Kicks off a month from the start of the festivities

From left to right: Francis Joyon, Francois Gabart, Yves Le Blévec, Thomas Coville. Photo credit: Thierry Martinez

From left to right: Francis Joyon, Francois Gabart, Yves Le Blévec, Thomas Coville. Photo credit: Thierry Martinez

 

This Thursday, the press conference to launch THE BRIDGE, a composite event commemorating the centenary of the first landing of American soldiers, was held in Paris in June 1917. It was

labeled by the Mission of the Centenary of the First World War , THE BRIDGE celebrates 100 years of France-USA friendship through festivities and animations imagined in the mirror of this common past. Designed as a bridge between audiences, the event, sponsored by Tony Parker , combines basketball, music and ocean sailing around this major event in Nantes, Saint-Nazaire and New York. In the presence of Joseph Zimet, Director General of the First World War Centenary Mission, THE BRIDGE, unveiled his program.

On June 24th, THE BRIDGE will see the return of the Queen Mary 2, escorted by a multinational Armada, to Saint-Nazaire, its construction port, which in 1917 was the US transit base European soil. The next day (June 25, at 7 pm), the steel giant will embark on the Centennial Transat and its unprecedented 3,152-mile (5,837 km) course towards New York in the face of four Ultimate Trimarans led by ( Thomas Coville, François Gabart, Francis Joyon and Yves Le Blévec ). A historic Atlantic match with high symbolic value in the direction of New York, in the footsteps of those first “Sammies” who came to defend Liberty alongside the Allies.

THE BRIDGE course

 

THE GREAT DATES OF THE BRIDGE 2017

In Nantes :

– Friday 16th June: Arrival of the trimarans

– Saturday 17th> Wednesday 21st June: 4thFIBA World Cup 3×3

– Thursday 22nd June: Descent from the Loire between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire

In Saint-Nazaire:
– Thursday, June 22: Arrival of trimarans – Village Opening events

– Saturday, June 24: Arrival of the Queen Mary 2 escorted by an international armada //
Great evening Centennial: concert, lights and sound public

– Sunday, June 25: Start of the Centennial Transat

At New York :
– Saturday 1 st July: Arrival of the Queen Mary 2 // THE BRIDGE concert at the Summerstage Festival in Central Park

– Between Sunday 2 and Monday 3 July: Estimated arrival of the first trimarans

 

 

the-bridge
On Friday, 2nd December, the press conference for the official launch of THE BRIDGE was held in the prestigious setting of the Salle Turenne at the Hôtel des Invalides. THE BRIDGE, a unique, festive, maritime, cultural and popular event, will take place from June 15th until the beginning of July 2017, in Nantes, Saint-Nazaire and New York. Supported by the Centennial Mission 14-18, THE BRIDGE pays tribute to the arrival on the French coasts of the first US troops to defend Liberty alongside the Allies and to put an end to the First World War. THE BRIDGE places this historical event, which has nourished a hundred years of Franco-American friendship, at the centre of its festivities.

François Gabart (MACIF), Damien Grimont (THE BRIDGE organiser) and et Yves Le Blevec (ACTUAL) © Th.Martinez

The Centennial Transat, an unprecedented and historic race
“1917, the Americans came ashore… 2017, THE BRIDGE brings us on board”.

Based on this idea, THE BRIDGE has invited the Queen Mary 2 to take part in an ocean challenge in a race against a fleet of giant trimarans following the route of the first landing of 1917. This will be an unprecedented maritime contest between the famous steel giant specially chartered for the occasion and the fabulous racing multihulls skippered by top offshore racers and their crews, THE BRIDGE will be the theatre of the Centennial Transat, a thrilling race between the bridge of Saint-Nazaire and the Verrazano Bridge in New York. Don’t miss it!

Departure on June 25th, 2017 under the bridge of Saint-Nazaire

It is highly symbolic,” said François Gabart, one of the first four contenders of the Queen Mary 2, about his favourite challenge: a Northern Atlantic crossing from East to West. Departing on June 25th, 2017 and heading to New York where the prestigious liner, which will be cruising at 25 knots over the 3,150 miles (5,800 km) of the direct route, is expected to arrive in the early hours of the morning of July 1st, to be saluted according to tradition, by the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

Download the official poster of THE BRIDGE

Basketball and jazz on centre stage
Conceived and envisioned as a bridge of friendship, THE BRIDGE also gives pride of place to jazz and to basketball. These two symbols of American culture will be at the heart of the three weeks of festivities on the programme celebrating a hundred years of friendship between France and the United States. Tony Parker, who epitomises the exchanges and bonds that have been strengthened over the past century by two countries separated by an ocean but united by loyal ties, sponsors this France-USA event.

