Transat Québec Saint-Malo - Multifaceted fleet prepare for battle

Transat Québec Saint Malo 2012
Since its inception, the Transat Québec Saint Malo has always attracted a number of international sailors keen to put themselves to the test in the classic route and this eighth edition is no exception. Could a non-French skipper become the winner of the Transat Québec Saint Malo for the first time even in the 28 year long history of the classic transatlantic race?

It could well be more than a mere hypothesis this time. Suffice to say that in the Classe40 no less than seven boats fly a non-French flag, with teams coming from Germany, the USA, Canada and Belgium. Analysing the fleet and the sailors involved, multifaceted as ever, one thing is clear: the 2012 winner could be non-French. Halvard Mabire skipper of Campagne de France and current title holder as well as respected sailor and designer Sam Manuard agree that Joerg Riechers’ Mare is one of the race’s favourites.

Fresh from the success in two of the most relevant races of this year in the Class40, the Solidaire du Chocolat and the Atlantic Cup, Hamburg based Joerg Riechers looks more than determined to follow his winning streak on his Manuard’s designed Mach 40 Mare. As a matter of fact, on paper, the sailor/boat mix look to possess all the necessary ingredients for yet another success and Joerg picked up some of the best available crew to help him achieve his goal: boat designer Sam Manuard, American all-rounder Ryan Bremeyer (recently sailing across the Atlantic in record time on MOD 70 Musandam Oman sail) and French expert Rémi Aubrun.

'Mare is an excellent boat, very well optimized and Joerg has prepared her with the utmost attention. His crew are all top sailors and I consider him as the favourite number one to win this Québec Saint Malo,' says Halvard Mabire who over the last year has been racing his Pogo 2S Campagne de France on the most important events around the planet.

Transat Québec Saint Malo 2012 - Mare

Mabire also reckons that there is another German team that has good chances to get on the podium, Roger’s designed Red skippered by sailor/journalist Mathias Blumencron and three strong fellow countrymen. 'They will undoubtedly aim at the top three spots.' But Mabire is sure that the French will not make life easy for their German adversaries. 'Stéphane le Diraison has a very strong crew who comes from the Mini650 class. He and Bertrand Delesne, Vincent Barnaud and Eric Mézières know perfectly well their Pogo 2.' Yet, as Mabire emphasizes this is one of this year’s race characteristics.

'The level is very high, and apart from Joerg Riechers, whose latest triumphs speak for themselves, there are no less than five or six boats that can fight for victory.'

Thierry Bouchard’s powerful Akilaria RC2, Aloys Le Claquin who sails on Mare’s sistership Jack in the box and Sébastien Rogues on another Akilaria RC2 Eole Génération GDF Suez. 'But one can’t count out Fabrice Amédéo and Armel Tripon’s Geodis who surely will be fighting in the front pack' continues Mabire, who himself is one of the 'big names' in the class as he has demonstrated on many occasions and who, with the help of his two crew Miranda Mirron and Christian Bourroullec, will no doubt battle for leadership to Saint Malo.

'The American Dave Rearick and Belgium’s Michel Kleinjans on their Farr designed boats are also to be taken into consideration. Rearick was extremely fast during the Atlantic Cup and has a very strong crew, with young but experienced Emma Creighton who also comes from the Mini class.' For his Pogo 40S Groupe Picoty Jacques Fournier also selected some of the best sailors available as Jean Christophe Caso and Vendée Globe veteran Arnaud Boissières. 'If the weather forecast is confirmed we will start in light airs. In those conditions and with the boats at the upper limit of the class rule, there won’t be much difference in the fleet’s performance. It’s very even.'

This quote from sailor and yacht designer Samuel Manuard, says it all about this Transat Québec Saint-Malo, despite the boats looking so different as they receive the admiration of fans on the pontoon of Québec’s Bassin Louise. Between the 2006 Pogo 40 and the new Mach40 launched over the last two years, the boats have not become longer or beamer. On the other hand, the hull design, the bows, the deck arrangements and the cockpit setting have changed largely.

'The idea in designing the Mach 40 was to have a fast reaching boat that would not be too handicapped in light wind with an ergonomic setup of the cockpit that could well protect the crew, because to race these boats well you also have to keep the men’s safety and comfort in mind.'

Manuard has his favourites too 'For me Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty 2 is very dangerous, he has a new boat and an incredible offshore experience. He has just finished the Twostar in pretty hard conditions; he’s one to watch out for. Then there are some French teams, Thierry Bouchard on Comiris Pôle Santé who is very fast. If the conditions are not going to be too harsh, they clearly have a chance in light breeze.

But let’s not forget Fabrice Amedeo and Armel Tripon on their Akilara or Stéphane le Diraison on IX Blue, they all have good boats and are excellent sailors. So far the strategy does not look very clear and if it is not going to be a drag race in strong conditions, then it could be anyone’s game. On the newest boats, it will be the men to make a difference.'

The Class 40 fleet competing in this year’s Transat Québec Saint Malo represents also in full the level offshore racing has reached, boats and crews get better and better and the more international the class becomes the level goes up another notch. The legendary French hegemony could well be threatened, spicing up the race even more. There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone, the battle will no doubt be fierce and yet the winner’s name will only be known in Saint Malo.

Transat Québec Saint Malo 2012 - Skippers and crews

Transat Quebec Saint Malo website