Transat Jacques Vabre

The Class 40 fleet is split in two by 150 miles of Atlantic ocean – we speak to the Brits near the front and the Dutch fighting just as hard near the back. 

In the leading bunch and sitting in 7th place is the professional British pair of Brian Thompson and Alastair Richardson aboard Tquila. Earlier this year the pair broke the transatlantic speed record as part of the crew on Argo – this Transat crossing couldn’t be more different! Ten days into the race they are approaching Cape Verde and contemplating their next move, “If the leaders stay bunched and close to the islands then we might go wide and stay in slightly stronger winds. That’s the dilemma at the moment” explained Richardson this morning.

Their seventh place is a remarkable achievement considering they have struggled for days with the electronics on board. This has meant no satellite connections or up to date weather data. Alastair used his mobile phone whilst skirting the Canary Islands to call his wife so she could advise on their position using the race tracker on the website.

Luckily for us they regained connection with the outside world just before our morning call. Thompson was in good spirits, “We seem to be doing miraculously well considering all the trouble we’ve had. It has been fantastic racing”

The problems also led to a faulty auto pilot which means the pair have had little sleep, “We’ve got an older boat and when we drive it manually we’re about a knot faster so we’ve been sailing the boat most of the time. We’ve only used the auto-pilot when we’re super super tired but that also broke the other day, so it has been a nightmare. At the moment, I’m taking it to bits to try to make it work.” explained Richardson, a former Olympic and America’s Cup sailor.

At the other end, in the second bunch of 20 boats are Dutchmen Frans Budel and Ysbrand Endt. Their boat Sec Hayai is in 36th place and passed the Canary Island of Palma this morning. Budel is a race rookie but for Endt it’s a second time in the Transat Jacques Vabre, “This has been so different from the first time. The conditions are so completely different than any other time I’ve been here” admits Endt who has taken on much of the navigational responsibilities aboard.

The conditions are not the only things that have tested the pair, “We almost lost the generator for our electrical system but then we managed to get it off our transom, repair it fully and even modify a bit to make it better” explains Endt with a laugh of satisfaction.

Neither sailor is thinking about the end of the race, they’re focused on making up ground on their nearest rivals, “We’re only thinking about the next two days and getting past the Canaries as fast as possible to try to win places. Our goal is to get back into to the top thirty.”

450 miles ahead of the Dutch, the British pair on Tquila are enjoying their sailing again after fixing the electrical problems on board, “The start of the race was wonderful and it’s fantastic racing at the moment.  We’ve got an interesting few days coming up weather-wise though because this is the last bit of good wind then it’ll be sub 10 knots in the coming days”