France and the United States together: this project speaks to me. It is also a little nod to history to say thank you for everything that happened before. It makes sense for me to join THE BRIDGE; it stirs something in me. It is a big project and is growing bigger, and I am looking forward to seeing the event”, says Tony Parker.

Nantes to host the 4th 3×3 Basketball World Cup

In Nantes, the hub of basketball, THE BRIDGE has organised three weeks of symbolic events. In partnership with the FFBB (French Basketball Federation) and Nantes Métropole, the event will host the 4th 3X3 Basketball World Cup from 17th to 21st June 2017. A great first in France on the iconic site of the Park des Chantiers of the island of Nantes for this discipline, born on the streets and taking off all around the world. 20 women’s teams and 20 men’s teams from thirty countries will share the infectious spirit of 3X3 basketball, which pits two teams of three players against each other. It is a fine way to echo the spirit of freedom and fraternity intrinsic to basketball, a century after the first demonstrations of the art of dribbling on European soil.

The grand return of the Queen Mary 2 to Saint-Nazaire…
After Nantes, THE BRIDGE will continue in Saint-Nazaire with the return of the Queen Mary 2 to its port of construction. This will be an important event in itself for the City of Liners, whose history, culture, and economy are intimately linked to the sea and its industries. This exceptional charter, the fruit of efforts by THE BRIDGE Association to bring together a large family of public and private partners, was also made possible thanks to the mobilisation of the companies in the region. Driven by a strong entrepreneurial vision, the event expects 2,640 passengers, individuals and financial decision-makers to embark on the famous liner to follow the Centennial Transat live from front row seats. A historic adventure!

… Under multinational escort

The Queen Mary 2 is expected on Saturday June 24th in Saint-Nazaire, escorted by the Centennial Armada, an exceptional fleet bringing together ships from twelve countries out of the fifty involved in the First World War. On the following day, Sunday 25th June, the 345-metre-long steamer and the maxi-trimarans will set sail to the estuary of the Loire and the starting area of the Centennial Transat.

IDEC SPORT, a new contestant for the Queen Mary 2
Four talented and experienced offshore racing skippers have already responded to the call of THE BRIDGE and will be there with five crew on the start line. François Gabart (MACIF), Yves Le Blévec (ACTUAL) and Thomas Coville (Sodebo) of the group Ultim are amongst the first candidates for this unusual historic race. Most recently joining them is Francis Joyon (IDEC SPORT) and his crew, the latest entry for this maritime challenge, currently competing on the Jules Verne Trophy alongside the most serious contenders of the Queen Mary 2. Together with a further crew of five, these great offshore sailors will have to race at the top of they abilities across the 3,150 mile course (5,800 km approximately) against a cruise ship who will cross the ocean at full steam regardless of the weather conditions.

@ JM Liot / DPPI / IDEC SPORT

They said during the press conference:


Francis Joyon (IDEC SPORT):The IDEC SPORT trimaran, because of the absolute use of wind and ocean to move, represents the ideal link and symbolises the friendship between France and the United States . With the IDEC SPORT team, we are proud to participate in this premiere of THE BRIDGE.

Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim’):Being a pioneer is the DNA of the Ultim’ collective which brings together the owners of the biggest multihulls. Today, with THE BRIDGE, we have a meeting with history, with this new race, with this new concept and with the Queen Mary 2 … “

Yves Le Blévec (ACTUAL):“A start in Saint-Nazaire, a finish in New York, it is a mythical journey that takes us back to the era of passenger ships and steamships. The race format, which brings together for the first time all Ultim’, suits perfectly. “

François Gabart (MACIF):“It really resonates. One hundred years after the landing of the Americans in Europe, THE BRIDGE gives us the chance to do the return trip, to go to the United States to create the link to sailing and beyond. What is interesting about it is that there is a slightly different way of approaching the race, potentially bringing the media and the public closer to our boats and enabling us to run the race from the inside and give those privileged cruise passengers an amazing opportunity to experience it first hand.”

