Sailors predict flat out race to Costa Rica in the Transat Jacques Vabre

The wind whipping up the Channel and into the harbour of Le Havre today served notice to the 20 yachts in the Bassin Paul Vatine that, come Sunday when they set off on the 5,000-mile Transat Jacques Vabre to Costa Rica, that the price of a sunny South American finish will be an opening autumnal slap in the face.

For the four British double-handed crews among the 14 Open 60s, futures are at stake, reputations are on the line. There will be no room for error. The man who won the race two years ago, the current titleholder also in the Vendee Globe solo round the world, said bluntly: "This is a race where you put a heavy stone on the accelerator pedal and leave it there."

The Independent's Stuart Alexander talks to Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson:





He expects to be pushing his boat Foncia up to 95 per cent of capacity, compared with 60 to 80 when singlehanded in the Vendee Globe.

His win earlier this year took so much out of him that, at the moment, he says he cannot face going again. "Today I don't have the motivation to do it a third time," he says.

Sam Davies, partnered by Frenchman Sidney Gavignet, rivals turned collaborators Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson, a transitional Alex Thomson with Ross Daniel, and a sponsorless Mike Golding digging into his own funds to race with Spain's Javier Sanso form a string British presence on what remains a largely French patch.

This is Golding's sixth appearance in the coffee company sponsorship of one of the three big transatlantic races so beloved by the French - the other two are the Route du Rhum to Guadeloupe and the daddy of them all, the British-founded Transat, so far always out of Plymouth.

It is also one of the only two world class doublehanded races, the other being the Barcelona non-stop round the world. Where long-distance races require a more measured rhythm, all four of the British crews have emphasised the need to be quick out of the blocks in order to be up front when turning onto the mid-Atlantic belt of favourable trade winds.

Weather expert and racing router Mike Broughton says that the new route has changed the whole conduct of the race. Two years ago Golding had been in the lead for five days and then took a losing option crossing the Doldrums.

There are no Doldrums to cross on the new route; find yourself near the back after exiting the Channel, rounding Ushant and heading south and playing catch-up could be a forlorn game. "By the time you reach Madeira you need to be in the lead," say Broughton. "After that it will be all about downwind speed."

Expect, also, some of the crews to take early their only opportunity to play a 24-hour stealth card, which hides their route choice and progress from being transmitted to the rest of the fleet and the world.

If life is uncertain for three of the four British teams, Alex Thomson has a new deal in place which will see him doing the Barcelona race in the latest 60 to carry the Hugo Boss name, the former Pindar, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian.

But, in a cycle which pivots around the Vendee Globe every four years and which finished in February this year, life is uncertain for many. Sam Davies must wait until early next year to see how Artemis plans to shape all of its yachting sponsorship, Dee Caffari's time with Aviva repeatedly comes to an end and is repeatedly extended, and Mike Golding is hoping for a new major sponsor for the Open 60 also to enter the Barcelona Race.

Thompson and Caffari both take the view that boatspeed will always be as important as brains and that making the fewest mistakes can avoid the "slippery slope" of trying to play catch up. Caffari is clearly more confident in her ability to control the boat after her 30,000 miles round the planet and "that looking after each other is really important. This race is huge and a good result would be awesome, I would really love it."

Thomson has put behind him a string of setbacks, including having his boat smashed just before the start of the last VG and then, after a massive repair effort to be on the start line, seeing other related problems forcing him out of the race.

"I have stopped saying 'why has this happened to me' and set myself up for the next one." On the same side of the dock, Mike Golding's former Ecover now has a new colour scheme, which he designed himself, has no sponsor name and he, too, had to overcome the bitter disappointment of being dismasted just after taking the lead in the VG.

"It's nice to be back in the swing of things," he said. "I have had to dig my hand into my own pocket in partnership with my long-time backer Philip Sorensen, but I hope it will be an investment. I need to prove the boat after the dismasting, the keel problems and all the other improvements we have done, so I need to stay in the arena. I just hope it isn't a swan song."

Golding at least has a second year of Extreme 40 sailing in 2010, when he will be 50. The same age as French legend Yves Parlier, though the wrinkle gods have been kinder to Golding. Parlier is at the helm of a Spanish yacht 1876, the year that its brewery backer Estrella Damm was founded.

He is something of an oracle, but his judgment is simple, not Delphic. "I think tactics will be the most important," he says.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn