Homeward bound…

Halvard-Miranda-bahia-300x169Having arrived into Salvador de Bahia last Thursday in 23rd place within the IMOCA Class, Miranda, Halvard and Campagne de France are now about to depart the Brazilian city that has welcomed them so well. Having arrived less than a week ago the team have taken rest, fixed a couple of small issues and are today excited to be returning to sea and sailing home to the couples beloved Normandy.

Over 8000km awaits the duo who will be joined by Edouard Pinta who’s friendship with Halvard spans a lifetime. Upon arrival home Campagne de France will undergo a major winter refit in order to adapt the boat for Miranda and the upcoming solo season.

2020 represents a major milestone in this campaign with the first of two solo transatlantic races departing on May 10th. The first leaves from Brest, (FRA) before arriving into Charleston, (USA) and the latter runs from New York City to the famous town of Les Sables-d’Olonne. A town that will of course play host to the Vendée Globe in early November.

Of the 37 candidates currently vying for any one of the 34 places available in the Vendée Globe, 19 sailors are already assured of their place. These are competitors that completed the last edition or have built a new boat. The remaining places will be based upon miles raced within IMOCA calendar events. Miranda sits relatively comfortably however the goal remains firmly set on Vendée Globe qualification meaning completion of the next two races are imperative.

For now though, it’s time to go home…



Campagne de France arrive into Salvador..!

SALVADOR DE BAHIA, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 13: Campagne de France skippers Miranda Merron and Halvard Mabire talk to media at pontoon after taking 23rd place of the Imoca category of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2019 on November 13, 2019 in Bahia, Brazil. Transat Jacques Vabre is a duo sailing race from Le Havre, France, to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot/Alea)

SALVADOR DE BAHIA, BRAZIL – NOVEMBER 13: Campagne de France skippers Miranda Merron and Halvard Mabire talk to media at pontoon after taking 23rd place of the Imoca category of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2019 on November 13, 2019 in Bahia, Brazil. Transat Jacques Vabre is a duo sailing race from Le Havre, France, to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot/Alea)

Miranda Merron, Halvard Mabire and Campagne de France finished the 2019 edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie le Havre last night at 00h06m03s French time. The duo finished in 23rd place!

They completed the course in 17 days, 10 hours, 51 minutes and 3 seconds at an average pace of 10.39 knots over the 4350 mile course. In reality Campagne de France covered 4,612 miles at an average speed of 11.01 knots. The objective to finish and gain miles for Vendée Globe qualification has been achieved! 
« It was really good! Very very good, it’s one of my most enjoyable transatlantic races. » 

« It’s true, we had no pressure at the start so we had a lot of fun. I learned a lot! There’s still the return journey to do and after I will be on my own. Halvard will miss me! »

« I trained her, I did nothing, I was aft, just saying a little further to the left or right, and from time to time I turned winches. I took the opportunity to write a little. We’re happy. This is one of the most beautiful transats I’ve done. The conditions were nice. Leaving without pressure, I saw another side of offshore racing. It took me more than 40 years, and finally, it’s not that bad! I used to ask myself the question: “why do some people leave without any ambition of a top result?” I have the answer now: it’s a huge pleasure. I have to check with René [Boulaire, in charge of the rankings and time of arrival, ed], because we tried to cover as few miles as possible. »

« Campagne de France, is a good solid boat, there are some improvements to be made, downwind sails, some rigging. Everything is much heavier on an IMOCA and you really have to think and plan ahead because you pay for mistakes.  In a Class40 if you make a mistake you can usually make up for it. 

I feel that I have learned a lot and will learn more about the boat before going around the world; it’s a well-built boat, I had fun, even though I like to have some more boats behind me. I’ve never had so much fun on a transat. »

More information to come…

Caipirinha tonight?

Miranda, Halvard and their IMOCA60 Campagne de France should cross the finish of the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre this evening putting an end to their 4,350-mile race that has so far taken 17 days.

A daytime arrival is naturally preferable as the duo look to enjoy a colourful finish set along the beaches and skyscrapers of Salvador de Bahia. That said the winds vary in strength and direction as the finish line approaches providing a level of uncertainty on there eta.

“We are going as fast as possible – would love to finish in daylight! There is still quite a way to go. It’s time to finish anyway, as we are about to run out of milk, cheese and chocolate.” said Miranda.

Sitting in 23rd, out of 29 IMOCA60s at the start, Campagne de France also occupies the middle of the table for those without foils (14 at the start). They’ve left six of the same generation IMOCAs in their wake alongside the new and highly impressive Class40s who are proving again they’re capable of running alongside their big brother the IMOCA60. Miranda and Halvard can be genuinely happy with the way they’ve raced and the way they’ve approached this racecourse. The goal was to finish and accumulate qualification miles for the Vendée Globe. Both goals are soon to be achieved.