The main dates of THE BRIDGE:

Nantes:
Thursday 15th June: Arrival of the multihulls
Friday 17th – Wednesday 21st June: 4th FIBA 3X3 World Cup
Tuesday 21st June: Music Festival
Thursday 22nd June: Descent from the Loire between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire

Saint Nazaire:
Thursday 22nd June: Arrival of the maxi-trimarans in the Port of Saint-Nazaire – Opening of the event village
Friday 23rd June: Arrival of the military ships coming from the Atlantic coast
Saturday 24th June: Event village – Arrival of the Queen Mary 2 and entry in the Louis Joubert Lock (port of Saint-Nazaire)
Concert, sound and light show for the general public
Sunday 25th June: Start of THE BRIDGE 2017

New York:
1st July: Arrival of QM2
Between 2nd and 4th July: Estimated arrivals of the first boats

The Queen Mary 2 will also host independent travellers.
During the Nautic, THE BRIDGE organisers open up the sale of cabins on board the Queen Mary 2 giving those interest the option to follow the event all the way to New York.

Meet at THE BRIDGE area – HALL 1/J8.

The 100 Club: a unique entrepreneurial dynamic
Nearly 80 companies have signed up to the adventure. They have reserved the first cabins on board the Queen Mary 2 which has allowed for the charter of the prestigious steamship for the event. The business impetus has been set up to engage and perpetuate an and workshops will analyse and look at how business is set to evolve.

“Visionary entrepreneurs of the Club of 100 are not sponsors. They are also the actors of THE BRIDGE and embark as skippers on the Queen Mary 2, “explains Damien Grimont, creator and organiser of THE BRIDGE.

TV FOOTAGE OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE AVAILABLE HERE

Shot list
00:00-1:35 Images of the press conference
01:36 – 02:56 Interview with François Gabart, skipper MACIF Ultim’ (French)
02:57 – 03:52 Interview with Yves Le Blévec, skipper ACTUAL (French)
03:53 – 5:10 Interview with Damien Grimont, THE BRIDGE organiser

#TheBridge2017  #IDECSport #FrancisJoyon #Sodebo #MACIF #ACTUAL #FrancoisGabart #ThomasCoville #trimaran #multihull #YvesLeBlevec #NYC  #QueenMary2 #VerrazanoBridge #Verrazano #NewYork

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the 'Transat Bakerley' solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the ‘Transat Bakerley’ solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Francois Gabart, the young heart-throb of French solo offshore sailing, completed his first solo win on board his new 100ft trimaran, Macif, today when he crossed the finish line off New York.

The 33-year-old Frenchman, who in 2013 became the youngest ever winner of the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race, sailed a brilliant race from Plymouth, covering the official distance of 3,050 nautical miles in 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes and 39 seconds. He narrowly missed out on a new race record, which was set by Michel Desjoyeaux in 2004, and still stands at a time of 8 days, 8 hours, 29 minutes.

Gabart actually sailed a total distance of 4,634 miles at an average speed of 23.11 knots in a remarkable voyage that, unusually for The Transat bakerly, took him and his close rival Thomas Coville on Sodebo, hundreds of miles south of the Azores into the tradewinds before sling-shotting northwest up to New York.

His beautiful blue, white and yellow Van Peteghem Lauriot-Prevost-designed multihull, in which Gabart hopes to set a new outright solo round-the-world record, reached the finish at 18:24 local time in New York, as recorded by the Sandy Hook Pilot Association boat, with its jubilant skipper waving to his team support boat as he crossed the line.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the 'Transat Bakerley' solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the ‘Transat Bakerley’ solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Shortly afterwards Gabart reflected on a race that, for much of the time, saw him in close company with Coville on the older Sodebo. For the first three days the two skippers were never more than a few miles apart, having crossed the Bay of Biscay in sight of each other.

The competition with Thomas on Sodebo was wonderful. It made the race incredible for me.  We are working together to organise more races for these type of boats, and when we see what happened in The Transat bakerly, and how close the competition was, we know there is a place for it. This is just the beginning of the journey.”

Gabart clearly loved his first outing on his new mile-munching ocean-racing thoroughbred, and he more than stepped up to the challenge that the 30-metre giant posed. “It was a big challenge for me. You should have 10 or 15 people to manage these boats, and it’s just me. It was my first solo race on Macif, and I didn’t know if I was able to do it, so I am really proud of what I did.

“To arrive into New York was perfect. The boat is in good shape. Me? Well, maybe not! I’m very tired, but I’m incredibly proud.”

