Francois Gabart (Macif) vainqueur de la categorie Imoca sur la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 en 12j 04h 38mn et 55 sec - Pointe a Pitre le 14/11/2014 (Photo © Alexis Courcoux)

Francois Gabart (Macif) vainqueur de la categorie Imoca sur la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 en 12j 04h 38mn et 55 sec – Pointe a Pitre le 14/11/2014 (Photo © Alexis Courcoux)

When he crossed the finish line off Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe this Friday afternoon to win the IMOCA 60 Class in La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, François Gabart completed a vey rare back-to-back solo ocean double, adding the Route du Rhum solo Transatlantic to his 2012 victory in the Vendee Globe, the solo non stop around the world race.

Just as he won the legendary Vendee Globe at 29 at his first attempt, the youngest ever winning skipper, so today he also added the Route du Rhum title on his first time in the four- yearly solo race from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe.

Remarkably just four years ago he was in Guadeloupe to greet and help Michel Desjoyeaux. In the intervening period he launched his IMOCA 60 project, sailed only three solo races and won all three.

The only other solo sailor to have sailed to successive wins in the Vendee and the Rhum – the pinnacles of solo ocean racing – is Michel Desjoyeaux, who was Gabart’s original mentor and project manager.

Gabart’s twin peaks are distinct from his friend and teacher’s in that Desjoyeaux won the 2000 Vendee Globe in the IMOCA and then triumphed in the 2002 Route du Rhum outright sailing the ORMA trimaran Geant.

But Gabart becomes the first to win the two big IMOCA prizes back-to-back in the same boat. And today after breaking the 2006 course record of Roland Jourdain – setting a new mark at 12d 4h 38m 55s – he also owns both the Transatlantic record for this 3542 miles course and he course record for the solo global circumnavigation (78d 2h 16m 40s)

Having conquered the round the world and Transatlantic courses at the first time of asking this was his last race on the IMOCA 60 which has carried him to victories. He will step up to a new 100 foot trimaran which will be launched next year in the colours of Macif, who he has been with since 2011, and pursue ocean records and races, likely to include this Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.

Although he was pushed hard through most of the race by Jeremie Beyou (Maitre Coq) – his training and sparring partner from the elite Pole Finisterre racing group based from Port-La-Foret in Brittany, Gabart proved to have a consistent edge in speed in the fitful trade winds conditions, despite the fact the two boats are near idenitical twin sisters from the VPLP/Verdier partnership.

Indeed the Macif-Maitre Coq vanguard of the IMOCA fleet this Route du Rhum in many ways mirrored that of the Vendee Globe when Gabart and Armel Le Cleac’h raced around the world as if attached by bungee elastic. Beyou’s boat Maitre Coq was formerly Le Cleac’h’s Banque Populaire. Gabart was 90 miles ahead of Beyou before the final passage round most of the island, by the finish that had been compressed closer to 45 miles.

Gabart’s Route du Rhum was carefully modulated. He proved on the Vendee Globe that he is an innately fast, confident and hard driving skipper, belying his tender years in the class. This time he lead since Cape Frehel just after start line on Sunday November 2nd and was never passed.

Gabart’s Race
After less than 24 hours racing he was already 3 miles ahead and in control of a pack comprising Beyou and 2004-5 Vendee Globe winner Vincent Riou and Marc Guillemot. Riou was a closer contender before he had to retire with structural damage to his mainsheet track while a combination of small problems hobbled the challenge of Guillemot (Safran) who finished third in 2010. South of the Azores, Beyou cut the corner back to the north-west and closed the gap to less than 20 miles, but Gabart was able to extend on the SW side of the Azores high when he manouvred into bettter breeze and progressively opened out on each position report.

There is an element of catharsis too for Gabart, who one year ago lost the top of Macif’s mast when leading the two handed Transat Jacques Vabre with Michel Desjoyeaux.

Aside from being here in Guadeloupe in 2010 to meet Desjoyeaux, the last time Gabart was on the island was as a seven year old around the same time as Florence Arthaud became the first woman to win the race.

François Gabart originally studied and become an engineer at a top school in Lyon, but his heart was always in sailing. At the age of 7, he sailed away for a year with his family stopping in the Canaries, Cape Verdes, French West Indies, the States… a part of his childhood which clearly left its mark. From a racing background in small dinghies he moved to and Olympic campaign in the Tornado class.

In just two years in the Figaro circuit, he was top rookie in 2008, came third in the Cap Istanbul, and third in the BPE Transatlantic race 2009. In Oct 2009, he was chosen as Skipper Macif winning a national talent selection. Second behind Le Cléac’h in the 2010 Solitaire, he won the Cap Istanbul and became French offshore racing champion.

Gabart’s star remains very much on the ascendancy, a very rare talent in ocean racing.

First words:
“This is huge. It is the Route du Rhum, it is not just nothing. I pushed myself like never before to win this. Now I am happy with the result and how I got there. The project was launched just four years ago. I raced round the world and won and now this. I could not do better with this boat. We have done only three races together and won all of them (ed’s note: 2011 BtoB Brasil to Brittany, Vendee Globe, Route du Rhum). But this is the end of our life together, we have done some beautiful things. I wanted to live this Route du Rhum with the same emotions, the same feelings and the Vendee Globe.

I really enjoyed myself. It is a beautiful thing racing alone. I am still learning.

As for the record? Well times change and technology changes and I don’t think it is interesting to compare the times.

But I have to say that if someone had told me when I was here four years ago that I would have done this, I would not have believed it. It is not because you think it is easy that it becomes so, but because it is not, on the contrary it is hard.

I set myself a very high level. And it is about the personal challenge of that. I set the bar high and so I was sad when Vincent dropped out. I should have been happy, but I was disappointed. We would have had a good fight and pushed each other. I did not think for ten seconds that Jeremie was just behind me. I just built the margin over three days. I have a great sensation, a great feel for the boat and spent a lot of time at the helm. I could feel when it is good, when the stack was right, when the sail combination was perfect, when there was weed on a rudder.

I lost my big spinnaker at the Azores just after the passage of the front. So I had not choice than to be faster that Jeremie. This last bit I did savour the feelings. And now it is sad to leave this boat. But in four years I will be back here in a Multi.”

 The 2014 Route Du Rhum finish. Guadeloupe. Pictures of Sidney Gavignet onboard his MOD70 Trimaran Musandam - Oman . Finishing the Route du Rhum in 5th place this morning Credit: Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images

The 2014 Route Du Rhum finish. Guadeloupe. Pictures of Sidney Gavignet onboard his MOD70 Trimaran Musandam – Oman . Finishing the Route du Rhum in 5th place this morning ( Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sidney Gavignet, French skipper of the Sultanate of Oman’s flagship, Musandam-Oman Sail, crossed the finish line of the Route du Rhum in Guadeloupe at 9:15:24 CET this morning completing the epic adventure in 8 days 19 hours 15 minutes and 24 seconds. After 4,446 nautical miles at an average speed of 21.5 knots he was delighted to reach dry land.

“Mission accomplished!” he said as he came ashore to speak to the media who welcomed him in at 03:30 local time. “The boat was superbly prepared by the shore team and is in as good shape as when I left St Malo 8 days ago, a testimony to their great work.

