Dual Duels in Route du Rhum

Published on November 7th, 2014

November 7, 2014 – Racing remains too close to call at the head of IMOCA 60 class, Class 40 and the Multi50 Class in La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe while the margins in the Ultime and Rhum classes are more established.

The IMOCA 60 class is shaping up to be a two boat race, a head-to-head duel between two of France’s most talented solo offshore sailors. Francois Gabart (Macif) 31 years old Vendée Globe solo non stop around the world champion against 38 year old Jeremie Beyou (Maitre Coq) reigning and three times La Solitaire du Figaro champion are just 20 miles apart this afternoon after five days of racing. The duo timed their timing and angle through a front last night well which gave them a jump on their third placed pursuer Marc Guillemot (Safran) who is now 106 miles behind Gabart, suffering in lighter winds and with some small breakdowns.

Gabart won the Vendèe Globe at the first time of asking at 29 years old but has never yet won the incredibly intense annual multi-stage one design Solitaire. His best place finish is second in 2002. In June Beyou became only the fourth skipper to win La Solitaire du Figaro three times along with Philippe Poupon, Jean Le Cam and Michel Desjoyeaux. Then he showed an almost unerring, key ability to modulate his performance on each of the 3 to 4 day legs, peaking at the right time and holding in reserved when needed.

But the same could be said of Gabart on the last Vendée Globe when he and Armel Le Cleac’h played cat and mouse, solo non stop around the world for 78 days and 2 hours, latterly Gabart able to squeeze out small miles seemingly at will.

Gabart is in his last race in the IMOCA class, at least for a while. And Beyou is highly motivated by a succession of disappointments. He withdrew from this race in 2006 due to family reasons and four years – post Vendee Globe – when this race came around he was sponsor-less. The sailor from the bay of Morlaix has had retire form the last two Vendee Globes, relatively early in both races due to damage. Indeed his biggest transocean success was winning the 2011 Transat Jacque Vabre at the side of Jean-Pierre Dick.

All the leading IMOCA 60s are downwind or reaching under spinnaker but the key to the battle of the leaders will be how they deal with the tentacles of light airs extending in front of them from the dominant Azores high pressure zone. From that point of view the advantage is often with the hunter, behind, rather than the hunted, ahead. Beyond that, the golden ticket is first entry into the Trade Winds.

Enigmatic Italian skiper Alessandro di Benedetto has had to more or less stop today whilehe made a repair to his rudder system on the IMOCA 60 Team Plastique AFM Telethon.
“I have finished the repair with resin infused glass cloth. I have had to attach myself to the stern section to make the repair. Now I am going to hold on station for a few hours, boat angled 10 deg to starboard.” he told Race Direction this afternoon.

Class 40 is also living up to its pre-race billing, even with the abandonment of favourite Sebastien Rogues. Transatlantic Rookie Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires en Peloton) had to give up his lead today to Kito de Pavant (Otio-Bastide Medical) who profited from his stratgey some 55 miles or so to the north of the leaders. That got him through the front first and earns him a 24 miles lead and he has been consistently quickest. De Pavant is another skipper who is no stranger to disappointment. The soloist from near Montpelier in the south of France had to retire from the last Route du Rhum, the Vendée Globe twice (he hit a fishing boat five days in in 2012) and the last Barcelona World Race, but his strategy and speeds have proven his skills so far in this race.

Britons Conrad Humphreys and Miranda Merron are on strong form in this class. Merron holds ninth and Humphreys – who had to pitstop into Camaret – is in 12th.
Merron reported this afternoonm that she has been racing side by side with Geodis (Fabrice Amedeo):

“Geodis and Campagne de France have been sailing in sight of each other since yesterday morning. Clearly the Atlantic playground is not big enough! Fabrice has the advantage just now, but has kindly gone for a nap while I keep a lookout, and which means I should overtake him. It’s cool sailing so close, good for going fast, but I hope the match race doesn’t last too long. I need a nap too.”

In the Rhum Class which is much more competitive than the last edition which he won from seven finishers, 1 day and 4 hours ahead of second, Andrea Mura has Anne Caseneuve now over 95 miles directly behind him. She is on her fifth Route du Rhum and looking to better her second place in the heinous 2002 edition. Sir Robin Knox Johnston is in the midst of a four way fight in seventh, 100 miles shy of fourth. Behind him, just, is Finland’s Ari Huusela.

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