As winner of the Ultime class, Gabart will be presented with a special watch from The Transat bakerly official timekeeper Ralf Tech.

Commenting on Gabart’s performance, The Transat bakerly Event Director Herve Favre said: “Francois and Thomas put on an amazing show at the front of the fleet and Francois has emerged a worthy and deserving winner. Over the next week we will see the winners of the IMOCA 60, Multi50 and Class40s emerge and each winner will be a hero in my book.”

The Big Apple has only been used once before in the race as the finish port and that was in the very first edition in 1960 when the winner, one Sir Francis Chichester on the monohull Gipsy Moth III, was at sea for 40 days, 12 hours 30 minutes. Sailing a multihull from a different century, Gabart was 32 days, 3 hours and 36 minutes quicker than the British legend.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the 'Transat Bakerley' solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the ‘Transat Bakerley’ solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

As Gabart crossed the line Coville was still some 118nm from the finish while the third-placed trimaran in the Ultime class – Actual skippered by Yves Le Blevec – was still 509.6nm away.

For the other classes in the fleet, the finish line is still over 800 miles away. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) continues to lead the IMOCA 60 fleet with an anticipated arrival time of 19:00 local time on Friday. Vincent Riou on PRB is 76 miles behind and still hot on his stern.

In the four-boat Multi50 class, Gilles Lamiré (Frenchtech Rennes St Malo) is continuing to extend his lead, with a 219 mile advantage between him and the chasing Lalou Roucayrol (Arkema).

Trading places at the top of the Class40 fleet is Isabelle Joschke (Generali–Horizon Mixité) and Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires en Peloton–Arsep), with Joschke currently holding a six-mile advantage.

On Tuesday Armel Tripon on Black Pepper announced his retirement from The Transat bakerly, after he sustained damage in the week’s earlier storms, leaving eight Class40s now en route to the Big Apple.

Track the race here.

The class rankings at 20:00 BST – updated every four hours. 

ULTIME
1. Francois Gabart/Macif – Finished after 8 days, 8 hours, 54 minutes and 39 seconds
2. Thomas Coville/Sodebo – 88.21nm from the finish
3. Yves Le Blevec/Actual – 504.50nm from the finish

IMOCA 60
1. Armel Le Cléac’h/Banque Populaire – 857.2nm from the finish
2. Vincent Riou/PRB – 76.10nm from the leader
3. Jean-Pierre Dick/St Michel Virbac – 182.74nm from the leader

MULTI50
1. Gilles Lamiré/French Tech Rennes St Malo – 950nm from the finish
2. Lalou Roucayrol/Arkema – 219.62nm from the leader
3. Pierre Antoine/Olmix – 415.94nm from the leader

CLASS40
1. Isabelle Joschke/Generali Horizon Mixité – 1421.3nm from the finish
2. Thibaut Vauchel-Camus/Solidaires en Peloton – ARSEP – 6.60nm from the leader
3. Phil Sharp/Imerys – 18.59nm from the leader

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the 'Transat Bakerley' solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 10: Francois Gabart on board his MACIF ‘Ultim’ 105ft trimaran, shown here celebrating after winning the ‘Transat Bakerley’ solo transatlantic yacht race. The yachtsman set a new world record for the solo transatlantic crossing in 8 days, 8 hours 54 minutes and 39 seconds. The race started in Plymouth, UK on Monday May 3rd. May 10, 2016 on the Hudson River in New York City. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

 

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.”

ROUTE DU RHUM - DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX

ROUTE DU RHUM – DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX

ROUTE DU RHUM - DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start      © ALEXIS COURCOUX

ROUTE DU RHUM – DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start © ALEXIS COURCOUX

As the tenth edition of the legendary Route du Rhum solo Transatlantic race to Guadeloupe started off Saint Malo, France this Sunday afternoon under grey skies and a moderate SSW’ly breeze. The perennial question of just how hard to push through the first 24-36 hours at sea was foremost in the minds of most of the 91 skippers.

 

When the start gun sounded at 1400hrs local time (1300hrs CET) to mark a spectacular send off for a 3,524 miles contest, which engages and entrances the French public like no other ocean race, breezes were only 15-17kts. But a tough, complicated first night at sea is in prospect, a precursor to 36 hours of bruising, very changeable breezes and big unruly seas.

Such conditions, gusting to 40kts after midnight tonight, are widely acknowledged to be potentially boat or equipment breaking. But the big ticket reward for fighting successfully through the worst of the fronts and emerging in A1 racing shape, will be a fast passage south towards Guadeloupe. Such an early gain might be crucial to the final result.

