Route du Rhum far from over

Published on November 12th, 2018

(November 12, 2018; Day 9) – It is easy to forget, after the morning drama with Francis Joyon sneaking past François Gabart to seal a thrilling class win in the ULTIMEs, that the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe consists of six races in six different classes.

While the first two spots on the ULTIME podium have now been filled, a long way behind them in the Atlantic the other five classes are still racing hard as they finish their eighth day at sea in the four-yearly, 3,542-nautical mile solo transatlantic contest from Saint Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre.

What is striking is that in each of the five remaining classes a dominant leader has now emerged with Armel Tripon on Réauté Chocolat over 300 miles ahead in the Multi50 class, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss dominating the IMOCA division, and Yoann Richomme doing the same in the Class40 fleet.

In the two amateur “Rhum” classes the same trend is evident with Sidney Gavignet on Café Joyeux continuing to set the pace in the monohull class with a lead of nearly 350 miles, and Pierre Antoine on Olmix nearly 550 miles ahead in the Multis.

The question is whether each of these sailors can covert their solid mid-race positions into the victories in Guadeloupe. As witnessed with Joyon and Gabart, the final stages of the race show how boats can run out of wind on the leeward side of Basse Terre island in the remaining miles to the finish line.

In the past few days Thomson has stretched his margin over the chasing pack of IMOCAs lead by Paul Meilhat on SMA and Vincent Riou on PRB. The British skipper has been pressing hard in unstable and fresh trade wind conditions and revealed today he has paid a price for his unrelenting pace.

“I am in 18-23 knots of wind and under gennaker,” Thomson reported in a broken transmission as Hugo Boss continued downwind with less than 1,350 miles to go and with a lead of around 120 miles over Meilhat. “I can take it a bit easier now as I have a nice position relative to the other guys and so I don’t need to push too hard. I just need to bring the boat home safely.

“I do have a few problems; I blew up my spinnaker in a squall a few days ago. More of an issue now is I don’t have any lazyjacks, so putting in a reef (in the mainsail) is a problem for me and I have limited comms.

“I only have the receiver on the foredeck which is almost always under water and so that is why it is hard to hear anybody when they call. I have been getting a little bit of sleep. I was able to catch-up with last night’s finish so congratulations to Francis; sounds like a nail-biter, and hopefully I don’t have that problem.”

If Thomson does complete the job, this will be his first win in the IMOCA class after a long career in these monohulls that has included a third place and a runner’s up spot in the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race.

More than 2,000 miles northeast of Thomson, three IMOCA skippers have re-joined the race after pit-stops in Brest and elsewhere. The first to leave was Manuel Cousin on Groupe Setin, then came Romain Attanasio on Pure-Famille Mary and finally it was the turn of Jérémie Beyou on Charal to head out to sea.

Beyou diverted after his brand new foiler suffered steering problems in the Bay of Biscay and it will be interesting to see how he gets on on his first trans-ocean voyage in the new-generation IMOCA.

In Class40s, meanwhile, Yoann Richomme on Veedol-AIC is now heading due west with just over 2,000 miles to go and having stretched his lead over Britain’s Phil Sharp on IMERYS CLEAN ENERGY to almost 100 miles. Richomme is producing a master class at the head of this 53-boat fleet and looks well on course for a thumping win.

Behind him Sharp has been in the wars, reporting that he suffered an auto-pilot failure that spun his boat into a big broach. Remarkably he did not tear his spinnaker but he reckons it took him six-to-seven miles of lost time to get the boat back up to speed.

Back in the Rhum Multi fleet, Loïck Peyron on board his yellow trimaran, Happy, is going nicely just southeast of Madeira in sixth place around 950 miles behind Antoine’s Olmix. Peyron was delighted to see 62-year-old Joyon not only win the ULTIME class but break Peyron’s own race record set four years ago in the same boat used by Joyon this time round.

“Well done, Francis, you have confirmed that not only do old pots make the best soup, but that an old chef still has what it takes under his chef’s hat,” wrote Peyron (who was 55 when he broke the record).

“Sometimes you give the impression that you don’t enjoy the competitive side of things and would give anything not to feel that pressure on you. But you continue to prepare some delicious dishes, and you are not there just to look good but you are extremely efficient.

“Obviously, sometimes that sort of dish is a bit too bitter for those who don’t have your taste. Everyone knows you’re not out there for the glory or to show off. I’m certain that you’ll soon find an excuse to escape from all the commitments ashore, under the pretext that it is urgent to sail your boat home, so that you can once again take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy your kingdom.”

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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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