And then, right on the eve, everything changes. For the Class40s the Transat Jacques Vabre becomes a two-stage regatta, due to the weather conditions: 24 hours before the start the crews must completely rethink the strategy of the regatta, whose route also be modified.
At this morning’s skippers’ meeting, in fact, the Race Committee decided, for safety reasons, to modify the route of the Class40s, in order to prevent the slowest boats in the fleet – about a third of it – from ending up in the middle of a strong depression forecast in the Bay of Biscay from Tuesday, with wind gusts up to 50+ knots and over 8 m waves.
The features of the Transat Jacques Vabre therefore change for both the Class40 IBSA and Alberto Bona who, just 24 hours before the start, must rethink his approach to the regatta. The first stage turns into a coastal one of around 400 miles: once they leave the English Channel, the Class40s will sail the Breton coast and enter the Bay of Biscay, then stop in Lorient (Brittany) and wait for the depression that “closes” the Gulf to move away.
“Everything has changed”, stated Bona. “The choice made by the Race Committee requires us to rethink what we have on board and the trim of the boat, as well as the logistics. We will have to be very focused during this short part of the regatta, because the sailing time will count for the final result: it’s not a safety transfer, it’s a stage of the race. We don’t know how long we will stay in Lorient, but the risk is that we will be there for more than a few days, until the bad weather is over. This means that the organisation may also rethink the route of the second stage, making it shorter and faster, which will potentially lead to further different choices that we will have to make in Lorient”.
For now, it’s all about starting for a 24-hour regatta, which effectively means removing water and diesel, as well as revising the stowage.
As for the start itself, the strategy does not change. The weather conditions include a nice South-South West wind of around 25 knots, a 1 m peak tide, a strong wave and sailing against the current. The start is scheduled from 1:05 pm onwards, with the boats divided by category, and the small Class40s will cross the line at 1:41 pm, having sailed in front of the coast for four hours, waiting for the start: crazy, oceanic “things”.
Today is also the day of the farewells: a group of Alberto’s friends and some relatives – together with his extended IBSA family – arrived in Le Havre to celebrate the skipper and say goodbye. Among these, Alessandro, the 14-year-old “super fan” that Team IBSA and Alberto Bona wanted at the start to thank him for his endorsement through a beautiful letter sent to the Giornale della Vela on the occasion of the Sailor of the Year nominations. Yesterday Alessandro met Bona, and today he will visit the boat: “I feel like I’m dreaming”, exclaimed Bona’s young fan, “the ocean sailing world is incredible, and Alberto is my big hero”.