At the heart of the Transat Jacques Vabre

Written by: Christophe Cordonnier



Time to read 31 min

Experience the Transat Jacques Vabre at the heart of the adventure with the Qwanza crew with Goulven and Nicolas, logbook version.

October 29, 2023

Let's go ! At the start of the afternoon, Qwanza finally cast off towards Lorient, where the Class 40 fleet will stop while waiting for the storm predicted in the coming days to pass. Upon arriving in the Breton port, Goulven and Nicolas will have covered approximately 300 nautical miles (almost 600 km). And that shouldn't be easy. Over the next few hours of the race, they will have to negotiate a southwest wind, with gusts that could reach 40 knots, or almost 80 km/h. As for the sea, it will be quite choppy with waves of 2 to 3 m. Already, Éole was in great shape this Saturday, October 29, at the start of the afternoon, when the 44 Class 40s set off from Le Havre. The start was given in 20 to 38 knots of wind. Enough to set the tone for this first stage. While some competitors, who encountered problems, were even forced to turn back, on board Qwanza, we chose, initially, not to take unnecessary risks and to control direct opponents. Knowing that the road is still very long to the island of Martinique. Moreover, the sea, which was particularly choppy, did not spare the ship: a wave damaged the porthole located at the front on the deck. A possible and dangerous inflow of water. Although he lost a lot of time, the crew reacted immediately and managed to repair the leak. It's going to be a long night, but the duo's morale is strong. At the 7:45 p.m. check-in, while the boats were sailing visually, at an average of 10 knots, Qwanza, which was gradually regaining speed after its damage, was thus classified in 39th position.

October 30, 2023

The first night spent at sea after the departure on Sunday from Le Havre was not easy aboard Qwanza. Goulven and Nicolas lived in a "washing machine" atmosphere with a headwind of around 20 to 35 knots (38 to 65 km/h) and particularly choppy seas with waves of 2 to 3 m... They had to endure bad weather without complaining. But not without gritting their teeth: the bumps caused by these weather conditions cost them the loss of their radar antenna, the porthole located at the front of their deck was seriously damaged and they tore their headsail... A lesser evil if we refer to the five competitors who have already had to throw in the towel due to damage to their boat, one of them even having dismasted. Within the Class 40 pack, Qwanza who initially took a route further north than the majority of competitors, in order to seek the favors of Eole, remains in contact with the bulk of the fleet, located around thirty miles ahead of them. The first of the 44 Class 40s entered should reach the port of Lorient during the night. At the 4 p.m. check-in, Qwanza, who was sailing in still very rough seas, was in 35th position. A ranking which could evolve in its favor, the boats in front finding themselves obliged to tack, while Qwanza is now taking a more direct route towards the island of Ouessant. They should make landfall tomorrow morning.

October 31, 2023

Goulven and Nicolas arrived safely this Tuesday, October 31. They reached Lorient at the very beginning of the afternoon. Qwanza crossed the finish line after exactly 1 day, 22 hours, 47 minutes and 54 seconds of racing and a journey of more than 300 nautical miles. He ranked in 38th place: "We did not want to take the risk of skimming over rocks, at night, in the Four channel, on the edge of the island of Ouessant, nor in the raz de breast, where it was dangerous to play with fire with a tidal coefficient of 115 generating a strong current, explained Goulven upon his arrival, tired but already ready to return to the front. This Tuesday morning, we therefore logically encountered the bulk of the fleet behind. Not really a big deal since there are still 4,000 miles to go to Martinique." Enough to set the record straight. But in the meantime, it's a rest for the two navigators who will be able to put Qwanza back on its feet and take care of its little ailments after these two tough days at sea. We will also have to take shelter, as storm Ciaran is quickly arriving on the Atlantic coast.

November 1, 2023

Arriving at the port of Lorient on Tuesday October 31, where they were moored in a basin near the city, Goulven and Nicolas did not allow themselves much rest. This Wednesday, November 1, being a public holiday and the nautical hardware stores closed, they had to quickly start looking for the necessary equipment to repair Qwanza's little ailments. Knowing that they will have to be ready to cast off when the bad weather has passed. Even if the organization announces that "it will not be before Monday November 6", the sooner the boat is ready, the sooner the crew will be able to concentrate on the second stage which will take them to Martinique, after having covered 4,000 miles.