Campagne de France: Brazil Awaits

Miranda, Halvard and Campagne de France have been sailing off the Brazilian coast since last night! Crossing Recife this morning the trio remain some 400 miles away from the finish of this 4350 nautical mile race to Salvador de Bahia and the opportunity to indulge in all that Brazil has to offer.

The road to Salvador has been relatively straight forward since exiting the painful Doldrums and the trio have extended their lead to 250nm on the four chasing boats.

Campagne de France’s arrival into Salvador will not only mark the completion of a hard fought and beautifully run race but is also a significant milestone in the qualification process linked to the Vendee Globe. With a possible 34 places available and 37 skippers having preregistered, the number of miles built by each skipper onboard their chosen boat will be crucial.

News from Miranda!

Miranda poppy 1 (photo Halvard Mabire)« Moonlight bright enough to trim the sails without using a torch. After a quiet few hours, the wind is filling in again.

As there are only two of us on board, we don’t run a fixed watch system at all. It depends on the conditions, whether there are tactical decisions to take, sails to change or things to repair etc. If the weather is good, the off-watch person can get out of their foul weather gear and boots and into a sleeping bag. If conditions are difficult, the off-watch person stays fully dressed, ready to leap into action. The aim is to not both be in desperate need of sleep at the same time.

Nor are there any fixed meal times. Food is mostly self-service. The freeze-dried meals are eaten straight out of the packet, so washing-up is limited to spoons. We make enough water for drinking/ rehydrating meals and to wash ourselves. There is no laundry or shopping. No land e-mails or mobile phone. No internet. No toilet to clean – there isn’t one.

We try to keep the interior of the boat clean, and the sea – and sometimes rain – does the rest. So, while racing is often cold, wet, miserable, and at times dangerous and very frightening, on nights like the one we’ve just had (millions of stars, warm breeze, not a soul on our patch of ocean), it’s a huge privilege. »


Campagne de France falls silent in respect

Miranda poppy (photo Halvard Mabire)Fernando de Noronha is a volcanic archipelago about 350 kilometers off Brazil’s northeast coast. It’s named after its largest island, a protected national marine park and ecological sanctuary with a jagged coastline and diverse ecosystems. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001 it’s expected that Miranda, Halvard and Campagne de France will pass by at around midday today, the 15th day of the Transat Jacques Vabre.

It’s at about this time that Miranda and Halvard will fall quiet and respect a moment of silence to commemorate the passing of the 11th hour, of the 11th day and the 11th month in 1918 where the battlefields of the First World War became silent marking the end of conflict.

“I’m immensely proud to compete on a boat covered with poppies, symbols of pesticide-free land and symbols of the memory of fallen soldiers” Miranda says from the trade winds of the southern hemisphere.

Campagne de France is approaching the Brazilian shores at good speed. Still ranked 23rd, an honourable position for one of the oldest boats in the fleet. Tuesday night (French time) seems a conceivable finish time with 650 miles of racing remaining.

Halvard avec fromage (photo Miranda Merron)

News from Halvard:

« Hello,

I never thought I could write so many words about the problems we’re having with technology. Last night was a little hectic but no more so than normal. In any case when sailing in the trade winds, the pace is nice and the road comfortable, but it seems that with every wave, every jolt, everything jumps and crashes. We’re to be aware of increased traffic with cargo ships coming to and from Panama, therefore we require higher usage of our navigational systems, our communication systems and more.

We have too many cables, too much connectivity, all probably ‘made in China’ and not overly well built or mounted. Therefore the aforementioned jolt results in total connection losses. The worst is that everything has been working this season, that is until it was ‘checked’.

Even when sat comfortably in the office at home, stable and dry, it’s a miracle for these electronic things to work. When it works on a sailing boat, subjected to all the shocks and jolts, it’s surely the work of magic or witchcraft. We’re a little worried about our return to Cherbourg because Salvador is not somewhere conducive to fixing our issues. Perhaps a little letter to Santa Claus will result in the required fix being delivered upon our return.

In short each of our little household problems do not prevent us from advancing although it is frustrating.

In the meantime we find ourselves in beautiful conditions on this significant day. November 11th is not a holiday. It’s a day of European and global mourning. A day in which we must all take time to mourn and pay our respects to all that have lost their lives to war.

An armistice is always a happy event, but it is still necessary that the conditions of this armistice does not encourage the continuity of conflict. Another such conflict will see the beginning of the end for civerlization.

