Le Havre – Events – Transat Jacques Vabre – Trans-Atlantic Yacht Race
Every two years, the epic yacht race from Le Havre to South America is held. Called the Transat Jacques Vabre, the first ever race was held in 1993. The race is also called the “Route du Cafe”, since it joins Le Havre with the historical coffee growing places in South America. The main sponsor of the race, Jacques Vabre, is a known French coffee brand.
Le Havre has traditionally been the start of the race, but the finish has changed over time, from Colombia to Brazil. This year the event ends in Itajai, Brazil.
The race is not a French race, although the majority of sailboats and crew are French. Some 14 countries are represented.
The race has a total length of around 5400 miles, and takes, depending on the boat race category, between 11 and 20 days.
The boats are manned by two persons. The boats can be single, double or triple hulls. But not all boats at the Le Havre Docks are part of the race, some are there for the show/entertainment only:
One week before the start, all the boats have arrived at the Docks of Le Havre, and amidst a plethora of tents, stands, booths, media trucks and food places, tens of thousands of spectators crowd the docks to view this high-tech, colourful and immense sailboats. In total, over the week, including the start, some half a million spectators come to this event.
The access is free to all thanks to all the sponsors. During the week before the start, the sailboats are being prepared, some even go out for trial runs, and all this under the watchful eyes of the spectators.
The amounts of these race sailboats are enormous. There are 42 of them, and 84 skippers. There are 4 different categories/class boats.
The smaller yachts are lined up with the rear to the docks:
Several radio stations and even TV stations are broadcasting live from the “village”.
All around the basin at the Docks you will find hospitality tents, VIP area, souvenirs, food stands, information, and all other sorts of tents.
On the other side of the dock you’ll find the bigger yachts with two and three hulls.
Many of the yachts are still being worked on.
Walking on the docks, you can get very close to these special racing yachts:
Several of the yachts do some repairs, or install some new hardware, and take the boat out for a test run.
On the day of the actual race, Sunday, the yachts head out of the harbour real early, typically around 6 AM.
One by one, they head for the start area, which is at the North West end of Le Havre/St. Adresse alongside the coast. The boat will be spending the next few hours fine tuning their equipment before the start.
Each boat is followed by their support teams in Zodiacs.
And finally, at the start:
Four helicopters from different TV channels, plus several boats with TV cameras are broadcasting live the start of the race. All 40 boats leave at the same time (unfortunately when I took these photos there was no wind).
Held every two years, the Sunday October 25th 2015 start is going to be epic. The atmosphere of the village is fun, with live music being played (see video below), good food and great fun for old and young.
So if you’re into race yachts, great atmosphere, food & fun, the week before the start, and the start itself is a must. Next race is in 2017.
How To Get There
Train: Le Havre can be reached by train (Paris line and high-speed TGV to Marseille).
Car: from Paris, the A13/E5 motorway, from Calais or Amiens, the A29/E44 motorway
Ferry: From Southampton and Portsmouth direct to Le Havre, or from Newhaven to Dieppe and then the A29 to Le Havre.
Air: There is an airport, but there are no scheduled flights anymore, just charters.