After days of uncertainty due to very difficult weather conditions, the IMOCA fleet finally left Paul Vatine basin to take the start of the 16th Transat Jacques Vabre, the Monaco Yacht Club reports.

It was at 09:30 on November 7 that Malizia-Seaexplorer, the latest addition to Team Malizia founded by Yacht Club de Monaco Vice-President Pierre Casiraghi, crossed the start of this double-handed race. Led by German skipper Boris Herrmann and co-skipper Will Harris, the 60-footer is on course to Fort-de-France in Martinique with 39 other IMOCAs.

The six Ocean Fifty and 44 Class40 boats started last Sunday October 29 as planned with the five Ultims and had to stop in Lorient while Storm Ciarán went through. According to the race organisers it had been impossible to find a harbour for all the IMOCAs hence the delay in Le Havre.

Makes it three for Boris Herrmann

The German skipper and Yacht Club de Monaco member knows this event well having competed in 2017 and 2019 and returns to the coffee route on a brand new boat. After leaving the yard in July 2022, Malizia-Seaexplorer has already had a taste of offshore racing after the solo Route du Rhum in 2022 and then The Ocean Race, a 32,000nm round the world with stages and crew when they came an excellent third. At his side is Will Harris as co-skipper. It’s the second time the two have paired up, the first being in 2019.

Weather systems a game changer

Organisers have had to revise the route, not just shorten it but also to avoid more depressions. After exiting the Channel, they head to Fort de France leaving the Azores to starboard. The 3,765nm looks set to be tactical and rough as from Wednesday 8th November a front awaits them with 30 knots of wind, gusting 35-to 40.

“I can’t wait,” said Boris Herrmann. “We’ve had a week’s postponement when I waited out the storm with my family in Hamburg. The boat was safely moored in Le Havre and the team took good care of it. The shorter course is a good idea as I need time to take part in the solo return race straight after the Transat”. For the German skipper, the objectives are the same as they were a week ago: “We will be going head to head with some new boats in the class that we will face in the Vendée Globe next year and are going to thoroughly test and fine-tune the boat in semi-single hander race mode”.

A crossing for the environment

“We will be using the Ocean Pack, as we’ve done every race, to collect ocean CO2 data for scientists,” explains Will Harris. “Some sections of the race will be similar to those sailed in The Ocean Race earlier this year, I am curious to see what scientists will observe on a more seasonal level. We’re also going to try and collect environmental DNA samples using a filter system added to the Ocean Pack.

This race is an excellent opportunity to test the system and perfect it for future races. I am also excited to be deploying another drifting buoy, about 32°W, an area seriously lacking in data. This will be our third drifting buoy to be deployed in 2023, the first for me taking place in the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre when I joined Malizia. It shows how united we are as a team to support marine research”.

Drifting buoys can measure sea surface temperature, atmospheric pressure and surface currents. From its remote position, the buoy frequently sends back highly accurate data updates to GTS (Global Telecommunications Systems), the World Meteorological Organization’s international data network. Forecasters and scientists the world over can access information from this platform for free. This deployment is part of Eumetnet’s European SurfMar programme coordinated by Météo France. And as Boris Herrmann explains “this global project will help scientists better understand the ocean and how natural and anthropomorphic changes affect it. It will also significantly improve weather forecasts and models which are an integral part of offshore racing”.

Strategy is key

Tactical choices will ratify forecasts with routing estimates to the North citing high pressure systems before hitting a second depression at the end of the week. Contestants have several options once they leave the Channel. The only obligation is to leave to starboard Santa Maria, the southernmost island in the Azores. ETA in Martinique for the leaders is expected on Friday November 17.