Clean start for the Bermudes 1000 Race: Anyone’s game for the 17 solo sailors

This Thursday 9 May at 17:00 hours, 17 sailors set sail from Douarnenez in north-west Brittany on the Bermudes 1000 Race, the first event on the 2019 Globe Series race schedule (IMOCA World Championship). Conditions were ideal with a 12-knot W’ly wind enabling the singlehanded sailors to calmly get their bearings. The forecast is set to be manageable across the whole of the 2000-mile course bound for Brest, via the Fastnet lighthouse and the Azores archipelago. However, the participants will have their work cut out as there will be numerous transition zones requiring a lot of manœuvres. A scenario likely to favour suspense it would seem. 


It was with a mixture of impatience, excitement and, at times, apprehension that the 17 sailors from the IMOCA class (13 men, 4 women) lined up for the start of the Bermudes 1000 Race from Douarnenez-Brest. The fleet set sail at 17:00 hours in a 12-knot W’ly wind with a slight residual swell. The start proved to be pretty full-on for a dozen or so of the sailors. Yannick Bestaven, Sam Davies and Sébastien Simon were the quickest across the line, whilst others, like Miranda Merron and Denis Van Weynbergh were more prudent, happy to set off in the second half of the fleet. The sailors left the Baie de Douarnenez hard on the wind, with a few changes of tack on the cards. 


A complicated weather forecast, first options off Ushant

At the Basse Vieille cardinal mark off the Cap de la Chèvre (Crozon peninsula), Sam Davies was leading the fleet ahead of Clément Giraud, Sébastien Simon, Manu Cousin and Giancarlo Pedote. This evening the sailors are setting a course for Ushant, which serves as a course mark to be left to starboard. “In the first few hours of racing, late evening tonight, the competitors will have to make their first tactical choice involving their passage to the East or West of the Ushant TSS (traffic separation scheme), which is a prohibited zone”, explains Jacques Caraës, Race Director. “The first night is forecast to be very calm for the start of the climb up to the Irish Sea. According to our routing, the first boats should make Fastnet in the early hours of Saturday morning. The 825 miles between Fastnet and the virtual mark at the Azores will kick off with a very light SE’ly breeze involving the passage of a ridge of high pressure, then the wind will pick up to 15-20 knots before easing again. We can expect the fleet to bunch up again around the Azores waypoint.”


Conditions are set to be very tactical and the sailors know that there will be plenty of manœuvres and sail changes. “Everything is in place to have a fine race with a great line-up and some varied weather conditions. We’ll be able to puzzle over the options”, said a delighted Damien Seguin (Groupe APICIL) shortly before the start. 


How do you strike a balance?


For a great many of the entries, the Bermudes 1000 Race Douarnenez-Brest is a key stage on the road to the Vendée Globe 2020. “It’s essential that we finish this race in order to rack up the miles with a view to qualification”, confirms Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur). “With her new foils, my boat is a lot more powerful and I haven’t found the instruction manual yet. I’m going to have to take it slowly as I need to check everything’s okay before I stand a chance of putting pedal to the metal.”

Like Sam Davies, several other sailors will have to decide where to strike the balance between safety and performance. “I don’t want to make any mistakes and put myself in danger. I won’t think twice about reducing the sail area if need be. At the same time, I love competition and I find it hard to knock the performance aspect out of my head”, explains Maxime Sorel (V and B-Sailing Together). Clément Giraud (Envol by Fortil) has a precise idea of how he plans to sail: “To avoid going into the red, I think I’ll sail a course that is 90% in line with the routing. That will allow me to colour my navigation, without being overly influenced by what my rivals are up to, some of whom are a lot more experienced than me.”


According to the routing run by Race Management, the first competitors are expected to make Brest after a good week of racing, on the morning of Friday 17 May. So, who will make up the podium? Who will manage to complete the course? It could be anyone’s game… 


Echoes from the dock before the start: 

Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC): “I’ve been waiting for the Bermudes 1000 Race Douarnenez-Brest for a little while now and I’ve prepared well for it. It’s my first singlehanded race in IMOCA and I’m not going to make any rash decisions. It’s a competition so I’m going to try to win. I think it’s doable…”


Stéphane Le Diraison (Time For Oceans): “My aim is to finish in the top three non-foiling boats. If the opportunity arises to leave some foilers in my wake, I won’t deprive myself! I’ve covered 35,000 miles with my boat so I’ve really honed my automatic reflexes. In the changeable weather conditions forecast, I’m counting on this experience to bring my A game to the fore.”


Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group): “I’m only at the start of my solo apprenticeship on my IMOCA. I’m going to manoeuvre ‘cleanly’, without putting too much pressure on my shoulders. I want to learn the sounds the machine makes, get my bearings and experiment with the trimming. I’ll focus on performance further down the line.”


Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres): “Even though I’ve already qualified and been selected for the Vendée Globe 2020, it’s important for me to participate in the Bermudes 1000 Race so as to continue progressing and testing the boat. We have some very fine machines, which just need to get out sailing. I’m not pressuring myself for a result. I’m going to try to sail well and, if all goes smoothly, I’ll step things up a gear.”