In short, Goulven and Nicolas had to take out the tool kit: “The porthole became misaligned and no longer closed at the front,” says Goulven, returning to the damage they encountered. With the waves that there were , so we were taking on water. We carried out a makeshift repair. And in 3 m of waves, it was not easy! The jib also tore all along its leech line. The boat was hitting like if we shot at it with a gun. It was incredible. The support that held the radar on the mast also broke and the radar fell on the deck. With the noise, we heard nothing. We "We were lucky because it rolled backwards and we found it at the porthole. The engine charge regulator also failed." Tuesday evening, the two sailors estimated that they should be able to repair everything on time.

On the navigation side, Goulven and Nicolas, who confide that they "did not eat too much" during the first stage, say they are satisfied: "The results are very positive, assures Goulven. We could, perhaps, have been better classified but we did the choice of not taking any risks unlike others who have had a lot of breakage. This step will allow us to make the boat even more reliable. We have also made our mark compared to the rest of the fleet. In terms of speed, apart from two boats that are going really fast, we were able to see that we can be in contact with those who have the same hull as Qwanza. I sincerely think if we sail correctly that we can get a place in the 20-30. “A very achievable objective for a crew who are starting to know each other very well, are moving forward hand in hand and are, above all, on the same wavelength.

November 02, 2023

Goulven and Nicolas are already starting to find it long. Arriving in Lorient on Tuesday October 31, they immediately set about repairing the minor damage that the harsh sailing conditions had caused to Qwanza. But they are already thinking of leaving again: “The hardest part is the waiting, don't hide Goulven. We hope to have a departure date very soon. » Knowing that the organization has let them know that it should not be before Tuesday. If of course, the weather forecasts do not go in the wrong direction... This Thursday, the two friends joined Carnac from Lorient in order to take their sails to a master sailmaker who will restore everything that has suffered. In the afternoon, they returned to the port where they resumed work on the boat which was moored safely, the mooring having been doubled in case storm Ciaran hit Lorient.

November 3, 2023

If the weather remains gloomy near Lorient, Goulven and Nicolas keep smiling. The work to rehabilitate the boat is progressing according to the schedule they have set and they are starting to see the end of the tunnel. This Friday, November 3, they recovered the two upwind sails (J1 and J2) that they had brought to the sailmaker for repairs. In the process, like the majority of their little comrades in the Class 40 fleet, they resumed tinkering on board, the priority of the day having been the repair of the porthole, located on the deck, at the front of Qwanza, which had suffered greatly during the first stage: "We also repaired one of the ballast tanks, the port side one, it had cracked," explains Goulven. The engine load distributor was also replaced. Tomorrow, we will set the sails back to normal. job." This Friday evening, like all "the transatlantic castaways who arrived in Lorient", they were invited by the organizers to an aperitif. The opportunity to meet new people and of course to talk about... boats and navigation!

November 4, 2023

Goulven and Nicolas are now in the starting blocks! This Saturday, November 4, the race management announced to them that the start for the second stage of the Transat, which will take them to Fort-de-France, in Martinique, should be given on Monday, at 10:45 a.m. They will then set off on a journey of 3,500 nautical miles, with the obligation to leave the Azores to starboard. Which is not really to the taste of all the sailors who would rather leave the island of Madeira, located further south, on starboard. This would make the race fairer, in terms of options versus weather. While waiting to cast off, aboard Qwanza, where the two friends (who received help from friends to tinker), we are not idle. This Saturday on board it was a “sewing workshop and sailmaking” atmosphere! Goulven and Nicolas have been busy changing the swivel on one of their jibs and above all have done a lot of splicing and over-sheathing work on their halyards: "The boat is ready", assures Goulven who can't wait to get back to the wide. This Sunday, there will only be a few small things to do and it will be perfect." As for other good news, it is the rise of Qwanza in the ranking: certain crews having been sanctioned with penalties, Qwanza went from 38th to 35th place! This Sunday at 3 p.m., all the skippers will meet for a general briefing. PS: In the photos: Nico, known as "Marseille", Kim and Charline hard at work.