Some « national heroes » carry a heavy responsibility. The influence of Clemenceau, a left-wing politician who didn’t hesitate to sacrifice his people was key to the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty which itself sowed the seeds for the explosion of the Second World War. At least this November 11th is used to remember and ask ourselves how we got here.

I’m sorry that todays writing is in stark contrast to the adventure we’re currently experiencing but the isolation of the ocean should not be an excuse to forget the sacrifice that has gone before us, unfortunately useless but required by leaders and generations who have preceded us. »

Until tomorrow.


Under 1,000 miles to Salvador

Halvard avec fromage (photo Miranda Merron)We have escaped from the Doldrums and hooked into the southeast trade winds. From here, it’s more or less a straight line on port tack for just under 1000 miles.

On the very important subject of food, thanks to the team at Prolaidis/France Frais, we have some very good cheese, and have been saving part of the supply for a feast in about 30 miles time when we cross the equator.

“That’s it, we’re in and we’re here for a while”

DoldrumsMiranda, Halvard and Campagne de France remain some 1400 miles from the finish of the Transat Jacques Vabre having seen the first effects of the Doldrums in the early hours of the morning. For those leading the IMOCA fleet the Doldrums wreaked havoc for some 36 hours turning the leader board upside down. This, the most famous of the Intertropical Convergence Zones now stretches some 400 miles in latitude making the coming hours all the more challenging. With Miranda and Halvard starting to feel the effects they’ll be hoping that the lead they have on those behind them isn’t melted away like snow in the sun or at least, that their competitors face the same challenges they do.

The latest from Halvard:

“The exit is 400 miles away, it’s a long way off, we went through a very active area at the beginning of the night. Lightning everywhere, heavy kernels, changing wind direction and gusts of over 35 knots. The lighting remains around us and it’s difficult to know how to position the boat in these conditions. The only thing that is safe to say is that the manoeuvres and constant adjustments are somewhat painful.

Frankly, it’s a funny idea to go to such places “for fun”. The Transat Jacques Vabre Normandy Le Havre boast of being the only Transat to cross through the Doldrums. Whilst understanding the enjoyment of those spectating delight in our pain and the upheaval of leaderboards, I do not see the interest. Circus games and gladiators were good for the public too. Especially when the Christians were eaten by the Lions. But… the worst part is that we’re still happy to be here. The human brain is a complex, even odd thing.

We have to keep our heads, the lack of sleep begins to be felt. This combined with our computer problems and miscellaneous connectors getting worse, we often end up without a computer, without a screen, keyboard, mouse or nothing at all. We had a system that wasn’t working badly and we wanted, as a precaution, to test it once more. But it’s shit. I begin to suspect that computer scientists secure their future by making a system as unstable as possible so they can then explain the cause and obviously the most “reliable” solution.

As long as we sell only disposable items, do not come and inform me of the climate and try to tell me that I do everything wrong and that everything is my fault. Trying to make people feel guilty and want to make each of us personally responsible, well consumers anyway, is somewhat perverse. We’re sold items that are often fundamentally floored with no ability to fix or preserve. I wonder if this approach is the issue but it’s not this we talk about. Either way it seems that Greta will save us… Amen.

Like that, it is quite normal to move from the Doldrums to the Climate because here, we’re right in it. Perhaps we’ll be saying that the consistency of the Doldrums in this years Transat Jacques Vabre is somehow related to greenhouse gases. Moreover, Greta saw it with her own eyes whilst crossing the Atlantic on Malizia this summer. It’s conversations like this that are interesting and makes it possible to plant a little seed in everyone’s heads that nature should be a priority in its place, i.e. above us and with that, I’m fine. »

A new game show?

Gripping new reality TV series (hourly updates) on tonight: the Doldrums
Lottery. Contestants must negotiate the treacherous crossing of the
infamous vast area of calms using only their sails, plus tactical and tea-
leaf-reading skills. Hazards include enormous wind-eating cumulomonsters
and sudden violent squalls.
The first team to extract themselves on the south side will be rewarded with
a wad of cash and first rights to a caipirinha.

We will have entered the next edition in approximately 300 miles.

Miranda/ Campagne de France

Cape Verde ahead..!

We are trying not to have a repeat of Monday night’s « entertainment » when
the autopilot remote control, when asked to change 1 degree of wind angle,
simply disconnected the autopilot instead, resulting in a spectacular
crash gybe about two seconds later. Sails, keel, everything on the wrong
side, pinning the boat on her side. It took a little while to get under
control and upright again. Fortunately there was no damage. Naturally it
was dark – it wouldn’t be as much fun otherwise!
The remote control has been banished for antisocial behaviour, as has the
wind mode for the autopilot (dangerous snaking). That leaves compass mode,
which requires constant adjustment to match the very shifty wind and try to
keep the boat under the mast as it takes off down decent sized waves.
It is of course possible to hand steer the boat, but there’s nowhere really
to sit as it is set up for solo sailing, which relies on the autopilot.