The 2014 Route Du Rhum finish. Guadeloupe. Pictures of Sidney Gavignet onboard his MOD70 Trimaran Musandam - Oman . Sidney speaks with reporters after the finish  ( Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

The 2014 Route Du Rhum finish. Guadeloupe. Pictures of Sidney Gavignet onboard his MOD70 Trimaran Musandam – Oman . Sidney speaks with reporters after the finish ( Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

“My primary objective was to get to Guadeloupe in one piece and here I am. I made a few small errors during the last few hours of the race, but I managed to finish on the same night as Prince de Bretagne, a boat that is 10 feet bigger than Musandam-Oman Sail, and as Gitana, a heavily modified MOD70. I am immensely proud to have flown the flag of the Sultanate of Oman all the way across the Atlantic and into Guadeloupe. This place is very special to me as I met my wife here 23 years ago while I was training for the Whitbread.”

He was given a hero’s welcome in Pointe-a-Pitre by his Oman Sail teammates who have lived every moment of the race, highs and lows, alongside the skipper. Support for the 45-year-old Frenchman across three different time zones was immense with cheers going up in France and Muscat when he crossed the finish line.

Sidney Gavignet and shore crew member Suliman Al Wahaibi happily celebrate Musandam's arrival in Guadaloupe (Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd  Images)

Sidney Gavignet and shore crew member Suliman Al Wahaibi happily celebrate Musandam’s arrival in Guadaloupe (Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

CEO David Graham, who waved Sidney off in St Malo was the first to applaud such a triumph: “Huge congratulations to Sidney for this incredible achievement. It has been a voyage of discovery for the whole Oman Sail team that has lived this epic experience alongside him, every nautical mile of the way. It has proved very inspiring for our Omani sailors, especially our offshore team who have been sending Sidney messages of support throughout the race, as well as our younger sailors that aspire to greatness on the water in years to come.

“This event has been a great success for us both on the sporting front and in terms of promoting Oman as a high-end tourism destination – we are very proud of Sidney’s achievement and the impact it had with our sailors in terms of inspiration. It may have been a single-handed race, but the reality is there were hundreds of people on the MOD70 with Sidney!”

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Sidney Gavignet and Oman Sail – Musandam arrive in Guadaloupe under a full moon sky (Photo © Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

After a nail-biting first 48 hours of the race that saw the French skipper and his 70ft trimaran battle 40knot gusts and huge seas across the Bay of Biscay and then around Cape Finisterre, with a broken jet burner and no hot food, and a hurt and swollen forearm, the Frenchman bounced back with cheerful and awe inspiring tales of full moon sailing at 30knots and nerve-wracking squalls rolling in one after the other.

He punched way above his weight as he wrestled with Prince de Bretagne, an 80ft trimaran 10 feet his senior, all the way across the Atlantic and led right up to hours before the finish when boat length finally prevailed and Lionel Lemonchois gave him the slip to finish ahead.

The Oman Sail Route du Rhum had two objectives, the first to raise awareness of the Sultanate of Oman as a high-end tourist destination, and with over 2 million visitors to the St Malo race village and the “Visit Oman” tourism pavilion, over the course of a week at the start, this box was firmly ticked. The second was to finish – Sidney himself had estimated a 50/50 chance of catastrophe – and as a result to share the experience with the Omani sailors that aspire to follow in Sidney’s footsteps. Mission accomplished.

“One of the highlights of my race was receiving an email from Fahad Al Hasni, one of our best MOD70 sailors – it made me so happy I picked up the sat phone to tell him about life onboard. I think he was very surprised to hear from me, but I could hear the grin in his voice – I know that this race is inspiring my Omani teammates and making them want to go further in their careers and getting his message was a happy moment for me.”

Sidney will take some well-earned rest now and have a long overdue hot meal before the MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail is prepared for the return trip to Europe with Fahad Al Hasni, Yassir Al Rahbi, Abdulrahman Al Mashari and Sami Al Shukaili, onboard.

Route du Rhum Ultime Class – provisional results

  1. Banque Populaire VII/Loick Peyron/103ft – 7 days, 15 hours, 8 minutes, 32 seconds
  2. Spindrift II/Yann Guichard/131ft – 8 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes, 46 seconds
  3. Edmond de Rothschild/Sebastien Josse/modified MOD70 – 8 days, 14 hours, 47 minutes, 9 seconds
  4. Prince de Bretagne/Lionel Lemonchois/80ft – 8 days 17 hours 44 minutes, 50 seconds
  5. Musandam-Oman Sail/Sidney Gavignet/70ft – 8 days 19 hours 15 minutes, 24 seconds
  6. Idec/Francis Joyon/97ft – still racing
  7. Paprec Recyclage/Yann Eliès/70ft – still racing
Sidney Gavignet and Oman Sail - Musandam finish the Route du Rhum in Guadaloupe (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images )

Sidney Gavignet and Oman Sail – Musandam finish the Route du Rhum in Guadaloupe (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images )

Yann Guichard places 2nd in the Route du Rhum 2014 ( Photo ©Th. Martinez )

Yann Guichard places 2nd in the Route du Rhum 2014 ( Photo ©Th. Martinez )

To listen to the interview with Yann Guichard
at the pontoon in Pointe-à-Pitre: Click here.
A video of the race will be available tomorrow on the website: www.spindrift-racing.com
Yann Guichard has beaten all the odds and climbed the highest mountain, finishing in second position in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. An astounding acheivement, sailing across the Atlantic single-handed from Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre aboard Spindrift 2, the largest racing trimaran ever built. The ecstatic look on his face revealed it all. The skipper completed the crossing in 8 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes and 46 minutes at an average speed of 21.96 knots. It is the fourth best time in the race’s history, and 14 hours behind race winner Loïck Peyron, who shaved two hours off the race record in the early hours of this morning. With the support of the entire Spindrift racing team, Yann has achieved an incredible feat that seemed quite unimaginable just a few months ago. The expert multihull racer not only completed the Route du Rhum on this immense trimaran, which was designed initially for crewed record attempts, but he has performed to the highest level and remained competitive right to the very end.Accompanied by the cheering crowds, Yann enjoys the moment before being interviewed at the quayside:

(Photo  © Th.Martinez/Sea&Co )  Yann Guichard ( FRA)  maxi trimaran SPINDRIFT 2  Route du Rhum.

(Photo
© Th.Martinez/Sea&Co ) Yann Guichard ( FRA) maxi trimaran SPINDRIFT 2 Route du Rhum.

 

“I had a great race and I gave it everything from start to finish. I really suffered, but I managed to keep up the pace. Today, I’m delighted to have finished second here in Pointe-à-Pitre and to be on the podium with Spindrift racing, just behind Loïck (Peyron), who had a good race.

I always believed that I could be competitive with Spindrift 2, despite the doubts of some. With the team, we have adapted the boat especially for solo racing. I’ve proved that it was worth all of that relentless effort and I’m proud of the team for everything they have done to make this project a success.