November 5, 2023

This Sunday, November 5, the race management briefing which was given to all the skippers confirmed it: the start of the second stage (3,500 miles) of the Transat Jacques Vabre, which will take the Class 40s from Lorient to Fort-de-France will be well launched this Monday, November 6. Like his little comrades, Qwanza will have to cut the line exactly at 10:45 a.m. A new episode of sailing will then begin with, in perspective, a start to the race which still promises to be quite tough: "From the start, we should have 20 to 25 knots of wind and above all, quite a bit of sea, explains Goulven . Then, from Wednesday, we will find ourselves facing an anticyclone and we will have to calculate which way to go. The routes are very different. Everyone will choose according to the speed of their boat, depending on their speed in relation to the wind "It's exactly what we expected because there are going to be several options. So it's going to become very interesting from a tactical point of view." While waiting to let the horses go, this Sunday, Goulven and Nicolas completed the preparation of Qwanza with, on the menu, a few more splices. Refueling done, full supplies assured, morale high and extreme motivation... All that's left to do is! Qwanza even has ants in her keel! PS: in the photo the seamanship work on board Qwaza: a magnificent spliced ​​eye!

November 06, 2023

So it's back to Qwanza. This Monday, November 6, at 10:45 a.m., in particularly rainy weather and a westerly wind of 12 to 25 knots, the start of the second stage of the Transat Jacques Vabre was given to the 41 Class 40s still in the running. Three duos, in fact, had to throw in the towel at the end of the first stage between Le Havre and Lorient. It was particularly harsh, with many boats having suffered more or less significant damage. This is the first time that the Transat Jacques Vabre has taken a break like this. The organizers were forced to do so in order to spare the competitors from storm Ciaran which raged in Brittany and especially in Normandy, where the wind exceeded 100 knots and where waves of more than 15 m were recorded. Blocked for six days in the Breton port, the Class 40s finally headed to Fort-de-France, in Martinique where, after 3,750 miles (6,900 km), the finish of the event will be judged. . Navigators will have to struggle, for the next 24 hours, with fairly heavy seas (4 to 5 m deep), before, in around 48 hours, encountering bad weather around Cape Finistère, at the exit of the Gulf of Gascony. Before this new start, Goulven and Nicolas were in 35th place in the general classification: “We now want to put a little south in our route,” smiled Goulven with determination. “We are particularly motivated!” From the start, with the line barely cut, the two friends took the option of passing downwind of the island of Groix (see below). The battle is on! On the route side, the race management decided to move the Class 40 fleet north of the Madeira archipelago. They will have to leave the island of Porto Santo to starboard, then let themselves slip into the trade winds bound for the Caribbean.

November 7, 2023

The weather gods are definitely not kind to Qwanza! This Tuesday morning, while they were progressing through an area of ​​bad weather, at the exit of the Bay of Biscay, Goulven and Nicolas found themselves without power on board: "We went through a storm and since then, we have small electrical problems, Goulven explained briefly in a brief audio message. We are trying to resolve everything." Without electricity, no electronics. Consequently, no more autopilot, no more GPS, no more mapping, no more positioning... In short, we must hope that the two friends can quickly repair things. Which should be the case, Goulven, like Nicolas, having ample capacity and know-how to repair. Whatever happens, they keep their spirits up and are always in contact with the pack, with a knife between their teeth. At 12:50 p.m., Qwanza was in 36th place, around a hundred miles from the group of leaders and in a close position with the bulk of the fleet.

November 8, 2023

Over the last 24 hours, Goulven and Nicolas haven't slept much. Their autopilot having broken down, they were forced to take turns, constantly, at the helm of Qwanza. All in unfavorable conditions with strong winds, rough seas and biting cold... This Wednesday, November 8 in the morning, after a particularly trying night, in order to restore their autopilot, they decided to stop in the port of A Coruña, Spain. Finally, after long hours playing apprentice electronics engineers, they managed to get their pilot partially working. Enough to regain morale and above all to set off, once again, towards Martinique! Now at the back of the Class 40 fleet, Goulven and Nicolas are fighting hard to make up for the hours lost solving their electronic problems. Knowing that four other crews had to stop in a port to repair damage. This Wednesday, November 8, in the middle of the afternoon, they were in 38th place in the ranking.