Cape Verde Islands in a few hours.

We are enjoying following the performance of the Class40s. We always knew
that they are faster than older generation Imocas such as this one, but it
looks like some are faster than more recent ones too…

Miranda/ Campagne de France

Navigating Cape Verde

CDF-Miranda-600x337-1The fleet of 27 IMOCA60s still racing in the Transat Jacques Vabre has split into three distinct groups. The first, containing many of the fastest duos, have now crossed or are preparing to cross the latitude of Cape Verde before entering the famous Intertropical Convergence Zone known as the Doldrums. The second group, composed of 5 boats, approach the area well grouped and the last group remains some 850 miles behind current race leader Charal.

We’re not surprised to see the speed at which Charal has covered some 2,000 miles. It reflects the technological advances made by those pushing the extremes of both design and budget. Charal’s average speed of 13.5 knots perfectly demonstrates the 13-year difference in the aforementioned design and budget compared to Campagne de France who’ve maintained an average speed of 9.4 knots since starting on Sunday October 27th.

Today Campagne de France is fighting in the last group, kept in company by others with similarly aged boats, goals and desires. Halvard and Miranda continue to protect the small gap to the west which should, within the next 24 hours, allow them to negotiate the islands of Cape Verde with relative ease and an advantage. So far, it’s been a beautiful race for the trio of Miranda, Halvard and Campagne de France.

News from Halvard:

“We’ve got a slight autopilot issue! It works very well most of the time although does drain our batteries somewhat. In a straight line and with stable conditions the autopilot performs perfectly, and you have to be honest in expecting that to be the case from the outset. If you fail to maintain a constant speed because of this, that or the other, you’ll be kept vaguely on course, but… as soon as there is a change of wind speed, direction or trim then your vaguely stable course becomes less stable and somewhat vaguer.

The worst is when we’re in the manoeuvring phase. There, it becomes frankly dangerous because he, the pilot, likes a certain stable speed and a boat that maintains a course. Unfortunately for him during a manoeuvre our speed, nor our course are constant. Not only are we slowing but we’re also jostled by the messy sea state created by the large surface currents disagreeing with the wind over the direction of travel.  He is so unable to maintain a course that the boat gybes and we’re unsure of whether we’re on a rollercoaster, bucking bronco or our beautiful Campagne de France anymore. It’s dangerous…

Last night we had the misfortune to use the pilot’s remote control. A small and clever device allowing Miranda or I the ability to alter our course from any position on the boat. We’d not used it for a few days and the increasingly idiotic pilot didn’t appreciate it. On first touch everything seemed fine. On second however we found ourselves in a more than uncomfortable position following the pilots decision to tack. With the boat leaning horizontally, sails in precarious positions and with the keel and gear on the wrong side of the boat it was very complicated to put the whole mess back together and resume our delightful slide south. Miraculously we sustained no major breakage, the biggest tragedy of race so far was losing the good coffee that rehomed itself within the cockpit.

Very sensibly and very kindly we had one of the autopilot engineers visit Campagne de France in le Havre prior to the start of this 4,350 mile race. We were told not to worry about the rumours around the pontoons of the autopilot’s ability to go on strike when the going gets tough and that it would work perfectly. While it is true that on some boats it does seem to work perfectly, this is not the case for us. The merchants will continue to say that it’s the users that are the idiots however I know many boats that bought, at great expense, the same autopilot and are now replacing them, tired of spending their time looking for settings that provide no results.

But nevertheless, I will not complain. On the one hand, I knew the era of old-fashioned autopilots, a wind vane placed towards the rear of the boat, working directly with the rudder and helming to the changes in wind direction. I must admit that there has been huge progress and it’s always impressive to see how some pilots drive our perfectly perfected modern racing machines! Whilst we race doublehanded and not alone it’s a little less scary. It’s just damaging to both the performance and speed of Campagne de France!

The IMOCA is somewhat different to the Class40 in that we absolutely need an autopilot. Besides the fact that we have numerous other things to do, the general ergonomics of the cockpit do not favour the possibility to helm manually for a sustained period of time.

That said it’s not a pilot issue that’ll prevent us from getting to Salvador, although we must recognize that it is far from the ideal! In any case we’ll have it solved for the solo season and particularly the Vendee Globe. »

Until next time,