Muscat: It’s all systems go for Oman Sail’s Class 40 duo with just hours remaining before Sunday’s start of the classic two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race from France to Brazil.
With their race yacht prepped and ready for the 4,350-mile event, co-skippers Sidney Gavignet and Fahad Al Hasni are now preparing themselves for the three-week marathon that marks the culmination of their season-long debut campaign in the ultra-competitive class.
Back from his Brittany home where he was spending time with his wife and two daughters, Gavignet said: “It is perfect for restoring the batteries being there ahead of the race. Technically the boat is as good as we could hope, it has never been so ready.”
With 15 other Class 40s on the startline – including almost all the season’s leading crews – Gavignet knows the competition will be intense from the outset, but is pleased with the changes he and Al Hasni have been able to make.
“The big improvement we have been able to do is with the rudders – it has made a big difference, and really reduced the drag. On the delivery I could look back at the wake of the boat and see almost nothing compared with what it was like before, so we can trim the boat differently.
“Also, now we do not have to helm with two hands, we can do it with one which is easier physically on a long race like this, and it is great mentally as we are less worried about breakages as everything is much lighter.”
Also added to the boat are two new sails, which have filled a gap in the Oman Sail yacht’s armoury and may prove decisive in the right conditions.
Gavignet said: “The thing with the Class 40 is we are only allowed eight sails, so you have to make the choice. It is a big decision and, along with the route we decide to take, it is the biggest decision in the race. So we now just need a bit of luck to get the best conditions to use them.”
In the final run-up Al Hasni has been in the starting port of Le Havre, soaking up the atmosphere ahead of what will be his debut in the Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV).
“This is a really big event and I am very happy to be here and very motivated to get going on the race and get a good result,” he said.
“The whole season for Sidney and me has been about getting here, and getting the boat ready for the race. It has also been about me learning what is involved in two-handed racing. I have learnt a lot with Sidney and I am ready to use all of that now.”
Gavignet is in full agreement with his co-skipper. “We have had good conversations and Fahad is ready for what we have to do. We are different people but one goal we both share is that we want to come back with a good memory of this race, having had a good time, keeping a positive vibe. That is very important.
“For me the goal is to finish, but having said that, finishing 15th would not satisfy us. A tidy job for us would be to finish in the top six, fifth would be nice, fourth would be good and a podium would be a very good result.”
The current weather forecasts predict a high pressure system in place for the start, sending the fleet upwind in a plentiful north westerly breeze in the early stages of the race. A full moon will also produce strong tides, requiring potentially tricky inshore sailing to get around headlands.
First held in 1993, the 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre will start from Le Havre on Sunday.