ANTIGUA, WEST INDIES (February 24, 2017) – Bella Mente Racing, led by owner/driver Hap Fauth, launched its 2017 campaign season with a major victory this week, winning IRC Overall, CSA Overall and CSA 1 at the RORC Caribbean 600 in Antigua; The team took home the coveted RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy for the IRC win as well as the Bella Mente Trophy, the team’s namesake award, for being the first IRC yacht to finish that is wholly manually powered. The 600-mile offshore race hosted a record number of competitors for its 2017 edition, with over 80 yachts hitting the waters off Antigua, but it was the battle between Bella Mente and rival Maxi 72 Proteus that took the spotlight. The yachts dueled up until the very end, with the lead switching hands on several occasions. After over two days at sea, Bella Mente ultimately prevailed, crossing the finish line on Wednesday, February 22 at 4:51 p.m. (AST), ahead of Proteus.
“This is such an important event for our campaign each year so it was just the best to be able to come back swinging,” said Fauth adding that this year’s RORC Caribbean 600 win was exceptionally sweet for the team, which came to the event last year hoping to defend its 2015 IRC Overall win, but were forced to retire halfway into racing due to keel troubles. “We’re looking forward to the rest of our 2017 season and ultimately the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championships in Sardinia. That is what the whole season is focused on from here.
“It was a very hard fought win. Over the course of the race, the team performed 85 sail changes and all but one were executed perfectly. The crew gave a 120 percent and we got a victory out of it – a crew and afterguard-driven victory.”
The Bella Mente Racing Team after winning IRC Overall at the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 (left) and Owner/Driver Hap Fauth accepting the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy (right)
(Photo Credit Left: RORC/Ted Martin / Photo Credit Right: RORC/ELWJ Photography)
The 600-mile race circumnavigates 11 Caribbean islands, starting its fleet off Fort Charlotte in Antigua and then taking it north up to Barbuda and around Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Eustatius, Saba, St. Barth and St. Martin before heading south for Guadeloupe. From there, the fleet returns to Barbuda and rounds Redonda before finishing back in Antigua.
“Our playbook was pretty extensive for this race with this being our fifth RORC Caribbean 600 racing Bella Mente, however it was based on the trade winds blowing as they normally do this time of year,” said the team’s offshore helmsman Mike Sanderson adding that though the RORC Caribbean 600 racecourse was the same as previous years, the fleet experienced a completely different wind direction, which changed the tactics and dynamic onboard. That, coupled with intense competition with Proteus, made for an extremely tough race. “This year the wind conditions did a 180 in comparison to previous years, which made for an entirely different race. For me, that was the best part of this year’s event. It’s always great to have a new challenge because it means we really have to do our homework to prepare for the race. When we got out there on the course, everything looked so different going around the track even though we were in familiar surroundings.”
Tactician Terry Hutchinson added, “It was an absolute battle all the way through. Proteus got the better of us in the pre-start and on the first leg up to Barbuda, but we did a good job of keeping it close, and one rain shower later we were bow-to-stern with the Maxi 72. For the next 450 miles we were tied to the hip. Proteus held the lead through to La Désirade (off Guadeloupe), but when we started on the 90-mile leg back to Barbuda, Bella Mente’s upwind speed shined and we were able to slip around Proteus and extend. From Barbuda to the finish we were constantly looking over our shoulder; our lead never felt big enough and we were preparing for one more parking lot with no breeze on the racecourse ahead. In true Bella Mente form, a couple of slick sail changes at the end of our 53 hours on the water got us across the finish line.”
When asked how he thought the team performed for their first event of the season, Hutchinson responded, “The team fared well, but we have a lot of work to do. The competition this season is very good, and so like in 2016 we need to apply a consistent process to our performance and development, and allow Bella Mente’s number one resource, our people, to perform.”