On the second day, I lost one of my autopilots and I spent the whole race wondering whether I was going to be able to finish. Apart from that, I had very few technical issues, which is essential if you want to finish on the podium. My onshore routers Erwan Israël and Richard Silvani were also behind me all the way, even during the tough times, and I’m thrilled with the overall performance of our team.

It was an incredible race with a tough first night. I had to perform close-hauled tacks and weave in and out of cargo ships and fishing boats in 35 knot winds. It was a bit stressful! I lost some ground, but I was able to crank up the pace in the Bay of Biscay and get back in the race. I had two hairy moments off the Portuguese coast when I had to completely release the sheets, but apart from that the ship stayed in good shape. I’ve never pushed so hard in the manoeuvres because I’ve never been this far. But after so much effort it feels fantastic when the boat accelerates. I’ve lost some weight but I’m happy to be here and I had a lot of fun with the boat.

The people of Guadeloupe have come out in huge numbers today, and I know they will turn up not only for the winner but also for the last. They’re fantastic! As to whether I will do the race again with this boat? It’s far too early to say. I’m just going to enjoy the moment with my team and recover, as I’ve not slept for more than two hours a day, and never more than 10 minutes at a time, so I’m exhausted right now. I must have done more than a 1,000 kilometres on my bike during the Route du Rhum!”

Dona Bertarelli, co-founder and skipper of Spindrift racing:
“Yann’s performance showed his immense talent. Given the weather forecast at the start of the race in Saint-Malo, few believed he could be competitive and obtain a podium finish. This second-place finish rewards not only his determination but also his firm belief that Spindrift 2, the world’s largest racing multihull, could be sailed single-handed, despite being designed for a 14-man crew. His success is thanks to the work of the entire team and the support of our partners, Mirabaud, Genes-x and Zenith. I would like to thank them for their trust in our team.”

>> How the race unfolded for Spindrift 2

A conservative start
When the race begin in Saint-Malo just over a week ago, Yann made a conservative start, aware that with so many boats out on the water, safety was a priority. Safety was also a prime concern in the English Channel, so Spindrift 2 headed north-west before making the turn into the Atlantic well clear of the tip of Brittany. The boat even sailed undercanvassed during the first night, as the weather front that had been forecast swept its way across the fleet at speeds of more than 35 knots, with gusts reaching 45 knots. The storm produced the race’s first victims. Thomas Coville, one of Yann’s main rivals in the Ultimes class, retired after his boat, Sodebo, collided with a cargo ship. A few hours later, Loïck Peyron rounded the tip of Brittany in the lead, while Yann, back in sixth position, decided to step on the gas. Sailing close-hauled in waves of more than 5 metres, the skipper increased the sail area, crossing the Bay of Biscay with only two reefs in the mainsail. By Cape Finisterre, Spindrift 2 had moved up to second position, where he remained until the end of the race.

Hanging in there, minus one of the autopilots
The wind veered round, and Yann left Europe in his wake. Leaving Portugal, Gibraltar, Morocco and then Madeira to port, Yann notched up the nautical miles, but speed came at a price. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, he had to unfurl the full sail and, more importantly, hoist the gennaker. It required four hours’ effort in all, leaving him exhausted and on the brink of tears. On day three, Loïck Peyron managed to sneak into a weather window and build up an insurmountable lead, despite a crack towards the front of the boat, which proved to not have any serious effects. The Spindrift 2 skipper, meanwhile, had to do without one of his autopilots, after it stopped working. Back on dry land, the team conducted an initial diagnosis. The system had taken a lot of damage during the atrocious conditions at the start of the race and could not be repaired. The solo skipper thus had to put his entire trust in the second autopilot, completing the race with a sword of Damocles above his head, since it would be impossible to sail single-handed without an autopilot.

Lazy, capricious trade winds
Despite the problems, Spindrift 2 began to lengthen her stride. The fluid routes taken by the fleet show that the sailors were really on the ball, despite the irregular easterlies, often disrupted by squalls. Under a larger-than-normal full moon, Yann put in a huge effort on Friday evening to close the gap to within 118 miles of Banque Populaire VII. During the night, however, he was caught out by an immense cloud that completely broke the trade winds and, by early morning, Loïck Peyron was marching to victory. After reaching Guadeloupe at dawn, Yann performed the final manoeuvres to circle around Basse-Terre and celebrate his prowess in Pointe-à-Pitre. Indeed, never before has one man sailed a 40 metre maxi trimaran alone, finishing in second place on the podium.

>> Spindrift racing’s partners congratulate Yann and the team on their performance:

Antonio Palma, CEO of Mirabaud & Cie SA: “More important than winning, Yann Guichard has achieved the feat of crossing the Atlantic single-handed aboard this true giant of the seas. Congratulations to Yann and his team at Spindrift racing for this superb performance. Mirabaud is delighted to be part of this, which will remain one of the highlights of the 10th edition of the Route du Rhum.” 

Team Genes-x : “The team at Genes-x team warmly congratulates Yann Guichard and Spindrift racing for this amazing exploit. Throughout the race, Yann kept us with bated breath and we feel a deep admiration for the courage, dedication, audacity and strength he has demonstrated. The news of this achievement has come as a great delight to us all, and we are immensely proud to be part of this adventure. Well done Yann, you really went beyond your genetic limits!”  

Aldo Magada, CEO of Zenith: “Yann has shown great tenacity and courage to handle this huge maxi-trimaran. We are incredibly proud of him. This was a particularly tough Route du Rhum, and Yann battled to the very end. I would also like to congratulate Loïck Peyron, who is a very worthy champion! Zenith has been supporting adventurers for over 150 years. The brand with the guiding star has been closely associated with men living their dreams since its inception in 1865 and, thanks to men like Yann Guichard, this association will continue for many years to come.”

>> Spindrift 2’s Route du Rhum in brief:

Departure from Saint-Malo: Sunday, November 2nd at 2pm CET
Arrival in Pointe-A-Pitre: Monday, November 10th 2014 at X hour (CET), Guadeloupe time
Race time: 8 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes and 46 seconds
Sur la route: 3,542 nautical miles at average speed of 17.95 knots
Sur le fond: 4,334 nautical miles at average speed of 21.96 knots
Standings: 2nd place,  behind winner Loïck Peyron (Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII)
Manoeuvres: between the race start and Tête à l’Anglais, Spindrift 2 made 3 tacks and 5 gybes

>> Ultimes class standings on November 10th at 11pm UTC: 
Position / distance / current speed

1 – Banque Populaire VII, Loïck Peyron, winner in 7d, 15h, 8m, 32s
2 – Spindrift 2, Yann Guichard, second in 8d, 5 h, 18min, 46s
3 – Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse, at 28,3 miles to the finish
4 – Musandam Oman Sail, Sidney Gavignet, at 69,6 miles to the finish
5 – Prince de Bretagne, Lionel Lemonchois, at 78,1 miles to the finish
6 – Idec sport, Francis Joyon, at 291,5 miles to the finish
7 – Paprec Recyclage, Yann Eliès, at 313,2 miles to the finsih
8 – Sodebo Ultim’, Thomas Coville, abandoned

 Yann Guichard and Spindrift 2 at the arrival of the Route du Rhum 2014 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France. (Photo © Chris Schmid/Spindrift racing, all right reserved)

Yann Guichard and Spindrift 2 at the arrival of the Route du Rhum 2014 in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France. (Photo © Chris Schmid/Spindrift racing, all right reserved)

 

Loick Peyron wins the 2014 Route du Rhum on Maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire VII (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX  )

Loick Peyron wins the 2014 Route du Rhum on Maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire VII (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX )

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thirty two years after the first of his seven attempts, French ocean racing star Loick Peyron won the mythical Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe this Monday morning (TU) when he crossed the finish line of the solo race from Saint-Malo France to Pointe-a-Pitre at 04:08:32 TU/05:08:32 CET/00:08:32 local The lone skipper of the 31.5m (103ft) Ultime trimaran Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII completed the 3,542 miles course in 7d 15h 8m 32s.