ROUTE DU RHUM - DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start      © ALEXIS COURCOUX

ROUTE DU RHUM – DESTINATION GUADELOUPE 2014 Start © ALEXIS COURCOUX

The converse is doubly true. Any trouble or undue conservatism might be terminal as far as hopes of a podium place in any of the three classes.

In short, the maxim of not being able to win the race on the first night, but being able to lose it over that keynote, initial period, has perhaps never been truer.

The routing south is relatively direct, fast down the Iberian peninsula with a fairly straightforward, quick section under the Azores high pressure which shapes the course. The Ultimes – the giant multis – are expected to be south of Madeira by Tuesday night when the IMOCA Open 60s will already be at the latitude of Lisbon and the Class 40 leaders passing Cape Finisterre.

Vincent Riou, Vendée Globe winner who triumphed in last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre two-handed race to Brasil, said of the forecast: “I carried out statistical studies, set up 140 different routings using ten years of files in my pre-race analysis and I can’t recall a single example of the weather being as favourable for the IMOCAs as what seems to lie ahead‏.”

The change in weather from the idyllic Indian summer conditions which have prevailed through the build up weeks to gusty winds, heavy rain showers and cooler temperatures could do nothing to dampen the extraordinary ardour displayed by the crowds which so openly embrace the Rhum legend. From all walks of life, from babes-in-arms to the elderly, they descend on Saint Malo and the nearby beaches and promontories to see the start and the opening miles.

Lemonchois Leads
It was fitting then that the tens of thousands who braved the deluges and the breeze were rewarded when it was the owner of the race record, Lionel Lemonchois, winner of the Multi 50 Class in the last edition and overall winner in 2006, who passed their Cap Fréhel vantage point, 18 miles after the start line leading the whole fleet on the Ultime Prince de Bretagne.

 

Thomas Coville on Sodebo lead the Caribbean-bound armada off the start line dicing with the more nimble, smaller Multi70 of Sidney Gavignet Musandam-Oman Air which also lead for a short time. The fleet’s ultimate Ultime, the 40m long Spindrift (Yann Guichard) was seventh to Fréhel, clearly needing time and opportunity to wind up to her high average top speeds. Coville has the potent mix of tens of thousands of solo miles under his belt as well as an Ultime (the 31m long ex Geronimo of Olivier de Kersauson with new main hull and mostly new floats and a new rig) which is optimised for solo racing.

The favourites to win each of the different classes seemed to make their way quickly to the front of their respective packs. Vendée Globe victor François Gabart established a very early lead in the IMOCA Open 60s on MACIF, ahead of PRB (Vincent Riou) and Jérémie Beyou (Maitre-CoQ). In the 43 strong Class 40 fleet Sébastien Rogue quickly worked GDF SUEZ in to the lead. He remains unbeaten and won last year’s TJV. Defending class champion Italy’s Andrea Mura was at the front of the Rhum class with his highly updated Open 50 Vento di Sardegna.

Spain’s highly rated Alex Pella was second in Class 40 on Tales 2, Britain’s Conrad Humphreys 20th on Cat Phones Built For It and Miranda Merron sailing Campagne de France in 22nd.

The key international, non-French skippers made solid starts to their races. Self-preservation was key priority for 75 year old Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on Grey Power, who said pre-start that his main goal was to get safely clear of Cape Finisterre, before pressing the accelerator.

He is in good company not least with ‘junior’ rivals Patrick Morvan, 70 and Bob Escoffier, 65 all racing in this Rhum class which features race legend craft as well as sailors. Two of the original sisterships to Mike Birch’s 11.22m Olympus – which stole victory by 98 seconds in the inaugural race in 1978 – are racing in this fleet replaying the fight against the monohull Kriter V which finished second.

First to return to Saint-Malo with a technical problem- needing to repair his rigging – was the Class40 of Jean Edouard Criquioche, Région haute Normandie, who had to turn round after just 45 minutes on course. And the Portuguese skipper in the Rhum class Ricardo Diniz was also reported to be heading back with trouble with his diesel.

