Photo: Vincent Curutchet | IMOCA
Transat Jacques Vabre Looms as First Big Test for 11th Hour Racing
Charlie Enright and Mark Towill have had the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre circled on their racing calendar for quite some time. Ever since serious discussions came together over the formation of the 11th Hour Racing Team early this year, the two team leaders knew that the biennial transatlantic race from France to South America would be where 11th Hour Racing would first cut its teeth.
After nearly three months of training and familiarizing themselves with the four-year-old IMOCA 60 race yacht the team took possession of in mid-summer, 11th Hour Racing has gathered in Le Havre, Normandy for the first time as a full team for the start of the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre.
For this race, Charlie will sail with French sailing legend Pascal Bidégorry. Pascal has twice won the Transat Jacques Vabre in different multi-hull classes ten years apart in 2005 and 2015, and was the navigator onboard the victorious Dongfeng Racing Team in the last edition of The Ocean Race.
“Psychologically we are ready,” said Charlie. “We have a good perspective on it, we’re not going into this with outsized expectations but we’re game-day players, so we’re going to give this a push — and if the conditions are right, we’ll see how it plays out.”
While expectations may be muted for a race which takes place so soon after the team was formally announced, Charlie and Pascal’s results in the Defi Azimut last month in Lorient changed that for many observers. The pair was in second throughout much of the 48-hour race off the west coast of Brittany before finishing on the podium in third place.
“This race means a lot, I’ve sailed here so many times in this race,” said Pascal. “We want to sail hard and push right from the start. It’s a great setting and I really enjoy the atmosphere here.”
Pascal’s experience has been vital to the team’s preparation. The duo have logged over 5,000 miles on the 11th Hour Racing boat since training began .
“Being with Pascal has made each day different,” said Charlie. “He brings such a wealth of knowledge, whether that’s been about sailboat handling, the navigation, the various foil settings and what he brings from his multi-hull experience. I don’t think I could have learned more in such a short period of time from anyone else.”
Sixty teams in three different boat classes (Class40, Multi 50, IMOCA 60) from across the world will be at the start line on Sunday with the finish in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, estimated to be about 12-13 days away for the IMOCA class with arrivals around November 8-10.
The 11th Hour Racing yacht arrived in Le Havre last week in time for the opening of the race village after a one-day sail from its base in Port-la-Forêt. Enright and Bidégorry have been busy with safety meetings, weather briefings and appearances in the race village, while Mark arrived Wednesday after competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race onboard Wizard.
Thursday is a busy day of activities, including Mark and Charlie officially signing the team’s Sustainability Policy, followed by several race village appearances for the team. Friday is an off-day to rest and mentally prepare before final race start events get underway over the weekend.