“ I didn’t have the close competition that Francois (Gabart) and Thomas (Coville) had. I didn’t give up the pace, but I was completely relaxed and a lot more zen. I’m very happy to be in New York”
At 02:45:59 BST this morning, Yves Le Blevec aboard Team Actual became the third Ultime competitor to celebrate beneath the Statue of Liberty, arriving in New York City at the end of The Transat bakerly 2016.
Veteran multihull skipper Le Blevec successfully crossed the Atlantic aboard Actual in a time of 10 days, 12 hours,and 15 minutes - two days, three hours and 21 minutes behind class winner François Gabart on Macif.
“I had great fun aboard Actual,” said the 50-year-old skipper on the dock who is a previous winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre in the Multi50 class. “The Ultime is very different from a Multi50, but it’s amazing how easily it covers the miles.”
For Le Blevec’s first solo Ultime voyage, he followed the same almost entirely downwind southerly route from Plymouth to New York in the trade winds favoured by Gabart and second-placed Thomas Coville on Sodebo. The striking red, black and white Actual skimmed across the Atlantic liquid desert at an average speed of 16.91 knots, covering a total 4,267 nautical miles.
“Compared to the Multi50, the Ultime is super-comfortable,” continued Le Blevec. “It’s very dry and very nice. But manoeuvering the boat is a big job and it’s very tiring. We had two fronts pass over us during the race, and I had to change the sails rapidly – it’s gruelling.”
“I did my first tack a few days ago, but the gybes were in sequence. To gybe the boat is a lot easier than to tack, but it is still exhausting. You have to be very attentive as you can get caught out very quickly, but I was careful and didn’t break anything.”
On the approach to the finish line in New York, the wind dropped offering Le Blevec a moment to reflect on his race and his achievements. “While I was waiting for the wind to fill in, I was able to replay the race hour-by-hour and it was at that moment that I realised I had crossed the Altantic in 10 days!” he said.
“It was a great experience for me, I haven’t sailed my boat solo very much, so it was nice to learn about it in some very cool weather conditions – at times it felt like we were heading for Guadeloupe rather than New York.
“I didn’t have the close competition that Francois and Thomas had. I didn’t give up the pace, but I was completely relaxed and a lot more zen. I’m very happy to be in New York,” Le Blevec concluded.
The next arrivals in The Transat bakerly are the leading boats in the IMOCA 60s who are on course to reach New York tomorrow. Armel Le Cléac’h aboard the foiling Banque Populaire still leads the fleet, now 315 miles from the finish line. But never giving up the chase, Vincent Riou aboard the more conventional design, PRB, is just 69 miles behind, with Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) another 121 miles back in third.
In the Multi50s, Gilles Lamiré aboard French Tech Rennes St Malo maintains his class lead and is also expected tomorrow. Now 427 miles away from the finish line, Lamiré holds a lead of 239 miles on Lalou Roucayrol in second on Arkema, which sustained damage to a daggerboard earlier this week, and 591 miles on third-placed Olmix skippered by Pierre Antoine.
The battle between the Class40s is as tight as ever. Isabelle Joshke on Generali-Horizon Mixité is still leading, with British skipper Phil Sharp aboard Imerys, snapping at her heels just 9.5 miles astern.
With 1,090 miles still left to sail, it’s still all to play for with Louis Duc on Carac going it alone in the south and making good progress and still a wildcard for the Class40 win. He is currently fourth, 105 miles behind Joschke. The first Class40s are expected to arrive in New York on Wednesday.