The audacity to singlehand the world’s largest racing multihull
Published on September 2nd, 2014
The 10th edition of the Route du Rhum is a 3550 nm singlehanded race from Saint-Malo (France) to Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe). Held every four years, the 2014 race starts November 2, and is open to multihulls and monohulls split into several classes according to their overall length.
Among the competitors will be Yann Guichard (FRA), who will be alone at the helm of the world’s largest racing multihull: Spindrift 2.
Since Spindrift 2 was launched in 2008 (as Banque Populaire V), nobody has had the audacity to sail this maxi-trimaran singlehanded. The 40 metres long Spindrift 2 was designed to be raced by crews and currently holds several respective major ocean-sailing records which include Transatlantic (03:15:25:48), Round the World (45:13:42:53), and 24 hour (908 nm, 37.84 knot avg.).
To compete in the Route du Rhum, the cockpit has been redesigned to position the controls suitably within reach. Meanwhile, the surface area of the sails has been reduced by around 20% and an ingenious autopilot system has been fitted. The trimaran has not been reduced in size, however, and Spindrift 2 remains by far the largest boat taking part in the 10th edition of the most iconic of transatlantic races.
“Solo sailing a trimaran the size of requires complete physical commitment,” says Guichard.
After traveling to the USA in hopes to break the crewed Transatlantic (west to east) record, later abandoning the bid when suitable conditions failed to develop over the summer, Spindrift 2 left Newport in August for France with a crew sailing in pseudo-single-handed mode, allowing Guichard the opportunity to drive and maneuver the trimaran on his own. But after a pit stop in the Azores, Guichard departed alone at the helm.
“I have just spent six days alone aboard Spindrift 2, which is extremely tough, but feasible. The biggest unknown were the autopilots, which gave me great confidence and steered most of the time. I found my pace and, with time, you get used to the size of the boat. Anticipation remains the key, because the slightest maneuver requires an hour’s work. You can’t simply make one move after another, or waste all of your energy at once, because you have to stay lucid. When Spindrift 2 has the right sails up for the right weather, and you’re gliding along over the waves, it’s extremely satisfying and exhilarating.”
Almost 80 competitors are registered in five boat classes for the 2014 Route du Rhum.