“ I feel so full of adventure as I don’t know the Class40 properly and how it handles in manoeuvres and I often wonder how things are going to turn out”
The Franco-German sailor Isabelle Joschke has had an extraordinary 36 hours in The Transat bakerly, making the best speed in the competitive Class40 fleet through an intense mid-Atlantic depression.
The competitive instincts in Joschke – an accomplished sailor with seven Solitaire Bompard Le Figaro campaigns behind her – came to the fore as she used the gale force winds to power her boat forward at breakneck speed but without breaking anything on board.
At one point her red and white 40-foot monohull – Generali-Horizon Mixite - hit an impressive 25 knots of boatspeed as it hurtled down waves heading west across the Atlantic.
Joschke, aged 39, has been loving every minute of her first race in a Class40 that has seen her climb up the leaderboard to second place, just eight miles behind the leader, Britain’s Phil Sharp on Imerys.
However she is now taking the class lead outright after the imposition by the official race Jury of a six-hour, stop-go, time penalty on Sharp. This is for sailing through an area of water busy with commercial shipping off the French Brittany island of Ushant that is excluded to competitors.
Sharp will have to effectively stop his boat for six hours before continuing with the race, a delay that will drop him out of contention for the lead for the time being. He said on the sat phone earlier in the race that he strayed into the exclusion zone because he was not aware that it was prohibited under the race rules.
Before being notified that she is now the leader of the class, Joschke was in ebullient form as she recalled her battle with a classic north Atlantic storm. “Last night was amazing,” she reported. “We passed north of the centre of the depression and the wind shifted to the southwest at 45-50 knots and blew many times at 50-60 knots. The boat handled it well and was very fast.
“I was inside and wondering what was going to happen, and what I would do if the boat broached, and whether I could handle that. In the surf the noise was crazy – everything was roaring. It was pretty stressful but crazy fun too. I have never sailed in conditions like this – with this much wind. The boat reached speeds of 25 knots - my top speed – that was something.
Joschke has surprised some with her performance on debut in the class, including possibly herself. “This morning I really felt part of The Transat bakerly. It was like reliving my first Mini-Transat. I feel so full of adventure as I don’t know the Class40 properly and how it handles in manoeuvres and I often wonder how things are going to turn out,” she said.
“You need a lot of energy to sail it and it is really physical. But it’s really fun and I’ll say that during the storm I felt happy with myself and my performance. I’m back in the game and, although it’s exhausting, I’m doing well and I want to keep it that way,” Joschke added.
Elsewhere in this action-packed transatlantic contest, the giant trimarans of the Ultime class are now heading northwest towards New York where the current leader Macif skippered by Francois Gabart, is expected in the early hours of Wednesday morning UK time. After his close duel with Thomas Coville on Sodebo, Gabart is now 72 miles ahead as the big multihulls drive north in a strong southeasterly airflow about 800 miles east of Bermuda.
In the IMOCA 60s, meanwhile, the leading boats are crossing a high pressure ridge on the west side of the depression as they skirt the southern edge of the officially-sanctioned Ice Exclusion Zone off Newfoundland. The IMOCA race is turning into a fascinating battle between current leader Armel Le Cleac’h on the foiling Banque Populaire and Vincent Riou on the more conventionally-configured PRB. This afternoon they are 52 miles apart.
The Multi50 race is taking advantage of the biggest racecourse in the world right now with the leader, Lalou Roucayrol on Arkema, 120 miles ahead of second-placed Gilles Lamire on French tech Rennes St Malo but separated from him by a yawning 500 miles of open ocean.