Route du Rhum: To each their own Rhum

Published on November 16th, 2014

November 16, 2014 – On Saturday night, into a very noisy, partying Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadaloupe, it was Armel Tripon who crossed the finish line to take fourth in La Route du Rhum’s IMOCA Class. Sunday it was Saint Malo’s Louis Burton who took fifth. Alessandro di Benedetto is on course still for sixth but has Tanguy de Lamotte chasing hard. They are due in Tuesday.

Tripon’s first IMOCA race on the former Groupe Bel, now Humble Heroes, found him fourth overall in the class. He crossed at 03:04:04hrs UTC for an elapsed time of 13d 14h 4m 4s and sailed 4 123 milles at an average if 12,65and on his first Route du Rhum. He was 1 d 9h 25m 9s behind the IMOCA winner.

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallee) crossed the finish line next at 14:33:44hrs UTC Sunday for an elapsed time of 14d 1h 33m 44s, averaging 14,41kts for the theoretical 3542Nm course. He sailed 4273 miles averaging 12.66kts. Bureau Vallee was 1d 20h 54m 49s behind IMOCA winner Francois Gabart (Macif).

On finishing Burton said, “It’s a great race. My target was between fourth and sixth. I achieved that but broke lots of things in the first few days. I lost my wind indicators, the pilot crashed and I ruined a spinnaker in the Trades and so I had to race under a gennaker. For four days in the Trades that is slower.

It was very intense the pace in the IMOCA, having to work hard to keep up . This is my first big solo race since abandoning in the Vendée Globe and so this Route du Rhum really makes me feel better. I was fifth in the TJV and now fifth here. I feel good but in terms of sleep and tiredness I am pretty close to the limit because it really is a sprint, not a marathon.”

Wednesday should see the first of the Class 40s and the winner of the Rhum class taking their place at the red carpet pontoon in La Darse, in the heart of Pointe a Pitre, before making their way to Victory Square.

The solo Spanish skipper Alex Pella (Tales 2) still holds his leading margin at around 10% of the remaining distance to the finish line, on course for his first big ocean race win. Racing in moderate, slightly more settled Trade Winds, Pella remains on high alert, while trying to remain calm and focused on the final miles to the finish.

Of the 49 skippers left still racing perhaps a dozen are professionals, Class 40 skippers like Pella, Kito de Pavant, Yannick Bestaven, Thibault Vauchel, Miranda Merron, Halvard Mabire, Damien Seguin all enjoying high level racing at more modest costs than the IMOCA 60s or Multi50s. But, on the not too distant horizon, the Rhum will soon be about the amateurs, or semi-professionals who have enough sponsor support to allow them to do this race but do not make their living from racing sailboat.

As well as the Peyron, Beyou, Gabart, Guichard and Josse stars of the race, there are the unsung heroes. The Route du Rhum embraces and facilitates their adventures. In among the fleet still there are a business manager, mechanic, vet, journalist, former top athlete (Jean Galfion French pole vault gold medalist 1996 Atlanta Classe 40 Serenis Consulting), computer expert and airline pilot. On finishing their stories will be as rich, varied and valuable.

In the Rhum Class, Sir Robin Knox- Johnston today sounded tired and slightly jaded after another long night with squalls and wind-shifts. Compounding his energy-sapping problem with no wind instruments, he reports that his communications systems crashed this morning and so he had to spend three hours fixing them. But after he was trading places between third and fifth yesterday, he had his venerable Open 60 Grey Power in a more solid looking third place this afternoon, being chased by 2010 Class winner Andrea Mura (Vento di Sardegna).

Alex Pella (ESP), leader Class 40 Tales 2 said, “We are in good trade winds now, all is really good on board. I am just a little bit nervous because in this game you never know what can happen if there is something in the water or something like that, but I feel good, the boat is going well. I have 15kts of wind speed right now from 090 degrees. It is perfect. I need to gybe but I am waiting for the next wind shift. I think this is a very good boat, but it about the total package, it is good design, very good build, and we have worked hard to have all the right set ups, the sails are very good, me, I am not bad, I think that all the things on board are working very well in this race.”

Sir Robin Knox Johnston (GBR) third in Rhum Class said, “It is steadier than it was yesterday and so that is good. It was swapping around yesterday. I am feeling a bit tired today I did not get much sleep, one did not get very much sleep because there was a lot of changes in the wind, and them my satcomms went down this morning so that took three hours trying to get that to work again. So, frankly, I really need some sleep. I think the weather will settle and maybe come round to the north. For me it is just these constant changes in wind direction and strength. With no wind instruments it means you are constantly changing course, I have to be on top of it all the time.”

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