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Gabart limping to Route du Rhum finish

Published on November 11th, 2018

(November 11, 2018; Day 8) – With just a few hours to run to the finish of the 40th anniversary Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, François Gabart is clinging to the race lead on his maxi-trimaran, MACIF, despite the loss of one of its rudders and a foil.

His close rival Francis Joyon on IDEC Sport has slashed more than 140 nautical miles off Gabart’s lead in the last 36 hours and this morning, as the duo match-raced towards the northern tip of Guadeloupe, Joyon was less than 30 miles astern and still moving faster.

Questions about Gabart’s speed deficit have now been answered this afternoon by his MACIF team. As the French superstar closed to within 50 miles the Tête à l’Anglais mark, the start of the final passage to the finish, Gabart’s team have confirmed damage to his 32m trimaran.

“Francois has had more problems in six days in this race than when he sailed to round the world to his 42-day record,” the team statement read.

The team has now revealed that the first damage occurred off the tip of Brittany in the first small depression of the race, when there was a failure of the hydraulics that control the J3. This is the small working headsail which was to be the boat’s workhorse through heavy weather.

Then on the night between Monday and Tuesday (Nov 5-6), Gabart realized he had lost his starboard foil. There was no collateral damage to the hull or to the rudder but the foil had gone. Then on Tuesday morning, off the Spanish coast, Gabart heard a crack and discovered that he had also lost part of his port rudder blade which snapped just under the head of the stock.

“If anything, the damage has motivated François even more; such difficulties stimulate him to push ever further. He has never had a negative moment. He places his faith in the weather routers to do the best job of routing with the damage. He just wants to keep going forwards as fast as he can,” said Thomas Normand, technical director of the team.

The revelations from MACIF make this finish all the more fascinating as Joyon tries to close the gap in the steadily decreasing winds around the western coast of Basse-Terre island. The question is, can Gabart hold on, on the one hand and, on the other, has Joyon got enough racetrack left to overtake Gabart’s injured thoroughbred?

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Background: The 11th edition and 40th anniversary staging of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race got underway on November 4. This iconic 3,542-nautical mile course will take the record entry of 123 skippers in six divisions from the start off the Brittany port of Saint Malo (France) to Guadeloupe.

Source: Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe

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