Until the storm passes: postponed start of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023 for the IMOCA fleet


Sunday 29th October 2023. Everything was ready but a big storm building up in the Atlantic led the race organisers to postpone the start for the IMOCA fleet. Boris Herrmann and Will Harris, as well as the 39 competing teams, will therefore have to wait patiently until a safer weather window opens to start the double-handed race towards Martinique.

Today’s planned start of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre has changed. The race organisers announced this Sunday morning that the IMOCA race, which was supposed to start at 13:29 today, will remain in Le Havre and that the start is postponed to a future date which is still unknown and will depend on this week’s forecast. A rapidly worsening weather forecast, in particular for the period Monday into Tuesday with predicted winds of 80 knots and 10 meter seas, will hit the west coast of France and Portugal 24 hours earlier than expected and will lead to extremely difficult weather conditions at Cape Finisterre.

The three other classes (Ultim, Ocean Fifty, Class 40) will start today as scheduled. However, only the Ultim boats will race their course as planned, as they should be quick enough to place themselves South of the systems. Yesterday, it was announced that the Class 40 fleet will start in Le Havre today but stop in Lorient, Brittany. The Ocean Fifty fleet will now do the same. The race direction explained that the biggest problem for the 40 IMOCA race yachts is that there is no harbour on the Atlantic coast which could accommodate the entire fleet. They will therefore remain in Le Havre until the weather system passes.


Team Malizia’s skipper Boris Herrmann comments: “I don’t think you can ever criticise a decision for safety. We had assumed that we would be through, around Cape Finisterre before the worst of the storm on Thursday. That was our timing, we had to make it, it would have come down to a few hours. Of course, knowing full well that the possibly slower IMOCAs without foils would probably have been well behind, in the storm, with no possibilities to shelter in a port. We were also told that La Coruña would probably not have been safe enough to shelter. So in case of doubt, it was a good decision not to send the 40 boats out there. Will and I would have liked to do the test in these difficult conditions together, as we have tested the boat and it is probably the most reliable one in the fleet. But of course it doesn’t do us any good if we sail through there as heroes and then 2/3 of the fleet or half of the fleet somehow breaks off, that doesn’t do our sport any good.

Regarding the race calendar the German sailor says: “It is purely speculation at this point but I assume they might shorten the course to Martinique and so we would not have to encounter the Doldrums twice – this could still have a knock on impact of moving the start date of the Retour à La Base solo race back. However, for now we just have to wait and see what the race direction decides.

Will Harris adds: “It takes a lot of preparation mentally, especially when it’s going to be a stormy and tricky start. We were feeling very ready for the race and we were looking forward to going. So finding out this morning that finally we are not starting today is very last minute and not easy for the mental preparation. We will have to begin the whole cycle and process of preparing for the new start, whenever it will be. However, I understand the difficult choice the race organisation had to make. The slower boats in the fleet would have really been caught in a very intense storm and for sure there would have been some pretty dangerous situations for everyone in the fleet. So it’s understandable why they had to do it, and they waited until the last moment to announce, just to really make sure they were making the right choice. Although it’s hard for us to accept this and it changes the logistics for the whole team, it is understandable. We will just have to get ready for the next one and fight for it!