Bella Mente will compete in one more event in the Caribbean, Les Voiles de. St. Barth in April, before the yacht is shipped across the Atlantic to race in Mallorca, Spain for the Palma Vela in May. The team will then relocate to Corfu, Greece for the inaugural Corfu Challenge in July and return to Mallorca for the Copa del Rey MAPFRE later that month. The season culminates with its final and most significant event, the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship in Porto Cervo, Italy in September.
|• A good start for the Mini Transat îles de Guadeloupe
• Nacho Pastigo (Vamos Vamos) stays behind on the dock
• Reaching the Seine current by the start of the night
|It’s hard to imagine better conditions for the start of the Mini Transat îles de Guadeloupe. The President of the racecourse fired the starter’s pistol, and the competitors launched themselves into the westerly to north-westerly 8-10 knot wind. By the end of the first part of the race in the bay, the favourites were already pointing their bows towards the open ocean.
There was enough wind to move forwards, but not too much. We couldn’t have hoped for more at the start of a transatlantic race, both for the competitors, and for the organisers. Douarnenez Bay had dressed up in its finery: blue skies, light clouds at the top of Menez Hom, dark seas…
The Mini Transat îles de Guadeloupe racers hardly had time to admire the landscape. Instead they had to watch their rivals, avoid collisions and consider their tactics for the best approach to the race in Douarnenez Bay.
After a beautiful start on the starboard side, Hervé Aubry (Ixina – Voilerie HSD) was in the lead, followed closely by the youngest competitor, Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema) and Clément Bouyssou (Le Bon Agent ! Bougeons l’Immobilier). However, it was Davy Beaudart (Flexirub), followed by Frédéric Denis (Nautipark) who were leading the fleet at the first buoy. Next, was Julien Pulvé (Novintiss) who overtook Benoît Hantzperg (YCA – Dhumeaux – Secours Populaire).
Tacking re-shuffles the playing cards
This was followed by a stretch of quite closed spinnaker sailing in a straining wind that forced a real break amongst the favourites in training at the centre of the fleet, particularly caused by the comfortable conditions. For others, the problem was that they had hardly experienced this type of sailing on a razor’s edge. A first hierarchy had established itself by the time they reached the buoy at Tristan island, which marks the end of the coastal run. Ahead of them unfolded a long stretch towards the west until they crossed the Seine current. The objective was to get around a light patch sitting directly in their path, and look for a faster route by using the winds from the northwest.
Lucky for some…unlucky for others
It’s another story for Nacho Postigo. He was violently slammed against the rocks of Tristran Island when he was being towed by an organiser’s boat, and saw his hopes for the Transat dashed as well. With his keel sail damaged and the bulb mashed up, the Spanish sailor could not go straight back to the race. However, he will be able to re-join the ranks in two stages, as the crash was not his responsibility. The international jury will need to decide under what criteria he can re-join the race. The members already know that there will be the work cut out waiting for him to do in Lanzarote.
Positions after the coastal race:
Séries (Ocean Bio-Actif Ranking)
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Sidney Gavignet, French skipper of the Sultanate of Oman’s flagship, Musandam-Oman Sail, crossed the finish line of the Route du Rhum in Guadeloupe at 9:15:24 CET this morning completing the epic adventure in 8 days 19 hours 15 minutes and 24 seconds. After 4,446 nautical miles at an average speed of 21.5 knots he was delighted to reach dry land.
“Mission accomplished!” he said as he came ashore to speak to the media who welcomed him in at 03:30 local time. “The boat was superbly prepared by the shore team and is in as good shape as when I left St Malo 8 days ago, a testimony to their great work.
“My primary objective was to get to Guadeloupe in one piece and here I am. I made a few small errors during the last few hours of the race, but I managed to finish on the same night as Prince de Bretagne, a boat that is 10 feet bigger than Musandam-Oman Sail, and as Gitana, a heavily modified MOD70. I am immensely proud to have flown the flag of the Sultanate of Oman all the way across the Atlantic and into Guadeloupe. This place is very special to me as I met my wife here 23 years ago while I was training for the Whitbread.”
