Sunday, December 8, 2013

Australian Duo Complete Transat Jacques Vabre Trans Atlantic Race

Amateur Australian duo Michelle Zwagerman and Patrick Conway crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Itajai, Brasil this evening at 2238hrs 03” local time (0038hrs 03” UTC Friday) to finish in 21st place in Class 40.
Photo: Jean Marie Llot / DPPI / TJV
The first Australian couple to complete the race which started on 7th November from Le Havre in France did so in an elapsed time of 26 days 23 hours 23 mins and 28 seconds. They finished 6 days 1 hour 42 mins and 03 seconds behind Class 40 winners GDF SUEZ. Over the theoretical course of 5450 miles from Le Havre to Itajai they averaged 8.76 knots. In reality they sailed 5672 miles averaging 8.76 knots.
Photo: Jean Marie Llot / DPPI / TJV
The end of their adventure came with the final finish line. It started a year past in April when they bought their Akilaria RC1 in La Rochelle on which pre-start they had sailed more than 3000 miles, including competing in the Les Sables Horta Les Sables race and the Roma per Due.
Photo: Jean Marie Llot / DPPI / TJV
As committed amateurs, Patrick is an international project manager who is a long time Sydney sailor whilst Michelle, and IT consultant, the husband and wife team took a two years sabbatical and spent the best part of the first year training and learning their boat.
Photo: Jean Marie Llot / DPPI / TJV
The Transat Jacques Vabre was the pinnacle of their dream. They set off with the main objectives of finishing the race, together and not being last. In the early stages they were 17th to 19th, but when the conditions became harder, they were content to consolidate and sail more safely to ensure they reached the finish of the race.
Photo: Jean Marie Llot / DPPI / TJV
They ensured that, by and large, their problems were relatively small. Early on they had a problem with their hydrogenerator and latterly they wrapped their key spinnaker tight around the forestay. The last three days were some of the more testing with light winds mixed with some big squalls, but they took them in their stride and looked delighted when they appeared out of the dark this evening.


Michelle Zwagerman, AUS, co-skipper Croix du Sud: “We are relieved. But I can’t believe we have done it. But we are very sad too, this is the end of the journey.

“It started in April last year and back then it always seemed an impossible thing to achieve, 30 days racing, how can we do that? But we have done it step by step. You break it down into little bits and do it. The first objective was to arrive, and to arrive together. And it has been a really good journey together.”

Patrick Conway, AUS, co-skipper Croix du Sud: “We have had a lot ‘us’ time. It has been a really good journey. It has maybe made us go a little bit slower, but we took time to be together and talk. We got a little bit more tired than we should have. But it was a lot of fun. Today when we hit some big squalls and the boat is getting hammered, Michelle turned around and said: “Shall I put the kettle on?” That was in the third thunderstorm and I thought the gods were trying to tell us something... Ecolec are still out there and have a hard slog. We were trying to catch Obportus but they were just a little bit too quick for us. They passed us just off the coast of Brazil and have been a bit quick.

Patrick: “The third thing for us was to not break the boat. We had a lot of chafe. We lost a couple of small things. We lost the tack out of the spinnaker and wrapped it around the forestay.”

Michelle: “But we did really well with maintaining the boat, but then towards the end you are getting so tired and then you make mistakes and that was what breaks things.”

Patrick: “ We saw two whales surfing waves right beside us. There was a bounce as they brushed off the boat, they were much bigger than the boat. That was exciting. But other small things, like the other night there was a sunset which was just incredible, layer upon layer of cloud and a sky and a really hard wind on the water.”

Michelle: “When we were approaching the Doldrums the first thunderstorm went to the left of us and I thought great, then the second went to the right and I thought great, but then the next one got us. Seeing the Southern Cross for the first time on the race was a big moment for us. We did not say very much. Crossing the equator was a very special time, very emotional. We did not talk much. All of a sudden things are back on the ‘right’ side for us, the sun is the right place and you feel like you are coming home. For us like ‘we have done our thing now, maybe we should go home’”

Patrick: “The journey has been really good for us. I think there are so many groups of people who are in here, and we are proud to be Aussies and to have finished, but you look at the people who are here and we are quite humbled actually. To just be here, we are honoured. We are just amateurs so to participate in the same race as some of these people is very special.”

Michelle: “No more ocean crossings for me. It is back to Sydney Harbour for me. It is back to skiffs on Sydney Harbour for me.”

Patrick: “Two up is quite a lot of pressure. What I would like to see is more people follow us, to see more people take the time out to do this kind of thing, to meet the challenge. It is an adventure and it is not just for professionals. The first time you win is when you make the start line, the planning the working together, you just get it done. If more couples came and did this it would be really good.”

Seaclear Communications

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