Charal covered the theoretical course of 4,350 nautical miles at an average speed of 12.83 knots but actually sailed 5,116.17 nautical miles at an average speed of 15.05 knots. It finished 15 hours 48 minutes and 0 seconds behind the winner, Apivia.
It finished just 6 minutes and 18 seconds behind PRB. Their finish was as dramatic as any into the Bay of All Saints chasing PRB all the way down the coast.
But as close as this chase was, the race will be remember for their epic stall in the Doldrums. Charal was 120 miles ahead of Apiviawhen they entered the Doldrums at around 07:30 on November 5. At times they completely stopped as Apivia redirected 50 miles east and flew by, almost without pause. Every time they had looked like finally escaping the clutches of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, they were sucked back in.
Apivia’s early acceleration in the trade winds meant that even when Charalwas out of the Doldrums on November 8, they continued to lose miles, peaking at being 302 miles behind at the 19:00 (UTC) ranking on November 8 – a total loss of 422 miles.
This Route du Café was to be theirs. Launched just before the Route du Rhum in 2018, Charal is the pioneer of a new generation, the first foiling IMOCA monohull to achieve full-flight. Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt spent a year of methodical and hard work developing it to learn the new settings that enable their aerobatics. In Le Havre, the state of confidence and preparation of the boat made them red-hot favourites. Jérémie Beyou was riding high with two wins in the pre-season and had found in Christopher Pratt his alter ego.
However, the start of the race was not as striking as the duo would have liked. That could be put down to a slightly hesitant opening but especially to a certain indecision when choosing between the option to go west or south. The other skippers and followers of the race alike all kept their eyes on Charal, waiting to see what they would do after passing Ushant on the first night.
Finally, Charal let five competitors go west and rightly re-joined the main body of the fleet by tacking south on the early hours of October 29. On November 1 at the exit of the high ridge of pressure, it look the lead. "They were in charge of the game," Yann Eliès said after the victorious arrival of Apivia. In four days of sailing in the northeast trade wind, Charal accumulated the 120-mile led over his most serious pursuer.
However, we know the rest. Three days of hell followed for Charal in the Doldrums, that conjured up images from the past of trapped and desperate sailors. “We marked the ground for all those who arrived behind us, it was bread of heaven for them, they had only to move eastward to avoid getting stuck,” Beyou said. “There was a lateral shift of about fifteen miles, them on the highway and you, on the country lane, with the next junction very far away. We stopped looking at the rankings, because wasn’t humane, it became unbearable.”
On November 8, finally, Charalsprung free in sixth position. It’s loss of 422 miles was a rare punishment in the annals of offshore racing.
Epilogue: Beyou, who regretted that the first part of the race did not offer the ideal conditions for the foilers, remotivated in the south-eastern trade winds showed again what Charalcan do. In a bad position, to the west of the fleet, Charalpassed its competitors one-by-one…until PRB, a 2009 design upgraded with foils last year, which held off their assault to the finish line. It was not the podium place they hoped for or most expected at the start of the 14th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandy Le Havre, but it will live long in the memory.
Source press release Transat Jacques Vabre