His elapsed time is a new outright record for the course passage, which was first raced in 1982, breaking the 2006 reference time set by Lionel Lemonchois (7 days 17 hours and 9 minutes) by 2hrs 10mins 34secs.

Peyron sailed the 3,524 NMs theoretical course at an average of 19.34kts. In reality he sailed 4,199NM at an average of 22.93kts.

Skipper of the 14 man 2011-2012 Banque Populaire crew which holds the outright Jules Verne Trophy sailing non-stop around the world record, Peyron has a longstanding special affection for La Route du Rhum as it is the Transatlantic race which launched his solo ocean racing career as a 22 year old. Until today he had finished fifth twice and was forced to abandon three times in the ORMA 60 trimarans in 1990, 1994 and 2002.

At the age of 54, his Route du Rhum triumph is another new summit for the sailor from La Baule, Brittany who turns his hand with equal skill to all disciplines of sailing from foiling Moth dinghies to the giant multihulls as well as the America’s Cup.

Ironically he was only enlisted two months ago to replace skipper Armel Le Cléach’h who injured his hand.

Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII’s win was built from the first night at sea. After negotiating a difficult upwind section Peyron was the first to turn off Ushant, perfectly timing his key passage through the front. He opened his lead in almost all sections of the course, except momentarily when he lead into a bubble of light winds under the Azores high-pressure system. But his approach to Guadeloupe regained distance and when he crossed the finish line second placed Yann Guichard on the 40m Spindrift was 180 miles astern.

It is the second time in a row that the race has been won by the same trimaran, which was designed by VPLP. In 2010 Franck Cammas won on the same boat when it was Groupama, in a time of 9 days 3 hours.

His win is all the more remarkable for the fact that Peyron stepped in for the injured Le Cléac’h only two months ago and many times pre-start in Saint-Malo he voiced his concerns about the magnitude of the physical challenge he faced, playing down any suggestions or expectations.

In fact Peyron had originally planned to sail this Rhum in a tiny 11.5m trimaran called Happy. But his vast experience and technical skills on multihulls filled the gap, complemented by the accomplished skills of his routers ashore – who plot his course for him – Marcel van Triest and Armel Le Cléac’h. His two ‘guardian angels’ kept his course fast, simple, smooth and safe.

First words from Loick upon arrival: “It is a very nice victory but a team victory. I was not supposed to be on this boat two months ago. I was supposed to do the Rhum race on a very small yellow trimaran, which will be the case in four years time, I will be back. But it is not a surprise because I knew that the boat was able to do it. I knew that the team was able to help me a lot.

Armel is here but he does not want to be here on the pontoon. But he is here and in fact we spent the week together. We were talking all the time, before and during the race, and he gave me so much help.

It was really tough, but I am really impressed by the job that Yann Guichard has done since the start. His boat is bigger, this boat is big but it is nice.

The last day was difficult, from the early hours off the Désirade, there was a lot of maneuvering to be done. It’s been seven editions for me! This is an exceptional situation, to stand in for Armel and to be able to skipper such a beautiful boat. This victory is thanks to Team Banque Populaire, as whole team we did this.

I never imagined that I would win a Route du Rhum on a boat like this. A race like this is never simple and that is what is so exciting and incredible about it. It is also very stressful for the boat to withstand such high speeds in bad seas. I was able to sail the boat well but was scared. This is what the multihull game is all about. You have to constantly manage the boat. One night I fell asleep at the helm and nearly capsized the boat. This is a great victory; possibly one of the nicest and breaking the record is the cherry on top of the cake.”

Loick Peyron Route du Rhum 2014

Loick Peyron Route du Rhum 2014

 

As it so often does La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe sees deeply contrasting fortunes on the race course between Saint-Malo and Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe this Saturday evening.

Race leader Loick Peyron just over 700 miles to go to the finish line with a lead of 180 miles over second placed Yann Guichard. Ahead there seems a fighting chance of a victory in the mythical French transatlantic, one win which has so far eluded him over six previous attempts. And the icing on the cake is a possible chance of beating Lionel Lemonchois’ race record of 7 day 17 hours, which he set in 2006. Peyron’s target is to cross the line before 0619hrs UTC (0719hrs CET/0219hrs local) on the morning of Monday 10th.

Heading east, nursing his shattered dreams and his hobbled, dismasted Class 40 Cat Phones is British skipper Conrad Humphreys. He has a long, lonely 330 miles to make under engine to the safe haven of Cascais by Lisbon, about four days of solitude, trying to stay positive and look forwards to his next race. Humphreys suffered some kind of rigging failure – he believes – which caused his mast to snap in two places whilst sailing in relatively moderate sea and wind conditions late on Friday afternoon. The Plymouth skipper suffered the same fate at the very start of his solo ocean-racing career on this race in 2002. Back then it was during of one of the most notorious storms of the race’s history. So it hurts more when it appears to be a mechanical failure of some type.

“As you can imagine, I feel absolute devastation about what has happened,” said Conrad. “But all the rigging has gone. I had to cut it all away. We’ve lost it all. It’s very upsetting.” Humphreys had fought back to 12th place in the fleet after having to pit-stop on the first night. “We’d managed to claw our way back into it after our earlier pit stop. I thought I had a good chance of getting a good result. I dreamt of finishing this race – it’s such a fantastic race with a fantastic field.”

“I am devastated, very very sad.” He only had enough fuel on board for around 100 miles at the time so a rendezvous was arranged with the cargo ship Federal Maas, which transferred a further 200 litres to him in pitch darkness. “It was pretty terrifying,” said Humphreys. “But the Indian captain was amazing. He and his crew kept getting the line on to my boat with jerry cans of diesel. They came alongside and they were obviously a long way up – around 10 metres above me – so to get the line down in those conditions and in the dark was just amazing. I can’t thank them enough.”

Contacted via satellite phone by the race organisers this morning, Conrad describes the moment he lost his rig and the situation he is currently in: “At the time I was reaching in 15/17 knots of breeze, I am not 100% sure of what happened. I think one of the check-stays or the runners gave way, but certainly one of the cables. The mast broke in two places, I tried to recover it, and then later I managed to rendezvous with a cargo ship. It came along side. It was pretty terrifying when they transferred the diesel. I am now motoring towards Cascais (Portugal), which is about 350 miles away. I am absolutely gutted, particularly when I had clawed by way back into the race. I was thinking I could get into the top ten and was really thinking I could finish this race, even after having to pit stop. The boat is very, very quick under reaching conditions and I had really managed to get into a good position and making good ground. I am devastated, very very sad. It is such a fantastic race and I really thought I had a good chance of getting a good result.”

