© Jean-Sebastien Evrard, AFP | French skipper Thomas Coville navigates aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on October 12 off La Trinite-sur-Mer in western France

© Jean-Sebastien Evrard, AFP | French skipper Thomas Coville navigates aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on October 12 off La Trinite-sur-Mer in western France

New Record : 49 days 3 hours 7 minutes and 38 seconds!

France’s Thomas Coville set a new round-the-world solo sailing record of just 49 days on Sunday, beating the previous world record by more than eight days.

Coville arrived at the finish line in Ushant, an island in the southwestern English Channel, at 5:57pm local time after a solo round-the-world trip that took just 49 days, 3 hours, 7 minutes and 38 seconds.

Coville slashed eight days off the world record when he ended his astonishing non-stop journey aboard the Sodebo Ultim’ on Christmas Day. The previous record of 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds was established by another Frenchman, Francis Joyon, in 2008.

 Colville, who was sailing a 31-metre maxi trimaran, would rarely have slept for more than 30 minutes at a time during the race, remaining on constant alert for danger and changing conditions.

Coville set off from Brest on the Brittany coast on November 6. He needed to make it back by January 3 to set a new record.

In 2008, Joyon broke British sailor Ellen MacArthur’s previous record of 71 days, 14 hours and 18 minutes of February 2005. Her Australian-constructed, 23-metre trimaran had been specifically designed to accommodate her diminutive stature of 5 feet, 2 inches (1.57 metres).

Maxi Trimaran Sodebo skippered by Thomas Coville ( Photo © Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Sodebo )

Maxi Trimaran Sodebo skippered by Thomas Coville ( Photo © Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Sodebo )

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)

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)

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
Live Radio Vacations 1200-1230hrs each day in English on www.routedurhum.com/en

 

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))

sodebo

French skipper Thomas Coville and the 101-foot trimaran Sodebo have aborted the pursuit to beat the solo around the world record set of Francis Joyon (FRA) with IDEC of 57d 13h 34m 6s in January 2008.

After slowed by the St. Helena High in the South Atlantic, Coville was concerned that weather conditions ahead would direct his routing to 60 degrees south, which is about 300 miles north of Antarctica.

“I have a great boat, but the files confirm that even sailing deep into the South Indian Ocean, we are slower than Francis (Joyon),” explained Coville. “We would have needed to go beyond the limits we set for ourselves in terms of safety. The routing needed me to slalom between the ice south of Kerguelen Islands, which would risk putting myself in danger and also involve other people in case something goes wrong.”

The maxi-trimaran will return to its home port of La Trinité-sur-Mer, France.

 

For more information on Thomas  Coville’s record attempt and the Maxi Trimaran Sodebo visit http://www.sodebo.fr/voile .

 

 

 Thomas Coville sets off for his solo round-the-world record attempt. Brest, 17 January 2014. Photo by  Yvan Zedda-Sodebo

Under a southerly-southwesterly breeze of 15-20 knots and a swell at Ushant, Thomas Coville crossed the start line of his round-the-world solo record attempt this morning at 7h42’44” (French time). To beat the record of 57 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes and 6 seconds, held by Francis Joyon since 2008, the Sodebo maxi- trimaran should be back before March 15th at 21h15’50” (French time).

Being in the right place at the right time. This is the challenge of the start of this round-the-world record attempt, much-expected and desired by the solitary skipper, that has been looming three months for favorable conditions to get out of the Bay of Biscay, swept by successive storms. The skipper was also forced last night to postpone for a few hours his dockout to let pass a new gust of wind which made maneuvering in the port difficult .

Late-night goodbyes
It is at 3:00 in the morning, under the light of an almost full moon, that the trimaran left the port of Château. Meanwhile on the dark dock in Brest, one could see the shadows of some irreducible including Thomas’ wife and their two children, but also the managers of Sodebo that have been supporting the skipper for 15 years. Despite the rain and wind, everybody tried to greet a more determined than ever skipper, very focused on his goal. It didn’t take long for Thomas to head towards Ushant. Three of his teammates helped him hoist the mainsail before switching to a tender off the port of Camaret, located at the exit of the harbor of Brest.

 

Without transition
The first objective of the skipper was to cross the line before the breeze weakened too much off the tip of Brittany. The maxi-trimaran sailed upwind facing a wind of 15-20 knots which is never easy near the coast. After tacking to get clear off Ushant, Thomas will head south on starboard tack to cross the thalweg (area of ​​light breeze) as low as possible in the Bay. He will then, finally, catch westerly-northwesterly downwind conditions. He will be able to accelerate but must remain vigilant because of squalls forecast on his way.

Around the world via the three capes
After the descent of the Atlantic, the record-chasing skipper must pass the Cape of Good Hope (Southern tip of Africa) and Cape Leeuwin (southwestern tip of Australia) and finally the legendary Cape Horn (South America) before returning back to the Atlantic to cross the finish line off Ushant. It’s race against the clock of 21,600 miles considered to be the most demanding of singlehanded sailing. Only Ellen MacArthur, Francis Joyon and Thomas Coville have already completed it nonstop.