Globe on the former Spirit of Hungary which has already completed the Barcelona World Race and one Vendée Globe.

The solo racer was delighted, “The objective was to validate my qualification for the Vendée Globe. We slammed it into New York. We couldn't have dreamed of better. We’ve been in this project for six years. It's a great time. My best memory ? Crossing the finish line because it was synonymous with qualification. Afterwards, it's an incredible race The Transat which has made me dream of since I was teenager, with the epic of Tabarly and all the elder statesmen of ocean racing. I always wanted to participate. It’s a race that you have to do at least once in your life, maybe not twice. As the queen of the Transats it is tough, you need to be committed. We knew it even if we had conditions that were a little different from usual. We had everything: strong wind downwind, strong wind upwind… That’s also what we were looking for. It’s huge to get here. It’s like doing Roland Garros or the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. Arriving here solo is already a victory. ".

Down but not out, no way! Oliver Heer’s mood lifted this afternoon as he enjoyed a sustained spell making a modest but workmanlike eight to nine knots towards New York aboard the IMOCA which won this race in 2008. After being knocked down in the middle of the week he has had no electrical power save intermittent supply from a workround using his solar panels through his engine battery. And so he is predominantly hand steering. Extreme fatigue caught up with him yesterday night when he fell asleep for five straight hours, the boat heading in the wrong direction….

Heer reported in: “I had a bit of a shocker last night, I wanted to go to sleep for 30 minutes last night and ended up sleeping through my alarm for about four hours, the wind changed and I ended up sailing a couple of ours in the wrong direction. I hit a pretty low point. My electronics are completely down, I managed to rig my solar panels into my tiny engine battery and so I do every now and then have electricity to turn on the satcomms to dowloand the GRIB files, but not enough to run the pilot  or anything. I’ve rigged up a rudimentary steering system with some strings around my tiller and around the winches which is pretty good how I can leave it for half an hour or so so that I can get some rest but really I have to have hand drive to make progress. My course of steering now is basically WNW and just trying to get as many miles in the breeze as I can with the breeze over to New York. It’s really tough, when I had the knocked down my mainsail got ruined and I’ve got three battens gone in my mainsail. I’m basically on my J1 or J3 which is not ideal but yes I’m still in it! I’m desperate to make as many miles as I can over to New York and to finish the race before the line closes on the 20th May. I’m still in it!

Flash info Mast down on ZeissToday at 16:20 UTC, while sailing 250 miles east of the finish line in NE’ly winds of 30 knots with 3 to 4 metres of wave, the Class40 Zeiss dismasted. Skipper Timothé Polet immediately notified Race Direction. He is currently trying to free the mast to secure the boat. Race Direction and the MRCC are working on the best possible solution to assist him. More information to come.


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