After a night with no sleep or food, his job now is to progressively transfer the fuel into the fuel tanks. Conrad’s technical operations manager Hugh Fletcher explained: “Conrad has a load of jerry cans so has had to make a funnel from the top of a 5-litre bottle of water so he can get the fuel into the tank.

“The problem is that there is a big following sea of around 4 metres and it’s breaking over the back of the boat which is making the whole platform unstable. It’s also risking getting water into the fuel tank. But he’s done a brilliant job so far and has managed to fill the tank. And he’s motoring at six knots so he’s making good progress.”

For triple round-the-world sailor Humphreys the Route du Rhum still remains unfinished business …

With just over 1000 miles to go to the finish line the two pairs of leaders in the Multi50 class and the IMOCA Class are still in the same stretch of the ocean, working on the NE margin of the Azores high pressure, racing in unsettled 15-18kts trade winds, requiring a lot of trimming. IMOCA leader Francois Gabart still has about 25 miles of advantage and is two knots fast than second placed Jérémie Beyou (Maitre Coq). Italy’s Alessandro di Benedetto (Team Plastique AFM Telethon) got back under way yesterday evening after making his composite repairs to his rudder mechanism. He is still 270 miles ahead of longstanding rival Tanguy de Lamotte who beat him to the finish of last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre by mere minutes and with whom he raced around the world as his nearest rival on the last Vendée Globe. De Lamotte has a newer, faster boat now and is averaging more than two knots quicker than the Italian double circumnavigator. Erwan Le Roux leads the Multi 50s by less than one mile on the late afternoon rankings!

Half of the Class 40 fleet are under spinnakers west of Madeira. The conditions may be loosely called ‘Trade Winds’ but in reality it is often more like the Doldrums with some squalls and big changes in wind direction and pressure. For a Sudist (southern) solo skipper it is the northern route, closer to the rhumb line which paid the top dividend for Kito de Pavant (Otio Bastide-Medical) The Mediterranean skipper from the Midi region is in control with more than 35 miles ahead of Yannick Bestaven (Curator) and Spain’s Alex Pella (Tales 2 Santander). Miranda Merron, the French based English skipper, is seventh at 84 miles behind the leaders.

In the Rhum class the difference is clear. Andrea Mura (mono) is sailing well offshore, in the southeast of the Azores and Anne Caseneuve (in multi) in the middle of the first Class40 in the west of Madeira. Mura leads. And Merron’s last remaining compatriot, Sir Robin Knox Johnston is ninth.

ETA (Estimated Time UTC)
Ultime: Monday, November 10 between 0300hrs and 0700hrs
Multi50: Thursday, November 13 between 14 and 22 hours
IMOCA: Friday, November 13 to 20 hours
Class40: Tuesday, November 18 at 330
Rhum Class: Sunday 23 November

They Said:
Ultime Class / Loick Peyron – Banque Populaire: “We had a beautiful night. Now we are sailing in squalls and there is not much wind so we are slowing down a bit. So we are on one long port tack and we will see if I do not have to do one last gybe before the finish in Guadeloupe. It is not bad to go round the ridge of high pressure, but at some point you have to cross it and try and not get caught up in the squalls and high winds. Every night it is a little more perturbed and I just do not know why. I slept well and had a long siesta. Seeing the full moon as backdrop is pretty amazing, I have rarely seen a more beautiful moon rise, a Star Wars worthy moon!”

Ultime Class / Yann Eliès – PAPREC RECYCLING: “I have a problem with the port rudder and I hope we still have some of it at the finish, which should be in around 24 hours. There is a bit left of it and we just have to hope that will hold the next 24 hours. I am guessing there is a bit missing on the outside top art, but not sure, as there is too much swell to go and look.

The pace is very intense, as we have had a lot wind. Since Madeira, I have been enjoying it. Like everyone we had to sit tight and hold it together. There have been tough times where I lost a lot of ground because I had minor technical problems and then once the trade winds came in it is great and I am really enjoying it.

We have good conditions behind compared to those ahead that have had rather week trades. I am still not sure about the choice of sail, the trim, but then that is normal as I am new to this.

I am 200 miles behind the leaders. If I had not had technical problems at a crucial time before Madeira, I would be behind, but not by so far. That is only a small disappointment.”

Class 40 / Kito de Pavant – Otio – Bastide Medical: “I have not seen the sun nor moon for a few days. We are going through an area with unpleasant drizzle that I suppose comes after the ridge of low low pressure. The weather is facetious and I am very careful not to get into a more southern area where the anticyclone is struggling to rebuild. I gybe the minute the wind dies a bit. For now, things are going pretty well for me. Whilst it is getting warmer, I am not tempted to take off a layer or two or the wet weather gear. I can’t wait for the deck to be a bit drier so I can consider some major repairs that are needed.‏

Rhum Class / Willy Bissainte – Tradysion Gwadloup: “This is the washing machine , but it ‘s okay. We have 25 knots of wind, a little sea, and a crosswind but it is manageable. I ‘m glad the wind like this. It is better than being becalmed like I was four years ago. I am not complaining! At the moment I have to my right the sun and to my left the clouds. We need to have clouds to have wind, so much the better for the race! I continue to duel with the Finn, Ari Huusela, who has the same boat as me, a Pogo -40, and will do so right up tot the finish…”

Multi 50 Class / Yves Le Blévec – ACTUAL: “There is one night we need to catch up on so we had better be going fast! I have a fast boat, so it is easier. It sails well and I am doing everything I can to make it go fast. There are good conditions and will try and hold on to those. The sea is nice, flat with a steady wind. We have some 15-20 knots, and will have to go into the low-pressure areas, so things will slow down. We see update reports every hour so can see the competition and work out which ones are not doing so well in the conditions.

I must be able to eat well and rest well. I have made bacon and eggs and was about to make my tea. The program for today: helm a bit, study my course, and call each other and eat / sleep to be in good shape ….”

Multi 50 Class / Pierre Antoine – OLMIX: This is one of the most rare phenomenons – Pierre Antoine was struck by lightning and rescued earlier this week. He describes the accident and rescue operation:

“I had been through severe and violent thunderstorms Monday night. The lightening struck on Tuesday morning when the squalls had passed. It came as an incredible and very violent surprise. It was as if someone had thrown a grenade inside the boat. So I went down to get the fire extinguishers and try and put out the fire, but saw that we were taking on water fast and already standing in 50 cm and that the batteries were flooded.

It was terrible and I knew I could not continue to sail and that the race was over. I ended up with 1.5 meters of water inside.

I let of the alarm to call the Maritimes Rescue Services. I have to thank the Spanish rescue services that were so quick in the salvage, particularly since I no longer had any means of communication.

It was a pretty brutal experience.

The boat was towed into the port of Corunna. We saved the boat. We managed to bring it before the big gale. It is not in good condition and pretty mashed up. It looks really but that boat is repairable, there is no structural damage. There is a big project but the boat will be able to sail once again.”

