Le Cléac’h and Josse win the 2023 Transat Jacques Vabre

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Armel Le Cléac’h and Sébastien Josse sailing the foiling Ultime Maxi Banque Populaire XI are the first to finish the 2023 Transat Jacques Vabre

French duo Armel Le Cléac’h and Sébastien Josse sailing Maxi Banque Populaire XI have won the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023, crossing the finish line at 18:19hrs local time (22:19hrs UTC) on Sunday 12 November.

The biennial, double handed classic – which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary – started from Le Havre, France on Sunday 29th October, though due to significant depressions forecast in the Atlantic, the Ultime fleet were the only boats to set off on their Atlantic crossing, with others racing a shortened course and the IMOCA fleet held ashore.

The five-strong Ultime fleet sailed a 7,500 mile 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 closing in on the TJV finish. Photo: Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

Whilst SVR Lazartigue (François Gabart and Tom Laperche) led out of the Channel and on to the Bay of Biscay, Banque Populaire XI made their winning move at Madeira, and has led since just after Ascension Island and was never overtaken since emerging the most southerly mark of the course.

When Le Cléac’h and Josse finished, their nearest rivals were just over 160 nautical miles behind. The French duo of Gabart and Laperche on SVR Lazartigue finished the race in second on Sunday at 23:10hrs local time (Monday 03:10hrs UTC).

“We’re pleased to be here and have crossed the Atlantic, but a bit disappointed, as we would have liked to have won,” said Gabart who is handing the boat over to Laperche after this race. “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. We are going to have to continue to progress and I hope Tom will win the next one. This has been a long series of second places since 2018. The positive thing is that each time, we’re not far off it. We’re close to winning, which is great. We have had some fantastic races, got it right, enjoyed ourselves, but it would nice to win.”

SVR Lazartigue approaching the finish to take second place.Photo: Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

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

In front of a huge, noisy crowd which turned out to greet the first finishers as the race returns to Martinique for the second time, Le Cléach enthused, “This is a mythical course which it is great to finally win on. Victory is very much about the fruits of our work as a team, optimising and stabilising the boat, improving the performance of the boat which we have demonstrated on this course with very good speeds, with a great co-skipper in Sébastien. It was a super course.”

Josse, who has been with the team for over a year now and helped Le Cléac;h prepare for last year’s Route du Rhum, confirmed, “There is the satisfaction of doing a job well, the two of us together and with this team, sailing with Armel is incredible, we were always working looking for speed and performance from the tough conditions coming out of the Channel across the Bay of Biscay, coming back at François after he led, and being able to always be pushing for speed, it is very satisfying and to learn more about the boat over mile after mile, to find good speeds and with good humour is very satisfying.”

Le Cléac’h highlighted, “All of the course was fast, we were sitting at 35 knots and more for a lot of today. 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.”

You can follow the TJV via the official race tracker.

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