November 9, 2023

Aboard Quanza, Goulven and Nicolas struggle to maintain morale. The failure of their autopilot left them greatly behind the rest of the fleet. At the height of their electronic problems, in the middle of the night, they were completely unable to get their bearings and lost a lot of time: "We were even going in circles, regrets Goulven. We didn't even know where we were. We We were even forced to put ourselves on the cape in order to stop the boat." When they were able to partially repair it (their weather vane no longer worked and their pilot only worked in compass mode), it was the weather that played tricks on them. While the boats in front had a favorable wind to pass Cape Finistère, the Qwanza crew found themselves facing the wind and for many hours, tacking: "The pilot really broke down at the worst time , explained Goulven, disappointed, at midday, this Thursday, November 11. Now, the boat is hitting the waves and we are planting stakes like this has never happened to me. The worst is that when we see a cap, we think it's the last one and no, there's still one behind." Unfamous conditions which are putting a strain on the organizations and the morale of the troops: “We are under J2 with 2 reefs in the mainsail, notes the navigator. Last night, I did not sleep... We had up to 25 knots of wind. It's endless when you sail in these conditions." In a few hours, Quanza should finally pass Cape Finistère and finally find itself with a stronger wind which should allow it to resume a faster pace. The game is far from over.

November 10, 2023

After a long struggle and endless hours of tacking, Qwanza has finally passed Cape Finistère. Enough now to head directly towards Madeira before then letting the trade winds carry them towards Martinique. The night from Thursday November 9 to Friday November 10 was in any case a little more relaxing for Goulven and Nicolas who got back on track: “Nico let me sleep at the end of the night,” explained Goulven, laughing. at midday, visibly rested. We have finally passed Cape Finistère." According to the routings they have established, the two friends who were sailing upwind should take four days to reach Madeira: "We are going to take some time back from the fleet, explains Goulven. The problem remains the weather vane. As soon as it's raining, it doesn't work anymore and we no longer have any data." Goulven and Nicolas, who tried to find the problem by playing electronics, think that a wire must be exposed at the masthead. A repair may therefore be possible. But to do this, you have to climb to the top of the mast. It won't be immediately. With the sea state moving quite a bit, it would be too risky. At the end of the afternoon, Qwanza was moving at more than 8 knots.

November 11, 2023

Fifteen knots of wind, gentle seas, a speed of 9 knots upwind and above all bright sunshine. That was all it took for aboard Qwanza, this Saturday, November 11, to find Goulven and Nicolas smiling again and displaying high morale: "With this sun, we come back to life, don't hide Goulven as a good southerner. This is a change from the warm front we encountered the day before, with 25-30 knots of headwind and 5 m waves." At midday, Qwanza was sailing under full mainsail and J2, 80 miles from the boats in front of them. Little by little, they are catching up, but they are not idle. This Saturday morning, on board, it was a sewing workshop: "One of the mainsail slats had pierced its gusset," explains Goulven. "Luckily we didn't lose it. We were able to sew it up." Supported by the weather files, the question of the day for the crew is how they will negotiate the anticyclone they will encounter. Because on board Qwanza, we never stop working our brains.

November 12, 2023

Qwanza has moved up a gear. Sail changes, permanent adjustments, analysis of weather files... Goulven and Nicolas work tirelessly to move the boat forward. A glance at the rankings confirms that their work is not in vain. They swallow the miles with an unlimited appetite and return to the boats in front of them. At midday, Qwanza was only 30 miles behind Le bleuet de France and 40 miles behind Mussulo 40.

Something to enjoy: “The night was peaceful and since this morning, we have been working to move the boat forward as much as possible,” confirmed Goulven this Sunday morning. As they say in the jargon, “we are torching the canvas” Suddenly we send the spinnaker, the J1, the zero code... We don't stop!" The concern of the day is to negotiate as best as possible the anticyclone which blocks their path. At midday, like the vast majority of their little comrades, they fought hard not to get "stuck" in the calm, that damned lack of wind which gives anxiety to all sailors.

And when Qwanza allows them, between two tacks, the two navigators indulge in reading or relax. Always with high morale!

