Published: Monday, 23 May 2016

Thibaut Vauchel-Camus took the win of Class 40 fleet in Transat bakerly on May 20. 

Vauchel Camus Gains Victory In Transat Bakerly Class40 6

(Photos: Transat bakerly / Amory Ross - Thibaut Vauchel-Camus)

The 37-year-old Frenchman, a great character who grew up in Guadeloupe but now lives in Brittany, was celebrating the biggest win of his sailing career as he cruised over the finish line to win the hard-fought battle.

Vauchel-Camus’s blue and white monohull – Solidaires en Peloton-Arsep – crossed the line off Sandy Hook late on May 20 evening local time after 17 days, 12 hours and 42 minutes at sea. Vauchel-Camus sailed a total distance of 3,804 nautical miles at an average speed of 9.04 knots. 

When he arrived, he enjoyed the victory by shaking his jeroboam of champagne for several minutes before spraying his shore team and supporters and then tucking into a New York burger on the pontoon. His boat looked in shape provided his main headsail that clearly suffered serious damage after days of hard upwind racing. 

Vauchel Camus Gains Victory In Transat Bakerly Class40 8

Vauchel-Camus’s sailing campaign is helping to raise awareness and money for research into multiple sclerosis. The campaign is symbolised by his mascot, a teddy bear called Seppy, who was featured in many of his onboard videos during the race with Vauchel-Camus conducting impromptu interviews of him in the cockpit. At the finish, his shore team presented him with a matching Stars & Stripes outfit to that of Seppy, much to his amusement. 

“It’s an amazing race – I don’t know why I said I’d do it,” Vauchel-Camus says. “Sometimes I asked myself ‘what am I doing here – is this crazy?’ But when you finish, all of the bad memories are just gone and you remember only the good moments – the time you spent with whales and dolphins, the good weather, the good wind and the finish line.”

Vauchel Camus Gains Victory In Transat Bakerly Class40 7

(Thibaut Vauchel-Camus on Solidaires en Peloton-Arsep)

Vauchel-Camus led for much of the race, which was arguably the most tightly-contested of all of the four Transat bakerly fleets. He was in a battle for the lead from the off mainly against Britain’s Phil Sharp on Imerys and the Franco-German sailor Isabelle Joschke on Generali-Horizon Mixite. 

For days the top three were locked in what amounted to a transatlantic match race as they tackled, successively, periods of big headwinds and ferocious seas and then areas of lighter winds. In the end Joschke had to retire to Newfoundland when the punishing pace took its toll on her boat and Sharp lost performance as a lengthening list of gear failures handicapped Imerys.

But the Frenchman on Solidaires kept it together as the others faltered. “In the good wind we went very fast,” he says. “It was rewarding to be able to look at the reports and see just how fast you were going compared to the other competitors and how strong your boat is. The race is one big fight between yourself, the boat and the weather.  

“The race is also a kind of meeting with yourself,” he adds. “Every day you face new weather, new challenges and a new problem on the boat and you have to try and find the motivation to keep going. Sometimes the race was very pleasurable, when the boat was going well. Sometimes it was very challenging…and then you arrive at Manhatten and you see the amazing skyline and the Statue of Liberty and everything is good – I hope to visit the city tomorrow after my big night of sleep.”

This was Vauchel-Camus’ biggest win in his career that started in Tornado catamarans. His best Class40 results prior to this was coming second in the 2014 Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe classic and then second in the Les Sables - Horta - Les Sables race in 2015. 

Vauchel Camus Gains Victory In Transat Bakerly Class40 2

(Louis Duc on Carac)

At 14:24 on the same day, Louis Duc aboard Carac crossed The Transat bakerly finish line second in the Class40 division.

Duc’s aim is to better his fourth place finish in the 2008 Artemis Transat – the last edition of the race eight years ago. He sailed 3947nm from Plymouth to New York at an average speed of 9.15 knots, earning himself the second Class40 podium position after 17 days, 23 hours, 54 minutes and 40 seconds at sea.

Vauchel Camus Gains Victory In Transat Bakerly Class40

(Phil Sharp on Imerys)

At15:01 May 21, British Skipper Phil Sharp racing Imerys, beat the odds to finish in third.

During his 19 days, 31 minutes and five seconds at sea, Sharp was subject to time penalties, burst spinnakers, ripped sails, his power down, the boat taking on water and finally a giant gaping hole in his mainsail, the Skipper dealt with every challenge the race had to throw at him - determined to make it to New York.

Région Normandie Skipper Edouard Golbery crossed The Transat bakerly finish line to finish fourth and Robin Marais aboard Espirit Scout came fifth on May 22.