Order at Cap Fréhel

1 – Lionel Lemonchois (Prince de Bretagne) / 1st Ultime
2 – Sidney Gavignet (Musandam – Oman Sail)
3 – Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim’)
4 – Loïck Peyron (Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII)
5 – Sébastien Josse (Edmond De Rothschild)
6 – Yann Eliès (Paprec Recyclage)
7 – Yann Guichard (Spindrift 2)
8 – Yves Le Blévec (Actual) / 1st Multi50
9 – Francis Joyon (Idec Sport)
10 – Erwan Leroux (FenêtréA – Cardinal)
11 – Lalou Roucayrol (Arkema Région Aquitaine)
12 – François Gabart (MACIF) / 1st IMOCA
13 – Vincent Riou (PRB) 14 – Loïc Fequet (Maître Jacques)
15 – Jérémie Beyou (Maître Coq)
16 – Marc Guillemot (Safran)
17 – Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée)
18 – Bertrand De Broc (Votre Nom Autour du Monde)
19 – Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives-Coeur)
20 – Armel Tripon (Humble for Heroes)
21 – Erik Nigon (Vers un monde sans sida)
22 – Pierre Antoine (Olmix)
23 – Andrea Mura (Vento Di Sardegna) / 1st Rhum
24 – Sébastien Rogues (GDF SUEZ) / 1st Class40‏

Follow the race on www.routedurhum.com/en
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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))

 

 Francois Gabarth VCurutchet-DPPI-MACIF.182232

(PHOTO Vincent Curutchet)

VIDEO

At 31 years of age, François Gabart is amongst some of the greatest champions in solo offshore racing. Current IMOCA World Champion, this skipper sailed before he knew how to walk.

« As an infant, I was already on board a cruising boat, going on adventures and voyages. I started sailing an Optimist at the age of 6, then motorop, then a Tornado dinghy and then the Figaro class, my first trial of offshore racing, before moving into the IMOCA class a couple of years back. As I grew up, boats have grown up with me. »

A first French Champion title in the Optimist class was achieved at the age of 11, in 1993, and more victories followed. « I won the Youth World Championship in the Tornado and then I got into the offshore race circuit. I won the French offshore Championship in 2010, and that enabled me to move into the IMOCA class and to win the Vendée Globe one year ago, on board MACIF in the 2012/13 race edition. «

«  We entered the IMOCA class in 2010 with ambition, but also with the awareness of the scale of the challenge ahead of us. They are quite tricky and complex boats. The class consists of some of the best solo sailors in the planet, it really is the class of reference. Becoming the World Champion is amazing, that means we did a good job, it means I am amongst the best sailors in the world and I am really proud of that. It means we achieved our goals. »

Fascinated by the sea, by offshore racing, by boats, François describs himself also as a dreamer and a hard worker. « I dream, but I work hard to achieve my dreams. »

(Photo Jean-Marie LIOT / DPPI / MACIF)

Coming from a marine background, he is naturally drawn towards this element, where he turned when he had to make his career choice, but that passion might also have led him to other horizons.

« If I was not a professional sailor, I would certainly be involved in something related to the sea. I am a trained engineer, so probably I would be behind a computer and in an office creating boats, designing them, realising them….or else with my head in the clouds studying the weather….but if I had a completely different passion, I would probably have foind myself in the mountains. That would not have surprised me. Those two worlds are pretty different but also with some similarities. «

(Photo Jean-Marie LIOT / DPPI / MACIF)

This year, François is focusing on his first Route du Rhum, and his last race in the IMOCA class.

« My first memories of this race were the arrival of Florence Arthaud in 1990. I was lucky to travel and live on a boat when I was a child and I went to Guadeloupe the year before. We cruised across the Atlantic as a family, and a few months later, I was watching the victory of Florence on the TV. She had just crossed the Atlantic. She arrived into the same area that I had been in, the same island, the same beach. Those formed strong memories in the mind of a young boy of 7 years of age and its true that I hold onto them very dearly, as I was very affected by all of that. »

(Photo Jean-Marie LIOT / DPPI / MACIF)

« What is beautiful about our sport, is the number of fantastic events and good memories. If I have to focus on one, its a bit anecdotal but its my favorite and thats the
finish of the Vendée Globe. A lot of people followed the adventure, and for me as a sailor it was an incredible moment, for the moment itself but also for what it all represents. Its a real achievement. But I also hope there will be lots of other great moments like that to come and I hope too that my great moments at sea are still to come in the future. »

Francois Gabart , MACIF, Winner Vendée Globe. (Photo by Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe)