November 13, 2023

Aboard Qwanza, the battle rages. Goulven and Nicolas are more than ever on a war footing. Adjustments, sail changes, constant study of weather files, setting up virtual routings... The two navigators don't have a minute to themselves. They are working hard to move Qwanza forward as quickly as possible. Sometimes with unpleasant surprises. Although they had regained ground over the rest of the competitors, Goulven and Nicolas were disillusioned this Monday, November 13, mid-morning. Because the weather played tricks on them: “We had successfully negotiated the anticyclone which blocked our route but during the night, it came down on us,” explained Goulven, disappointed, this Monday, November 13. We lost 60 miles ( 110 km) in a few hours."

A little later, the duo were smiling again: “We are under spinnaker and things are starting to happen!” rejoiced Goulven in the afternoon. On the good news side, the two sailors were happy to have repaired their inflatable mattress: "We realized that it's not bad, either, to sleep lying down rather than curled up in a ball!" Goulven also laughed. In addition, we no longer had music on the phones but thanks to the tablet, we have it again. This morning, there was a discotheque atmosphere on the boat."

Martinique is still far away. Qwanza is more than 2,900 nautical miles (5,370 km) from the finish. There is plenty of time to catch up with the bulk of the peloton. Not yet very strong, the trade winds should be a little more nervous in the coming hours: “We are moving at 8-9 knots,” explained Goulven, this Monday evening. “We should come back, a little, on those in front early in the night."

On the ground, we keep our fingers crossed.

Today's radio session (Goulven live) on the transatlantic website: https://www.

November 14, 2023

This is the real permanent headache on board Qwanza. Goulven and Nicolas have to deal with more than capricious weather. The trade wind regime is particularly unstable and weak. It does not exceed 10 knots and forces sailors to knit constantly on the water, looking for the slightest breath of Aeolus. Which is far from obvious: “We had another late night without wind,” regretted Goulven, taking stock this Tuesday, November 14, of the last 24 hours of racing. We even lowered the spinnaker which was no longer useful. We have Mediterranean conditions with sunshine, light wind and flat seas. There is still sometimes a wave of swell which reminds us that we will not have fougasse on the evening menu! »

On the good news side, Nicolas climbed to the top of the mast and repaired the weather vane. Consequently, everything is working again, in terms of electronics on board Qwanza where we keep our morale and, of course, our sense of humor. It is essential.

November 15, 2023

On board Qwanza, which is always struggling with the weather conditions, to return to the boats in front, in the series of daily puzzles, there is also energy management. The boat is equipped with only two batteries. They are the ones who distribute electricity to all the electronic devices: navigation center, autopilot, AIS, lights, satellite antenna (in the photo, the large mushroom space at the rear), computer... Particularly machines energy-consuming.
Regularly, therefore, you must ensure that your batteries are well charged. To do this, Goulven and Nicolas have several elements at their disposal.
First of all, they have the motor to which a charger is connected. This is a very effective way to replenish your electricity. But to operate, it needs diesel and precisely, on board Qwanza like all the other Class 40s, the navigators have taken on board a limited quantity of fuel.
There is also a hydrogenerator. Attached to the rear of the boat, like a sort of underwater wind turbine, it produces current with the force of the water when the boat moves forward. But for that, you have to have a fairly lively appearance.
Finally there are solar panels. There are two on the Qwanza bridge. They are perfect when Ra is in good shape. But produce much less when the weather is gray.

However, in fact, during the first days of the race, the weather was not great: “During the first week, we got a little carried away with the engine speed, let's not hide Goulven, who saw the diesel level drop significantly. We have started stocking up on fuel. Fortunately, then, we have hydro and panels. In fact, the satellite antenna consumes a lot. We only turn it on when the batteries are fully charged. In compass mode, the autopilot also consumed a lot. »
On board Qwanza, to move the boat forward, Goulven and Nicolas do not only manage the energy of the wind.

November 16, 2023

Despite the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean, it is not uncommon to meet other boats. This is what happened in Qwanza, Wednesday, November 15, in the evening: “We came across a cruising catamaran,” explains Goulven. “We spoke with its crew on the VHF, the on-board radio. It left Toulon and is crossing the Atlantic towards the Grenadine Islands, in the Caribbean. We took the opportunity to share our up-to-date weather files. The team members told us that they had also met a Swiss who, like them, was crossing the Atlantic. They brought him on board for a beer!” A beautiful encounter, forgotten a few hours later... Because this Thursday in the middle of the night, it was the spinnaker which decided to play its part: "It's no longer a race but an initiatory journey, says Goulven philosophically . We untangled an egg cup in the spinnaker that no one could have imagined! In fact, the spinnaker deflated on a surfboard and it rolled up, very low, making a large pocket above. I I was forced to climb the mast. I stayed there for two hours trying to untangle it. Finally, I cut the strap located at the top of its headpiece." Then, it was the sock used to hoist and lower the spinnaker which caused anxiety to the two navigators: "There were also knots, moans Goulven. We had to spend, again, two hours in the mast to undo everything.

