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Le Cléac’h and Josse cruise to Ultim victory in Martinique

Transat Jacques Vabre

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French duo Armel Le Cléac’h and Sébastien Josse sailing Maxi Banque Populaire XI crossed the finish line of the 16th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre off Fort de France, Martinique at 18:19hrs local time (22:19hrs UTC) this Sunday evening to win the ULTIM division for 33m multihulls (subject to Jury verifications).

The biennial, double handed classic ‘Coffee Route’ Race – which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary – started from Le Havre, France on Sunday 29th October and took the five strong ULTIM class on a 7,500 miles course south to round Ascension Island before turning back northwards to skirt the South American coast and finish in Martinique.

The elapsed time for the Banque Populaire XI duo is 14d 10h 14m 50s. They sailed the theoretical course at an average speed of 21.66 knots. They actually sailed 9263 nautical miles on the water at an average speed of 26.75 knots.

Banque Populaire XI had led the race since the fleet passed Ascension Island and never looked at risk of being overtaken since that point.

“All of the course was fast – we were sitting at 35 knots and more for a lot of today,”  Le Cléac’h said. “This is a boat which is coming of age, which is getting to its stage of maturity, thanks to the work of this team. It is a long time since I started a race like that we had 30-35 and up to 40 knots off Cherbourg after the start but the boat was super good. We were always in the match.”

When Le Cléac’h and Josse finished their nearest rivals, second placed SVR Lazartigue (François Gabart and Tom Laperche) were just over 180 nautical miles behind. This duo finished in second place on Sunday at 23:10 local time (Monday 03:10hrs UTC) – four hours, 51 minutes and 5 seconds after the race winners.

“We’re pleased to be here and have crossed the Atlantic – but a bit disappointed, as we would have liked to have won,” Gabart said. “We were up against people stronger than us. I don’t think we missed any strategic or tactical choices, but they were fast, very fast downwind. They sailed well and deserved to win.”

On his seventh challenge it is the first time the 2016-17 Vendée Globe winner Le Cléach has triumphed on the Coffee Route race whilst Josse previously won the 2013 Multihull race as skipper of the MOD 70 Edmond de Rothschild, sailing with Charles Caudrelier.

Caudrelier and co-skipper Irwin Israel are the next Ultim pairing expected to arrive in Martinique aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. At 0800 UTC this morning they were scorching towards the finish at 26 knots with a little over 1,000 nautical miles to run.

Latest race info here.

Main image © Jean-Marie Liot / Alea