Class 40 / Giancarlo Pedote – Fantastica: “Everything is going very well, I had a pretty hard early part of the race. Now things are slow and the sky is a little cloudier. I have between 17 and 18 knots of wind, there is the odd gust, but we are not doing too badly here. I had a lot of damage on the first night but things are better. I am fine and just trying to sail at 100% holding on, not lag behind and believe that you can do it right up to the end!

There is an area of very high pressure that we have to sail round to avoid getting stuck in the area of no wind. There will also be favourable winds to sail south.

It is a matter of negotiating getting round whilst also looking to cover the least number of miles possible on the most direct course.”

©Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OSM.  ST MALO - FRANCE . 2 Novembre 2014 . Départ  10eme Route du Rhum.

©Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OSM. ST MALO – FRANCE . 2 Novembre 2014 . Départ 10eme Route du Rhum.

There are race nights like those of our dreams, when the wind is like music to your ears, the moon high in the sky, and the skippers have time to get into the race while savouring the moment of being alone at sea… And others which are more brutal. It was the second type that awaited the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe skippers last night. And the IMOCA Class also came under the challenging law of the sea.

With no premature drop outs nor collisions bad enough to stop short any hope of getting to Guadeloupe, the tough weather conditions in the English Channel did not prevent the IMOCA fleet from making the Bay of Biscay without too much damage. But the Bay of Biscay, true to its reputation lays down the law : An abandonment for Bertrand de Broc due to an injury (Votre Nom autour du Monde), rudder damage after a UFO collision for Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) suffered some damage to his rudder from a UFO collision forcing him to make a technical stop, more serious damage for Vincent Riou (PRB) after a major mainsail rip, and Jérémie Beyou (Maître Coq) had some trouble with his rudder fixings but seemed to be able to fix them. The IMOCA skippers had some good reasons to be wary of those first few hours in the Channel. But in comparison to the damage suffered by some of the other classes, the IMOCA Ocean Masters fleet demonstrated the full extent of its reliability. This is not the first time the Bay of Biscay hits hard on a fleet in such a transatlantic race.

©Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OSM.  ST MALO - FRANCE . 2 Novembre 2014 . Départ  10eme Route du Rhum.

©Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OSM. ST MALO – FRANCE . 2 Novembre 2014 . Départ 10eme Route du Rhum.

(Photo Thierry Martinez  )

The first night – what they said before they left:

Armel Tripon (For Humble Heroes): “The first night is a relief above all. All this week we’ve had a full-on programme, among the crowds, and we need to get away. Once we’re past the Cap Fréhel, it’ll be great to be alone.”

Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur): “The first night is a mix of everything. We’re happy to be out at sea alone, but sad to leave our dear ones and team. The first night is critical in general – you can’t mess up. It’s easy not to sleep, but it’s a trap because you can lose your lucidity. I love the first night, it gets you into the rhythm of the race, tactically it’s crucial, it’s full of all sorts of things.”

Vincent Riou (PRB): “We’ll be able to breathe a bit once we’ve left the crowd at the start. It’ll be quite stressful because we’ll be navigating through intense maritime traffic in the English Channel. We’ll be sailing close to the coast so we know we won’t sleep much. We won’t get a real rest until we get past Ouessant. After that it should be a bit less stressful.”

Alessandro di Benedetto (Team Plastique): “A bit stressed as always. We’re going to be on the lookout constantly, between the coast which is close by, the cargo boats, fishing boats… There’s a real risk of collision.”

 

©Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OSM.  ST MALO - FRANCE . 2 Novembre 2014 . Départ  10eme Route du Rhum.

©Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OSM. ST MALO – FRANCE . 2 Novembre 2014 . Départ 10eme Route du Rhum.

(Photo Thierry Martinez)

Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde): “ You have to be on top form on the first night. We’ll be navigating tricky areas to the north of Brittany. It’ll be stressful with all the trawlers and cargo ships shifting from rail to sea. There are only 10 IMOCAs so the risk of collision between competitors is low. Overall I’ll be having more fun than stress.”

Marc Guillemot (Safran): “The first night on the Route du Rhum is always complicated. You have to manage the traffic, anticipate the Ouessant passage and there are rocks all over the place off the coast so you have to be very careful. And the first tactical options are taken leaving the English Channel. So we know we won’t be sleeping much.”

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée): “ It’s going to be tense. The playing field between the cargo ships to the north and the coast to the south is very narrow, with some significant local effects out there. Once we’re out of the Channel we should have some great reaching angles. Then we’ll have some real fun. »

François Gabart (MACIF): “Fun and stress – the two are linked. It’s the start of the race and you really have to concentrate, to find your bearings. On top of that the Channel is always complicated. But I must admit I love these first nights. Navigating at night is something really magic.”

Jérémie Béyou (Maître CoQ): “I try to think of it as just another day of the race. The main thing is not to make any mistakes, to get into the race from the start. The sense of deliverance comes into play once you start to lose the other boats around. Looking at the conditions expected, we’ll have to wait till we’re out of the Channel.”

(Photo Thierry Martinez)

Race status
There’s no surprise as to who has taken the lead, with all the favourites in pole position with a superb battle playing out between François Gabart and Vincent Riou, before he suffered with some damage. Jérémie Beyou and Marc Guillemot were running about 20 miles behind them. Much has been expected from PRB’s performance against the competition, being the only boat to have passed to the new rule. This fight has stopped too soon….

091014-Naviguation solo, entrainement pour la Route Du Rhm 2014, au large de Belle-Ile. Trimaran SODEBO ULTIM', skipper, Thomas Coville. Reportage hélico. (Photo Sodebo Damage (Photo  © ALEXIS COURCOUX)

091014-Naviguation solo, entrainement pour la Route Du Rhm 2014, au large de Belle-Ile. Trimaran SODEBO ULTIM’, skipper, Thomas Coville. Reportage hélico. (Sodebo Damage (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX))

At 23:30, Sunday, Nov. 2, the Cross informed the race management of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe that a collision had occurred between Sodebo Ultim ‘and a cargo and Thomas Coville was unharmed. The trimaran was almost out of the rail and sailed under 3 reefs and ORC, progressing at a speed of 15/18 knots in assets grains with 30 knots of wind from the southwest.

In shock, the trimaran has lost the front of the starboard float to link arms. The middle housing also appears to have been damaged at the front. Sodebo Ultim ‘moves towards the port of Roscoff, crosswind, under reduced sail, leaning on the port float. He is currently lead less than 10 knots. By approaching the Brittany coast, the wind will ease and the sea to settle down. His crew was on standby in Brest will travel at night in Roscoff where the trimaran is due in the morning

Ill fortune was in no way selective as it struck a wide cross section of the La Route du Rhum-Destination fleet over the first 24 hours of the 3,542 miles Transatlantic race which started from Saint-Malo, France on Sunday afternoon, bound for Guadeloupe.

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Difficult sea conditions, squally winds which pumped up to 45kts and periods of poor visibility took a heavy toll across the five classes with dozens of skippers among the 91 starters forced to stop or abandon their race.