François Gabart crossed the Vendée Globe finish line at 15 hours 18 minutes 40 seconds, French time, setting a new solo round-the-world record of 78 day, 2 hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds. Beating Michel Desjoyeaux’s record by 6 day 00 hours 53 minutes
His final race time is 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes 40 seconds. His average speed was 15.3 knots and covering 28,646.55 miles.
Note: the race’s theoretical distance is 24,393.41 miles.
Gold for ‘Goldenboy’ Gabart
François Gabart’s Vendée Globe is a story of transformation. In a little less than 80 days, the young skipper, viewed as a talented outsider, he evolved turned into a race leader, successfully keeping the other competitors at bay.
A spectacular start
From the outset of the race, François Gabart set about upsetting the order. He took the lead in the Bay of Biscay, imposing his fast pace and sailing in a style akin to the French short course solo racing circuit, the Solitaire du Figaro skipper than a long-distance sailor. The weather conditions favoured the front runners, who soon extended their lead. It took them three days to reach the Madeira latitude, where the first strategic choices were made, followed by Armel Le Cléac’h storming into the front.
4-way match
Sailing down the South Atlantic after a complicated the doldrums confirmed the situation, that the race was dominated by a leading quartet featuring  Armel Le Cléac’h, Vincent Riou, Jean-Pierre Dick and François Gabart leaving Bernard Stamm and Alex Thomson in their wake. As they reached the Roaring Forties, the skippers ahead picked up the pace, resulting in a series of amazing performances. On November 30, François Gabart broke the first 24-hour distance record (482.91 miles). Shortly, after Vincent Riou was forced to abandon and three skippers – Jean-Pierre Dick, Armel le Cléac’h and François Gabart – entered the Indian Ocean together as a tight pack while Bernard Stamm, ranked fourth, lurked behind.
The great escape
On December 10, the MACIF skipper drove the point home by setting the ultimate solo distance record on a monuhull, covering 545 miles in twenty-four hours. Armel Le Cléac’h was the only one able to hold on and the two Frenchmen, positioned at the front of the fleet, built up an impressive gap in only a few days. On December 13, Jean-Pierre Dick was 155 miles behind. 24 hours later, the gap had increased to 300 miles and eventually 500 miles on December 15. The Southern Ocean adventure then turned into a spectacular duel in which the two solo sailors were rarely more than twenty miles apart. At one point within visual contact on several occasions. François Gabart returned to the Atlantic on January 1, securing the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe edition a place in the history book as the first race in which a rookie rounded Cape Horn as the race leader.
François’ trick
Leaving the Le Maire Straights behind them, the two frontrunners laboured through a windless hole and Gabart managed to slightly widen the gap, sailing forty miles ahead. On January 5, Le Cléac’h broke the union for the first time since the Amsterdam gate and tacked west his sights set on a ridge of weather. François Gabart kept sailing along his eastern route, taking him to the edge of the Saint Helena high. Demonstrating his strategic acumen, Gabart extended his lead and positioned himself back in front of the Banque Populaire bow. He crossed the Equator five days ahead of Michel Desjoyeaux’s record. Despite a tricky Doldrums crossing, Gabart kept warding off Le Cléac’h’s attacks throughout his climb back up the North Atlantic. At 29, as he crossed the finish line, he became the youngest Vendée Globe winner ever. Alain Gautier was 30 years old when he won the 1992-1993 edition in 110 days and 2 hours. What a difference a decade makes.

Francois Gabart MACIF Winner Vendée Globe (Photo MACIF WINNER / © OLIVIER BLANCHET / DPPI /

Key figures

Longest distance covered in 24 hours: December 10, 545 miles at an average speed of 22.7 knots.
Number of rankings with Gabart leading: (5 rankings a day): 234
Days spent leading the race: 44 days 20 hours
Les Sables to Equator: 11 days 00 hours 20 min (Jean Le Cam’s 2004-2005 record: 10 days 11 hours 28 min)
Equator to Good Hope: 12 days 03 hours 25 min (JP Dick’s record: 12 day 02 hour 40min)
Good Hope to Cape Leeuwin: 11 days 06 hours 40 min (new record)
Cape Leeuwin to Cape Horn: 17 days 18 h 35mn (new record)
Cape Horn to Equator: 13 days 19 hours
Equator to Les Sables: 12 days 01 hour 37 minutes
Maximum gap between MACIF and Banque Populaire:
Banque Populaire to MACIF: 263.14 miles on November 28
MACIF to Banque Populaire: 273.99 miles on January 14