He was given a hero’s welcome in Pointe-a-Pitre by his Oman Sail teammates who have lived every moment of the race, highs and lows, alongside the skipper. Support for the 45-year-old Frenchman across three different time zones was immense with cheers going up in France and Muscat when he crossed the finish line.
CEO David Graham, who waved Sidney off in St Malo was the first to applaud such a triumph: “Huge congratulations to Sidney for this incredible achievement. It has been a voyage of discovery for the whole Oman Sail team that has lived this epic experience alongside him, every nautical mile of the way. It has proved very inspiring for our Omani sailors, especially our offshore team who have been sending Sidney messages of support throughout the race, as well as our younger sailors that aspire to greatness on the water in years to come.
“This event has been a great success for us both on the sporting front and in terms of promoting Oman as a high-end tourism destination – we are very proud of Sidney’s achievement and the impact it had with our sailors in terms of inspiration. It may have been a single-handed race, but the reality is there were hundreds of people on the MOD70 with Sidney!”
After a nail-biting first 48 hours of the race that saw the French skipper and his 70ft trimaran battle 40knot gusts and huge seas across the Bay of Biscay and then around Cape Finisterre, with a broken jet burner and no hot food, and a hurt and swollen forearm, the Frenchman bounced back with cheerful and awe inspiring tales of full moon sailing at 30knots and nerve-wracking squalls rolling in one after the other.
He punched way above his weight as he wrestled with Prince de Bretagne, an 80ft trimaran 10 feet his senior, all the way across the Atlantic and led right up to hours before the finish when boat length finally prevailed and Lionel Lemonchois gave him the slip to finish ahead.
The Oman Sail Route du Rhum had two objectives, the first to raise awareness of the Sultanate of Oman as a high-end tourist destination, and with over 2 million visitors to the St Malo race village and the “Visit Oman” tourism pavilion, over the course of a week at the start, this box was firmly ticked. The second was to finish – Sidney himself had estimated a 50/50 chance of catastrophe – and as a result to share the experience with the Omani sailors that aspire to follow in Sidney’s footsteps. Mission accomplished.
“One of the highlights of my race was receiving an email from Fahad Al Hasni, one of our best MOD70 sailors – it made me so happy I picked up the sat phone to tell him about life onboard. I think he was very surprised to hear from me, but I could hear the grin in his voice – I know that this race is inspiring my Omani teammates and making them want to go further in their careers and getting his message was a happy moment for me.”
Sidney will take some well-earned rest now and have a long overdue hot meal before the MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail is prepared for the return trip to Europe with Fahad Al Hasni, Yassir Al Rahbi, Abdulrahman Al Mashari and Sami Al Shukaili, onboard.
Route du Rhum Ultime Class – provisional results
- Banque Populaire VII/Loick Peyron/103ft – 7 days, 15 hours, 8 minutes, 32 seconds
- Spindrift II/Yann Guichard/131ft – 8 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes, 46 seconds
- Edmond de Rothschild/Sebastien Josse/modified MOD70 – 8 days, 14 hours, 47 minutes, 9 seconds
- Prince de Bretagne/Lionel Lemonchois/80ft – 8 days 17 hours 44 minutes, 50 seconds
- Musandam-Oman Sail/Sidney Gavignet/70ft – 8 days 19 hours 15 minutes, 24 seconds
- Idec/Francis Joyon/97ft – still racing
- Paprec Recyclage/Yann Eliès/70ft – still racing
There are race nights like those of our dreams, when the wind is like music to your ears, the moon high in the sky, and the skippers have time to get into the race while savouring the moment of being alone at sea… And others which are more brutal. It was the second type that awaited the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe skippers last night. And the IMOCA Class also came under the challenging law of the sea.