Most high profile early casualty is the 31m Ultime trimaran Sodebo Ultim’ of Thomas Coville which struck a cargo ship last night around 2330hrs UTC, losing the starboard float right back to the crossbeam. The solo round the world ace who was considered to be one of the pre-race favourites to win into Pointe-a-Pitre was unhurt and arrived in Roscoff at a little after midday today, disappointed and shaken.

Covillle recalled: “Today I feel like I have been a victim in a car accident. I feel like a truck collided with me, a motorcycle at night. It really basically is that. I was coming away from TSS, the area we avoid because of the maritime traffic, and I was going really fast. That evening I had had a small problem on the bow, so I decided to basically speed up and try and catch up with Loick (Loick Peyron, Maxi Banque Populaire VII) but was sailing along quite comfortably. An engine alarm went off, a battery charge reminder, so I went back inside because I was surprised that after eight hours I would need to be recharging. There was nothing wrong so I went back and there I saw on it on my screen … You can imagine that on our boats we do not have a lot of visibility, that it is dark, there were squalls and lots of rain and that basically we sail like aeroplane pilots or like traffic controllers, using the radar.

I could see that there were two cargo ships close to me. I was sailing in wind mode, which basically means you sail taking into account the variable winds and waves. If I am sailing at 25 knots and the container is at 18 knots, we had a closing speed of 40 knots. Basically the two miles was covered in one minute and thirty seconds. I get out on deck having started the engine and manage to get the right gear and it is just when I look up and see this big black wall cross in front of me and I hit it 1.5 metres or maybe 3 metres from the back. We just did not quite pass behind and but for three metres we would have passed OK.”

Two sistership Class 40s lost their keels just hours apart. Francois Angoulvant had to be airlifted off his recently launched Sabrosa Mk2 by a 33F helicopter just after midnight and taken to Brest for medical observation. Marc Lepesqueux was luckier in that he managed to keep his boat upright when he lost his keel, stabilising it by filling the ballast tanks and he was able to make it into Guernsey.

The unfortunate duo were just two with problems affecting a dozen different Class 40s. Among them an ankle injury has forced Nicolas Troussel (Credit Mutuel Bretagne) – runner up in the 2010 edition – out of the race. Thierry Bouchard (Wallfo.com) succumbed to an injured wrist. Sail or rig repairs are required on Exocet (Alan Roura), Fantastica (Italy’s highly fancied Giancarlo Pedote) and Teamwork (Bertrand Delesne). Double Vendée Globe finisher Arnaud Boissieres reported he was heading for his home port, Les Sables d’Olonne with a combination of problems.

Conrad Humphreys’ hopes of building from a strong start were compromised when the Plymouth, England skipper had to re-route into Camaret by Brest to replace a mainsail batten car luff box. Sailing Cat Phones he arrived in Camaret just before 1600hrs local time this Monday afternoon and his technical team reckoned on a two hours pit-stop. Two Multi 50 skippers required to be towed to port by the SNSM.

Loic Fequet’s Multi 50 Maitre Jacque lost a big section off its starboard float, a seeming repeat of a problem suffered a year ago according to the sailor from Brittany who finished second in the 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre. And also in the Multi50s Gilles Buekenhout (Nootka) broke a rudder and had to be towed to Roscoff where he arrived around 1600hrs CET this afternoon.

Loick Peyron and the giant Banque Populaire VII (which won the last edition as Groupama) continues to lead the race at the head of the Ultime fleet by a matter of 45 miles ahead of Yann Guichard (Spindrift 2). The battle of the giants was taking on its hotly anticipated centre stage action this afternoon as Guichard continued to march steadily up through the field, now into slightly more moderate breezes but still with big confused seas. He was almost 10 knots quicker than Peyron on the late afternoon poll. The leaders were due to pass Cape Finisterre this evening around 1930-2000hrs. Meantime after holding second for much of the time Sébastien Josse, Yann Elies and Sidney Gavignet are locked in a three cornered battle in the Multi70s with 3.5 miles separating them after 28 hours of racing, between 57 and 60 miles behind the leader.

Multi 50
Five seriously damaged but a duel at the front. The Multi50 fleet was hit badly by the harsh conditions. First to be affected was Maitre Jacques of Loic Fequet which suffered a damaged starboard float. His was the first of a series of accidents and damage. Gilles Buekenhout (Nootka) with a broken rudder; Hervé de Carlan (Delirium), damaged a daggerboard; Erik Nigon (Vers un Monde Sans SIDA) has ripped mainsail and Alain Delhumeau (Royan) was dismasted. There were six still on course this afternoon carrying on a spirited fight to continue their race to Guadeloupe. A tight duel is at hand between Yves Le Blevec (Actual) and Erwan Le Roux (FenêtréA Cardinal) who were racing just a few hundred metres apart this afternoon off the latitude of Les Sables d’Olonne.

IMOCA
One Abandon, two damaged, Macif supreme since the start François Gabart has maintained a consistent leadership since breaking the start line first on Sunday afternoon. The lead of the current Vendée Globe champion increased this afternoon, out to 25 miles as his nearest rival Vincent Riou reported damage to his mainsheet track mountings. Two other notable damages include Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives Couer who was having to reroute for a pitstop after a shock to his rudder damaged the mountings. And Bertrand de Broc is reported to have abandoned after the hydraulic ram on his pilot failed and he also suffered an injured elbow. The rest close reach on down the Bay of Biscay with a big lateral gap (60 miles) between the trio of Gabart, Guillemot and Beyou in the west and Burton / Di Benedetto in the East.

Class 40 Sébastien Rogue remains untouchable so far in Class 40 on GDF SUEZ, but Spain’s Alex Pella is keeping the pressure on the race leader, pressing hard on the Botin designed Tales 2. Pella confirmed that he had damaged his preferred genoa during a sail change and anticipates losing some miles. But he expects to be under gennaker by the middle of tomorrow in easier conditions. “The main thing is I am still in the race which is important considering how the conditions have been.” Speaking less than 20 minutes before he was due to leave Camaret Briton Conrad Humphreys said: “I was shattered. We are almost there (close to completing repairs). The showstopper was the broken batten box which means the batten was no longer attached at the front of the main and I did not have any spares. It was a pretty hideous night, the waves were difficult, but I felt I had sailed reasonably well. There was a lot of reef in, reef out and it happened during one of these episodes. I am tired still but I will get back out there and try to stay with the group. That is the important thing. I am annoyed this happened.” Miranda Merron on Campagne de France was up to ninth place this afternoon, just 14.5 miles behind the leader. The English skipper reported: “ Minor issues on board, mainly the masthead wind unit which has stopped working, so no wind info at the moment – back to dinghy sailing. I should be able to plug in the spare wand, but not in this sea state. It will have to wait a few days until conditions improve. Not so good for performance. Anyway, it’s sunny today, although rather wet on deck. Can’t have it all!”

