Will damage decide Route du Rhum?

Published on November 11th, 2018

(November 11, 2018; Day 8) – Francois Gabart on the 30.6m MACIF has seen his lead over Francis Joyon disappear completely as the two French skippers have crept around the south side of Basse-Terre island in windless conditions for the final miles of the Route du Rhum solo transatlantic race.

For the 3,542nm course from France to Guadeloupe, at one point in the mid-Atlantic Gabart was 160 miles in front of his fellow countryman on the 31.5m IDEC Sport, but Joyon has whittled his lead down and taken full advantage of the damage to MACIF which has lost one rudder and one foil.

Issues surrounding Gabart’s performance were revealed earlier today by his team, noting how 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 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.

Watching the drama unfold online is Spanish sailor Alex Pella, the 2014 Class40 Route du Rhum winner, who is backing Joyon to pull off a late win.

“I have my money on Francis, not because I have sailed with him, but because his boat is super-simple and it has the canting mast. And he has sailed everywhere in the Caribbean. He has a cruising boat which he sails from Martinique and has sailed these islands for so many years. He knows this situation.

“The thing about these big boats at slow speeds is, when you lose control of them, they start to turn and it takes so long to get them going again. Francis’s boat is very simple and he can deal with that easier, and he has the strength in his head to win this,” added Pella.

At 16:45 (UTC), Gabart’s lead over Joyon was down to 3.1nm with 14.3nm to the finish.

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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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