Quebec to St. Malo Trans-Oceanic Race 2012

Quebec to St. Malo Trans-Oceanic Race 2012

Article and photos by Job Patstone

Every 4 years around this time there is a sailboat race that takes place between Quebec City, Canada and Saint Malo, France. The race was first thought up by some organizers from Québec and Saint Malo in 1984 to commemorate Jacques Cartier’s arrival on North American soil some 450 years before in 1534.

M. Cartier had sailed from Saint Malo and landed in a small bay close to Quebec City, with his crew, on a sailing vessel named the Grande Hermine. There is a commemorative park in his name in Quebec City where he spent his first winter, but tragically lost most of his men to scurvy.

This year’s edition (the 8th running) of the “Transat Québec/Saint Malo” race, the only continuous west-to-east offshore crewed race in the world, starts on July 22 at 11:35am and will finish up around July 28th or 29th depending on the speed and force of the prevailing winds.

The fastest race ever (1996) took 7 days, 20 hours and 24 minutes over a course that spans 5365kms, give or take a few centimetres.
The race consists of three types of hull constructions, single hull (monocoque), catamaran, and trimaran (both considered multicoques) and is divided into two classifications, Class 40 and Open class. Of the 26 entries this year 21 are in the Class 40 and the five others are in the Open class, which is basically any boat over 40 feet.

The average speed over the last few races has been about 26 knots.

Two French trimarans, The “Fenètré A” (front) and the “Vers un monde sans SIDA”; the third, “Agglo Défi” were out testing the waters. There are no catamarans in this year’s race.

The race is dominated by teams from France (16), but includes others from Belgium (2), Germany (2), Italy (1), USA (1) and four teams from Canada, (three from the Montreal area and one from Lévis).

The skipper from Lévis, Georges Leblanc, who built his boat himself, has participated four times and is the only Canadian boat to have ever finished the race, making him and the “Océan Phénix” the local favorite.

The Québec/Saint Malo competition is a very brutal one, crossing the North Atlantic Ocean, which is known for its unstable and sometimes extraordinary weather patterns. The three other Canadian skippers, all from the province of Québec, are Luc Forcier (Sacramouille), Robert Patenaude (Pérseverance), and Eric Tabardel manning his boat called simply “Bleu”.

The only entry from the Quebec City region (Lévis) is the “Océan Phénix”, which is also the longest yacht measuring 65 feet. 

 The pre-race parties and preparations are already underway with skippers and teams busy scheduling, planning, examining wind charts, and discussing strategies, keeping in mind the strong tides and currents present at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, where it all begins. The boats can be visited and admired as of now up until Saturday June 21st by visitors, at the “Basin Louise” which is Quebec City’s marina located at the north end of Dalhousie Street. 

One of the crew members of the sole Italian entry, Luca Tosi in front of their “Vento di Sardgena”.
Luca told me they were racing on a budget so could not afford to ship their boat, but rather sailed here directly from Italy.

Here are some interesting facts I picked up from talking to crew members and skippers, while getting these photographs.

The race is an invitation only event, inviting only the best skippers from around the world.
Cash prize for the winner is $100,000 Cdn.
The entry fee is $7,500 Cdn.
It costs about $40,000 per team (boat) to participate; includes shipping boats, salaries, communication technologies, food, airplane tickets and general expenses.
Boats cost from $200,000 to $400,000; some are made from wood, but most are fibreglass or carbon-fibre.
Some of the owners have built their own boats.
Most yachts (crews) use vacuum packed food which can be heated in boiling water, eliminating the need for a galley (kitchen). 

Another Canadian entry from Montreal, the “Perseverance”; skipper Robert Patenaude. Several boats like this one were racing for charitable organisations.  

Two colorful French monocoques (monohulls) from the Class 40.
The crews were away, presumably taking a break.


                                                                                                                                    This is how the crew gets around on a trimaran or catamaran when changing sails; only a net between the sailor and the deep blue sea.    

The best place to watch the start of the race is on the Plaines of Abraham and there is no admission fee.
Enthusiasts can watch the daily progress starting July 22nd using the free App store or Android market, Transat Quebec Saint-Malo, or through the website,, available in English and French.


Job Patstone was born in Hamilton, ON. and has lived in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer AB.
He is presently living in Quebec City, with his wife.
He worked for Xerox for 26 years and was an ESL teacher for another ten.
He has written two books and is working on a third.

Categories: News

About Author

Job Patstone

Job Patstone was born in Hamilton, ON. and has lived in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer AB. He is presently living in Quebec City, with his wife. He worked for Xerox for 26 years and was an ESL teacher for another ten.

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