Fortunately, there was only 10 to 15 knots of wind." Once everything was back to normal, Goulven and Nicolas hoisted a new spinnaker (the A5) and resumed their journey towards the Canaries and the island from La Palma, where they plan to stop at Santa Cruz de la Palma to refill their diesel: “If the race is going to drag on, you might as well have reserves,” explains Goulven. If possible, we will only stop long enough to refuel."

November 17, 2023

There will therefore be no stopover for Qwanza. After reflection and considering that the boat is progressing well, Goulven and Nicolas decided not to stop at the island of La Palma, in the Canaries. What they had initially considered, in order to replenish their diesel fuel: “We are moving forward with our A2 spinnaker and it is not bad at all,” explains Goulven. “It is more stable. I would even say that "It's magical. Last night, we slalomed between the islands to look for wind. I took the opportunity to run lots of routings on the computer. As for diesel, we'll make do with what we have." Still under spinnaker, in the early morning, this Friday November 17, Qwanza was sailing in 20 knots of wind, reaching peaks of 17 knots.

Enough to get back to the group in front, before losing ground again: “It annoys us quite a bit not to have gotten any closer than that, when we worked all night, constantly, to move the boat forward , regrets Goulven. I really hope that the weather will change and evolve in our favor." In fact, each time they catch up part of their delay, the two navigators, who continue to descend towards the Cape Verde islands, find themselves, once again, in light wind, while those in front accelerate...

A real permanent puzzle to solve on board Qwanza where Goulven and Nicolas are not letting up their efforts. In the photos: on the on-board computer screen the windless zones passing the Canary Islands and the two navigators working to move Qwanza forward.

November 18, 2023

Qwanza comes back strong! For several hours, taking advantage of the favors of Eole and the operators judiciously, Goulven and Nicolas have been making a strong comeback on the boats in front of them. At the start of the evening, in relation to everyone's distance to the finish, they were only around thirty miles from Mussulo 40, the 36th. Knowing that in the last twenty-four hours, they have engaged the turbo, covering 225 miles: “Monday, we will no longer have much wind,” explained Goulven this Saturday, November 18 in the morning. But in the meantime, we have two days to enjoy ourselves in the trade winds. It's great! It's exactly what I came to look for in this deckchair: a big sun, a swell that gets longer and the speedo which oscillates between 11 and 16 knots. We realize truly that these boats are built to sail the ocean." This express navigation also offers them its share of surprises. While they see fewer and fewer birds, which is normal since they are moving away from the land, in addition to sailing with dolphins, they cross paths with flying fish. They even saw a large white insect, half dragonfly, half locust!

In the photos: Captain Goulven coming out of his watch and Qwanza at full tilt, on the verge of getting into the oven!

November 19, 2023

Sailing in a race requires constant investment. Since their departure, Goulven and Nicolas haven't really had time to be idle. They work tirelessly to make Qwanza move forward as quickly as possible: frequent sail adjustments, constant study of weather files and the best route to follow, management of on-board energy, filling and emptying of ballast tanks... All a job which does not prevent them from having maximum pleasure: “We have been under spinnaker for a week now,” rejoices Goulven. At night, the wind calms down a little but above all, the sea flattens out. let's keep almost the same speed. The sensation of sliding is incredible. Yesterday (Saturday November 18) was the most beautiful day since we left. It was just perfect navigation. Today, Sunday, we had Mediterranean conditions with a lighter wind."

A pure joy which does not prevent Goulven from putting his brain to work in order to plan for the finish: "I regularly run routings to try to see when the others and ourselves will arrive, he explains. But it varies constantly. Anyway, I can confirm, today, that the autopilot failure cost us very dearly... The next transatlantic, I will make sure that everything is doubled on board, the weather vane, the pilot's cylinders, the various computers... Even if this means that it will be necessary to find an independent energy production solution."

November 20, 2023

A genius was invited aboard Qwanza this Monday, November 20. This morning, it was time for spring cleaning using the famous detergent. Taking advantage of suitable conditions, the boat sailing quietly and without complaint under autopilot and still under spinnaker, Goulven and Nicolas took the opportunity to do a lot of laundry. Of course, at the same time, the laundry was hung on the lines: “one day gypsy, always gypsy!” On the navigation side, Qwanza continues its route towards Martinique and devours the miles with a ferocious appetite: “We went below the 2,000 nautical mile mark until the finish,” explains Goulven. “We covered 210 to 220 miles (400 km) per day. Tonight, we should change direction a little in order to take the direction of the mouse hole that we have been targeting for four days. We have lowered the main sail and the spinnaker by about 5 cm so that their halyard (the rope used to hoist and lower the sail) does not wear out from rowing in the same place." Qwanza should arrive in Fort-de-France within ten days. Knowing that the die is far from being cast. Boats heading north should, in fact, slow down in the coming hours. This could play into Qwanza's hands... Fingers crossed!

In the photos: clothesline on board Qwanza and the captain in discussion with the engineer

November 21, 2023

When Aeolus runs out of steam, the sailors say that there is “calm”. And when the wind is absent, we can definitely speak of "soft calm". Enough to get on the nerves when in the race, the sailors strive to move the sailboat forward. For several hours, this has been the case aboard Qwanza, where Goulven and Nicolas are struggling to make the boat slide into the... calm: "She caught up with us, regretted Goulven in the early morning, this Tuesday, November 21. Well, Of course, those in front are a little less impacted than us! We fought all night to try to exceed 3 knots." At the end of the morning, the two sailors had regained a semblance of a smile: “Those in front no longer have any air, either,” explained Goulven at midday. Normally should come from behind... We can't wait to get back into the trade winds. Because in addition to the calm, it's gray. " Knowing that the situation will last at least 24 hours. In the photo, halyards and sheets in the early morning showing that the two navigators really worked hard to move Qwanza forward.

In the photo, halyards and sheets in the early morning showing that the two navigators really worked hard to move Qwanza forward.

November 22, 2023

A composed and calm voice, a bit of good humor and an incredible desire to advance Qwanza to the maximum of its potential: this Wednesday, November 22, the calm of the day before forgotten, Goulven displayed morale of steel. With Nicolas, they resumed their march forward and, above all, they saw, once again, their delay on the boats in front of them diminish: “We have 13 to 14 knots of wind,” rejoiced Goulven, “around 1 p.m. We are moving forward at more than 10 knots. It's perfect. We did a virtual routing on the computer and we're trying to be ahead of it. We should arrive in Martinique within ten days." It seems that the options taken by certain competitors, particularly those who took a northern route, are less advantageous than those of those who chose a more southerly course. This is the case for Qwanza: “I think we are better located than them,” analyzes Goulven. “Especially since the wind will come from behind and therefore, we will hit it before them. We are moving forward at an angle of 145° from the direction of the wind, without going further south. We never gave up. We really can't do better. Knowing that ahead, everyone is fighting too, day and night. Whatever happens Either way, the boat is perfect and is progressing as it should." In the morning, Goulven and Nicolas sent back their largest spinnaker after having repaired it in the lead. Enough to move up a gear under the bright sun. All we have to do is cross our fingers.

In the photos: the largest spinnaker under a clear sun!

November 23, 2023

Aboard Qwanza, no one is giving up and it will certainly pay off in the end. In any case, Goulven and Nicolas are struggling to catch up with the competitors ahead of them. In the days to come, if they maintain their pace and above all, if the weather forecasts are confirmed, they could pass in front of the crews who have taken a northern option. On land, some will catch blisters from crossing their fingers... In short, on Qwanza, we navigate with a knife between our teeth, we constantly adjust the sails and above all, we think hard: "The night from Wednesday to Thursday, was perfect, says Goulven. It was almost a full moon and we could see like daylight. We didn't even need to turn on our headlamps! We made a jibe to recalibrate ourselves and changed the spinnaker to a smaller one, the A2, in order to be more suited to the sailing conditions...” At midday, Qwanza was sailing at 15-18 knots under a clear sun, very good for the morale of the troops: “We are in the mood of the trade winds,” relishes Goulven. The swell is getting longer and the boat is starting to get some very good surf. At last routing, arrival was expected in eight days, but we hope to arrive sooner, perhaps in seven days. In fact, we are racing with the computer's routing. We set it to 100% boat running and we try to be in front of the projections. » According to the weather forecast, Qwanza should remain windy in the coming hours. A very good news.

