Taking place every other year, the Transat Jacques Vabre is a major event on the international sailing calendar. Over 60 boats will leave from Le Havre, Normandy’s famous seaside city and France’s leading coffee importing port, and, for the very first time, will set sail for Fort-de-France Bay, in the West Indies.

The longest double-handed transatlantic race

Created in 1993 by the city of Le Havre and the Jacques Vabre coffee brand, the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre retraces the historic coffee route between the first coffee-trading port in France and the most beautiful coffee-producing lands. In 2020, the Normandy Region joined the team as the third partner helping to put on the race. For its 15th edition, over 60 boats will leave the Bassin Paul Vatine in the heart of the city on 7 November 2021 and will set off to Fort-de-France in Martinique, which will host the finish of the longest and most demanding double-handed transatlantic race, in what promises to be a sensational spectacle. This is the first time that the overseas island will host the finish of the race, and it is an honour for Martinique, a mecca for yachting, whose Martinican yawl is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4 different classes of boats will take part in the Transat: Class40, IMOCA, Multi50 and Ultimate, which all have different speeds. They will in fact be taking different routes to Fort-de-France. A couple of hours after leaving Le Havre, the fleet is expected to reach Etretat, celebrated as the perfect vantage point for spectators. Indeed, the Transat Jacques Vabre always kicks off with a show sequence before heading offshore. The sailors will then continue on to the Bay of Biscay, where weather conditions can sometimes be challenging in November. They will then head for the north-easterly trade winds, with a passage through the Doldrums and the Equator. If this trunk is common to all classes, the rest of the course differs.

The Class40 will have to go around the island of Sal in Cape Verde and then head towards the southern tip of Martinique and along the Diamond Rock before arriving in the bay of Fort-de-France. The IMOCA and Multi50 classes will be sailing along the Brazilian coast, rounding the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, before setting off towards Martinique. The Ultimate flying trimarans will have the longest and most difficult course as they are also the fastest in the fleet. They will sail down to Trinidad and then along the Brazilian coast. This return leg will be more demanding than in the past, as they may once again find themselves back in the doldrums. They will also have to fight against the strong currents very close to Recife.

The docks in Le Havre © V. Joannon

A wealth of festivities in Le Havre

More than just another sporting event, this world-renowned yacht race always attracts a great deal of media attention. Set up all along the Bassin Paul Vatine, the Race Village will be open for ten days, creating a festive atmosphere and drawing in the crowds. The village will come alive with sport activities, an eco-awareness programme, and hundreds of free sailing trips offered by local clubs. In the evening, concerts and firework displays will entertain spectators. In 2019, the event was was attended by over 500,000 visitors.

Le Havre: a unique and exciting city

Founded in 1517 by the French king François Ier, Le Havre is one of France’s most famous and important ports. Situated at the mouth of the River Seine, the city was almost completely rebuilt after World War II by visionary architect August Perret. His bold plans resulted in the city centre becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Le Havre boasts a huge marina close to its seafront, and welcomes many other nautical events, such as the Solitaire du Figaro. 

useful information

The Transat Jacques Vabre
From 29 October to 8 November 2021
Official website
Free event

Best nautical events in Normandy

Best nautical events in Normandy

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