With no premature drop outs nor collisions bad enough to stop short any hope of getting to Guadeloupe, the tough weather conditions in the English Channel did not prevent the IMOCA fleet from making the Bay of Biscay without too much damage. But the Bay of Biscay, true to its reputation lays down the law : An abandonment for Bertrand de Broc due to an injury (Votre Nom autour du Monde), rudder damage after a UFO collision for Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) suffered some damage to his rudder from a UFO collision forcing him to make a technical stop, more serious damage for Vincent Riou (PRB) after a major mainsail rip, and Jérémie Beyou (Maître Coq) had some trouble with his rudder fixings but seemed to be able to fix them. The IMOCA skippers had some good reasons to be wary of those first few hours in the Channel. But in comparison to the damage suffered by some of the other classes, the IMOCA Ocean Masters fleet demonstrated the full extent of its reliability. This is not the first time the Bay of Biscay hits hard on a fleet in such a transatlantic race.
(Photo Thierry Martinez )
The first night – what they said before they left:
Armel Tripon (For Humble Heroes): “The first night is a relief above all. All this week we’ve had a full-on programme, among the crowds, and we need to get away. Once we’re past the Cap Fréhel, it’ll be great to be alone.”
Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur): “The first night is a mix of everything. We’re happy to be out at sea alone, but sad to leave our dear ones and team. The first night is critical in general – you can’t mess up. It’s easy not to sleep, but it’s a trap because you can lose your lucidity. I love the first night, it gets you into the rhythm of the race, tactically it’s crucial, it’s full of all sorts of things.”
Vincent Riou (PRB): “We’ll be able to breathe a bit once we’ve left the crowd at the start. It’ll be quite stressful because we’ll be navigating through intense maritime traffic in the English Channel. We’ll be sailing close to the coast so we know we won’t sleep much. We won’t get a real rest until we get past Ouessant. After that it should be a bit less stressful.”
Alessandro di Benedetto (Team Plastique): “A bit stressed as always. We’re going to be on the lookout constantly, between the coast which is close by, the cargo boats, fishing boats… There’s a real risk of collision.”
(Photo Thierry Martinez)
Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde): “ You have to be on top form on the first night. We’ll be navigating tricky areas to the north of Brittany. It’ll be stressful with all the trawlers and cargo ships shifting from rail to sea. There are only 10 IMOCAs so the risk of collision between competitors is low. Overall I’ll be having more fun than stress.”
Marc Guillemot (Safran): “The first night on the Route du Rhum is always complicated. You have to manage the traffic, anticipate the Ouessant passage and there are rocks all over the place off the coast so you have to be very careful. And the first tactical options are taken leaving the English Channel. So we know we won’t be sleeping much.”
Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée): “ It’s going to be tense. The playing field between the cargo ships to the north and the coast to the south is very narrow, with some significant local effects out there. Once we’re out of the Channel we should have some great reaching angles. Then we’ll have some real fun. »
François Gabart (MACIF): “Fun and stress – the two are linked. It’s the start of the race and you really have to concentrate, to find your bearings. On top of that the Channel is always complicated. But I must admit I love these first nights. Navigating at night is something really magic.”
Jérémie Béyou (Maître CoQ): “I try to think of it as just another day of the race. The main thing is not to make any mistakes, to get into the race from the start. The sense of deliverance comes into play once you start to lose the other boats around. Looking at the conditions expected, we’ll have to wait till we’re out of the Channel.”
(Photo Thierry Martinez)
There’s no surprise as to who has taken the lead, with all the favourites in pole position with a superb battle playing out between François Gabart and Vincent Riou, before he suffered with some damage. Jérémie Beyou and Marc Guillemot were running about 20 miles behind them. Much has been expected from PRB’s performance against the competition, being the only boat to have passed to the new rule. This fight has stopped too soon….
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.
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.
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.
1. Thomas Coville (Ultime – Sodebo Ultim’) : collision with cargo ship
Frenchman, Sidney Gavignet, flying Omani colours gave fans a fantastic show at the start of the Route du Rhum today in St Malo, France!
The giant turquoise trimaran burst off the start line in first place and wowed the crowds on the water as it picked its way amongst the vast flotilla of spectator boats through a gusty squall and out into clear water – destination Guadeloupe!
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.
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.
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