November 24, 2023

A suitable night with a boat moving at an average of 10 knots, a magnificent sunrise, another change of spinnaker, another jibe and the meeting with… Polyphemus, the cyclops.

The day of Friday November 24 began under the best auspices aboard Qwanza. Goulven and Nicolas swallow the miles with relish and display morale of steel: “We had a great night,” rejoices Goulven. “For once, the conditions were favorable to us. The fact of gybing, in the early morning, will become a tradition! In any case, it's nice these adjustments in relation to the wind, it energizes the day" Qwanza is now less than 1500 miles from the finish in Martinique.

According to the routings calculated on the on-board computer, Qwanza could cut the line by November 1st. By then, and this is confirmed for the moment, Goulven and Nicolas could catch up with the boats in front of them. Especially since the weather seems to be favorable to them.

November 25, 2023

For around 24 hours, aboard Qwanza, Goulven and Nicolas have been managing a new parameter: sargassum. These are brown algae that grow and live on the surface of the water. So far, no complaints. Except that, carried by the current, they form large sheets on the surface of the water and cross the path of the ships. Qwanza therefore did not escape: "They form a kind of streak," explains Goulven. When you pass over them, some get stuck between the hull and the top of the rudder. We tried to remove them but it "It's a wasted effort. As soon as we remove them, we cross a new bank! In fact, they end up unstuck on their own and disappear."

On the navigation side, Qwanza is going at around 10 knots, on a broad reach, in the trade wind which blows at 15 knots. Having found the instructions for the autopilot on the computer, Goulven and Nicolas also fine-tuned the beast's settings. It has become more efficient and Qwanza's walk is affected: “It looks like the boat is a blade,” assures Goulven. “It doesn't move!”

In the rankings, if they continue on the same momentum, Goulven and Nicolas should pass in front of the boat of the Martinican crew which had taken a northern route. On the other hand, they struggle to catch up with those who are just ahead and are taking the same route as them. Qwanza is expected to cut the line by next Friday. Until then, its ranking should evolve.

November 26, 2023

On board Qwanza, since leaving Lorient, beyond navigation, a whole organization of daily life has been established. Knowing that the nights are long in the tropics. It gets dark at 7 p.m. and the sun doesn't come back until around 9 a.m.: "Unless there is a need for maneuver and even then, since we manage to do everything solo, we cut the night into four," explains Goulven. We have established a first watch until 2:30 a.m., a second until 5:30 a.m. and two shorter ones to end the night. This suits us. It allows us to recover well with, in addition, a nap in the afternoon."

Still, you also have to think about eating out. There too, aboard Qwanza, a routine was established: "As we drew on the "breakfast" reserves, when passing the fronts at the start of the race, in the morning, from now on, it's just coffees and a cereal bar. At lunchtime and in the evening, it's an "eating leaning" atmosphere (Qwanzalian translation: a bag of freeze-dried food remains the best dish even when the boat is listing), which we never tire of provided to vary the brands..." In the afternoon, around 4 p.m., to taste, it's compote: "It's not much, but at the same time, it avoids making fat, laughs Goulven. Nico is a big eater, he's still a little hungry but we're going to hold on because we're thinking of the smoked chicken that's waiting for us." As for provisions, Goulven doesn't hide the fact that they're missing "sugar, pepper, oil…"

This Sunday, November 26, in the evening, Qwanza continued its direct route towards Martinique with a few surprises: "The trade wind is constant in its... irregularities, confides Goulven. Saturday evening, at one point, we even had a wind due north and we even thought the pilot had stalled." Ditto in terms of the strength and direction of Aeolus: "Suddenly we have 10 knots, then 20 knots, it comes from the north-east, then from the east... The trade wind is not really established. " One wonders if ultimately, the tram is not better aboard Qwanza who has just joined the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO)…