Rhum Class: Mura out in front, Sir Robin en forme In the Rhum Class defending title holder Andrea Mura on the optimised Open 50 Vento di Sardegna was 50 miles west of Ushant this afternoon, furthest offshore of the top group with a lead of 19 miles. He continues to clock high average speeds. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was on robust form this morning when he spoke to Race HQ in Saint Malo on the morning Radio Vacs: “I have seen gusts to 35 knots and am about 37 miles from Ushant. The first night I did see a 40 knot gust at one stage but I was ready for it. I got the third reef in and the storm jib up. We were alright. I am fine, absolutely fine, just looking forwards to getting past Ushant and get away. I always think you start racing at Finisterre but the main objective just now is just to get around Ushant. I am eating properly now after my stomach upset, so I am all good.” Knox-Johnston’s Grey Power was up to 12th in the class, while Finland’s Are Huusela is in eighth on his Class 40 Neste Oil.

11 abandons

1. Thomas Coville (Ultime – Sodebo Ultim’) : collision with cargo ship
2. Bertrand de Broc (IMOCA – Votre Nom autour du Monde) : elbow injury and pilot damage
3. Alain Delhumeau (Multi50 – Royan) : dismasted
4. Loïc Fequet (Multi50 – Maître Jacques) : float damaged
5. Erik Nigon (Mulit50 – Un monde sans sida) : mainsail shredded
6. Gilles Buekenhout (Multi50 – Nootka Architectes de l’urgence) : rudder broken
7. François Angoulvant (Class40 – Team Sabrosa SR 40MK2) : lost keel
8. Marc Lepesqueux (Class40 – Sensation Class40) : lost keel
9. Nicolas Troussel (Class40 – Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne) : injury
10. Thierry Bouchard (Class40 – Wallfo.com) : injury
11.Arnaud Boissières (Class40 – Du Rhum au Globe) : technical problem

 

Sodebo Damage (Photo  © ALEXIS COURCOUX)

Sodebo Damage (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX)

 

Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 - Saint Malo le 01/ 11/14  (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX)

Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 – Saint Malo le 01/ 11/14 (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX)

The weather forecast for the first few days of La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe seems to suggest that the 3,542 miles from Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre will be quick. But first up there will be an active frontal system to cross before Ushant.

Sunday afternoon’s start will see the SSW’ly breeze at around 15-18kts with some squally bursts perhaps. But the first three days of racing will be quite tough for the 91 solo skippers competing on this legendary Transatlantic. And with such a promising forecast it seems there might be every chance the outright race record of 7 days 17 hours 19mins 6 secs of Lionel Lemonchois, set in 2006 on Gitana XI, might fall.

It had to happen some time. The blocking high pressure system which has provided summer-like weather for most of the times in Saint-Malo will give way to more usual Autumnal conditions, an Atlantic low pressure arriving on cue for Sunday’s start. The weather will worsen progressively along the Brittany coast and there will likely be rain just after the 1400hrs local time start gun.

Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 - Saint Malo le 01/11/2014 Fleet (Photo Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 - Saint Malo le 01/ 11/14  (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX))

assage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 – Saint Malo le 01/11/2014 Fleet (Photo Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 – Saint Malo le 01/ 11/14 (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX))

The 91 solo skippers gathered for their final meteo briefing this morning as Meteo Consult provided them with their final weather analysis. Sunday afternoon will see SSW’ly winds of around 15-18 kts but with some much bigger gusts. The breeze will veer more west behind the front, easing slightly initially but it will always be gusty. The air temperature will be around 13-16 deg C. The Ultime leaders might well have passed Cap Fréhel ahead of the front but for most this will mean headwinds.

The soloists will have a long port tack to get out of the Channel. But around midnight a second, more active front will bring a big increase in wind strength from the SW, gusting to 40-45kts with a chaotic sea. And this will be one of the key phases of this Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. Approaching and around the tip of Brittany there are a powerful combination of big untidy waves, busy maritime traffic and gusty winds, so the real strategy here will be trying not to break anything whilst still keeping the pace on.

By daytime Monday the biggest Ultimes should be into the brisk NW’ly which will make for a fast descent to Madeira which they should reach by Tuesday night. But meantime for the first part of Monday the IMOCA and Multi 50s will have a pretty tough time trying to find the right tempo across the first part of Biscay in an unruly, nasty sea making a messy, stressful passage to Cape Finisterre for Tuesday morning.

Overall it is quite a promising forecast. Class 40 and the Rhum fleet will need to take it more carefully but there really is only one general route south and the fleets should enjoy more of a speed rather than strategy race.

In the Class 40 fleet Briton Conrad Humphreys says he has never been better prepared or felt as good before a race start but the pressure will be on from the start. There is a critical stage early on where the skippers must time their approach through Sunday night’s front to make sure they can get comfortably inside the Ushant traffic separation zone, or not. There is a tactical danger in being squeezed out to the west by the zone when the main opposition is inside, able to cut the corner and get south across Biscay earlier.

assage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 - Saint Malo le 01/11/2014 Fleet (Photo Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 - Saint Malo le 01/ 11/14  (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX))

assage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 – Saint Malo le 01/11/2014 Fleet (Photo Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 – Saint Malo le 01/ 11/14 (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX))

“The critical thing will be how far west you get and whether you are positioned inside or outside the separation zone at Ushant. If you are caught half way you can’t cross the separation zone. And so the timing of that shift is important. After that the Bay of Biscay is going to be quite lively. I think the sea state will be one of the worst things, 4-5m swell with waves on top and then a lot of rain. The further south we get the High will have an effect and it will start to calm down a bit, but I think for most of the first 24-36 hours it will be quite wild. It is so critical to be with the pack and to get through that first shift with them. If you don’t they can be going quite fast and the ones who don’t will be still on the wind, have less runway to get around Ushant and so on. I have to say you will have to sail quite aggressively.”

In boisterous sea and wind conditions, with rain showers passing through, the start itself holds the possibility is problems. Indeed that is the phase that concerns Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) most immediately. The France-based English soloist said after the weather briefing:

“It’s November. You are going to take a kicking some time and this first bit looks tough, but it is the start with all the traffic and stress around that worries me most. I just want to get away cleanly and safely.”

They said:
Ari Huusela (FINLAND) – Rhum Class, Neste Oil:
“It is a victory to be here. In total we have had almost 20 people involved in the project at home in Finland. It is my passion to sail alone, that is why I want to do this race. This is the pinnacle. I have had this boat two years after it took me seven years to realise my dream. I think the boat is good, I am going to enjoy it as much as possible.”

Yann Guichard (Ultime) – SPINDRIFT 2:
“Everyone knows that the start phase is always critical. I know that if I have to do an emergency change of tack, it can’t be done in two minutes. The first twelve hours are going to be complicated. It looks like we’re going to have to do two changes of tack. This isn’t where the race is going to be won, but it is where it can be lost.”

Loïck Peyron (Ultime) – MAXI SOLO BANQUE POPULAIRE VII:
“The start is never easy for anyone. And here it’s going to be violent. There is going to be wind and lots of rain: typical sailor’s weather. This will make things a bit more dramatic, as we’re straight into the rough stuff.”

To follow the race on click La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe

 

assage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 - Saint Malo le 01/11/2014 Fleet (Photo Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 - Saint Malo le 01/ 11/14 (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX))

assage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 – Saint Malo le 01/11/2014 Fleet (Photo Passage des ecluses pour les concurrents de la Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe 2014 – Saint Malo le 01/ 11/14 (Photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX))