After 22 days, 8 hours, and 55 minutes at sea, Gildas Morvan and Charlie Dalin, the duo of sailors aboard Cercle Vert, were the first to cross the finish line in the 11th edition of the Transat ag2r La Mondiale, arriving in Saint Barthélemy at 3:55pm on Sunday May 13 2012. Morvan and Vert finally won this event, after seven unsuccessful attempts.
“The arrival in Saint Barth is always a special experience for us, especially when it’s on a Sunday. And when you are the winners, it’s even more magical,” says Morvan. Dalin, on the other hand, tasted victory at the first attempt. At the head of the fleet since May 3 (the race set sail from Concarneau, France, on April 21) Cercle Vert certainly earned their win, with Erwan Tabarly and Eric Péron, the early leaders aboard Nacarat, finishing second at 5:10pm.
But the real show that sunny Sunday afternoon was put on by the team of Jeanne Grégoire and Gérald Veniard, aboard Banque Populaire. They eventually finished third, but just 96 seconds ahead of Paul Meilhat and Fabien Delahaye, aboard Skipper Macif, after a close chase into the port.
After 7,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, with the route a bit more circuitous than usual due to a major weather system that had to be avoided mid-Atlantic, 12 of the 16 boats in the race finished within a period of six hours. This means that the arrival rate for 75% of the fleet was one boat every 30 minutes: a rhythm never before seen in the ag2r. The local population was out on the water and the docks to welcome the boats home. And the crowds were out in force to welcome the last boat, Hotel Emeraude Plage Saint Barthélemy, with sailors Louis-Maurice Tannyères and Joanna Tannyères, both in the race for the first time. They arrived two days after the winners and most of the competing yachts, along with a fleet of local boats, went out to give them a big Saint Barth’s welcome.
Founded 20 years ago, the ag2r takes place every two years with teams of two sailors competing on identical 33ft Figaro Bénéteau II sailboats. The race is a challenge of man against the sea. Drinking water and food are carefully rationed and must last almost a month in a race where outside assistance is forbidden. The ag2r-La Mondiale represents the close of the regatta season in Saint Barth, and after such events as The Bucket, Les Voiles, and the West Indies Regatta, it is safe to say that the little Port of Gustavia is one of the busiest in the Caribbean.
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine. She writes about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.