Sébastien Josse and Armel Le Cléac’h, winners of the Transat Jacques Vabre, on their arrival in Fort-de-France (Martinique), November 12, 2023, after 14 days, 10 hours, 14 minutes and 50 seconds at sea. LOIC VENANCE / AFP
« It feels good, it’s a great joy, a relief. » Armel Le Cléac’h did not shy away from his pleasure, Sunday November 12, after crossing the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Fort-de-France (Martinique), with Sébastien Josse, at 18 h 19 h, local time (11:19 p.m. in mainland France), after 14 days, 10 hours, 14 minutes and 50 seconds at sea on his 32-meter foiling trimaran, Maxi-Banque-Populaire XI.
Setting off on Sunday October 29 from Le Havre (Seine-Maritime) with the stated objective of triumphing over the four other Ultims (32-meter trimarans) competing on this Coffee Route, the duo – launched on a theoretical course of 7,500 miles (around 13,900 km) – actually covered 9,263 miles (nearly 15,000 km) at an average speed of 26.75 knots (nearly 50 km/h), doing most of the race in the lead.
« We ended up with good averages of over 35 knots (close to 65 km/h)but the whole race was fast, apart from a short stop near Madeira, with little wind”, enthused the 46-year-old from Finistère. In consultation with the “third man on the boat”Marcel Van Triest, their Dutch router, Armel Le Cléac’h and Sébastien Josse took command of the fleet by boldly opting for a circumnavigation of the Portuguese island from the north.
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François Gabart and Tom Laperche (SVR-Lazartigue) then returned to the South Atlantic, briefly regaining the advantage as they passed Ascension Island. But the duel turned to the advantage of “Banque Pop” at the cost of long hours spent at the helm to ensure considerable average speeds downwind (tailwind) of more than 30 knots (55 km/h) with peaks at 40 knots (74 km/h), the last days of the race. “We stole all the time, rejoiced Sébastien Josse. The boat, launched two years ago, is now reliable, and 40 knots is becoming commonplace; when we are below, we are poorly adjusted. »
In addition to the exhilaration of speed, Armel Le Cléac’h welcomed, on Sunday evening, a series of “firsts”. “This is my first [victoire] in a trimaran, my first on the Jacques Vabre and the first for this boat, he pointed out. This proves that we have the ability to seek victories with Popular Bank. »
Good mood on board
In 2005, for his first participation in the Jacques Vabre on the trimaran Foncia (18 meters), with the Irishman Damian Foxall, Armel Le Cléac’h had capsized off the coast of Ouessant. Having become a skipper of the multihulls of the “sailing bank” since 2013, this gifted ocean racer, winner of the 2017 Vendée Globe (in an 18-meter monohull), three-time winner of the Solitaire du Figaro in 2003, 2010 and 2020 (in a 10 meter monohull) accumulated disappointments on three hulls.
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