Focus shifts to Class40 in Route du Rhum

Published on November 18th, 2018

(November 18, 2018; Day 15) – As the 40th anniversary edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe starts its third week at sea, just under half of the 123 solo skippers who started from Saint Malo on November 4th are still racing.

Tail-enders like Eric Bellion, tenth in the Rhum Mono class on his 63ft schooner (Commeunseulhomme), still have just under 2,000 nautical miles to go to complete the 3,542-mile course to Pointe-à-Pitre.

At a pace which is altogether more comfortable than his ninth place in the 2016-17 Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race, Bellion is just about to pass the latitude of the Azores and Lisbon.

Meanwhile up ahead of him the Class40 leaders are maintaining their frenetic tempo in the trade winds, secure in the knowledge that with just 600 miles to sail their race should be over early on November 20.

A steady margin of nearly 100 miles over his nearest pursuer (Phil Sharp on IMERYS CLEAN ENERGY) means long time leader Yoann Richomme (Veedol-AIC) should have enough time in hand to survive a potentially slow passage around the western coast of Basse Terre.

But as has been seen on this dramatic edition of the four-yearly race across the Atlantic, anything can happen during the final miles, especially at night when the easterly trade wind in the lee of the island dies to almost nothing.

Richomme will have one eye on the course record for Class40 which was set in 2014 by Spain’s Alex Pella at 16 days, 17 hours and 47minutes. Current routing predictions have him inside that mark.

One of the most engaging duels of this race has been the match race between Sharp and his long-time rival Aymeric Chapellier (Aina Enfance Et Avenir). They have been locked in a private battle for second and third since the Bay of Biscay and their duel will almost certainly be decided over those final miles into Pointe-à-Pitre.

As they trade gybes downwind like wearied prize fighters this morning, Sharp will cross less than one mile ahead of his nemesis, the duo still racing in clear sight of each other.

In turn this podium scrap is playing out nearly 100 miles ahead of fourth-placed French veteran Kito de Pavant (Made in Midi). Third in 2014, de Pavant, describes the downwind ‘zig zags’ this morning: 

“A hitch to the west, a hitch to the south. As the wind direction changes all the time we are gybing all the time to make sure we are on the fastest and most direct course towards the finish. This is our game. In the two weeks we have been at sea Joyon and Gabart (ULTIME race winners) could have made a round trip, there and back.

“But these are rather nice conditions. There are no squall clouds. Now the wind is sustained and regular, as is the sea, and so we are charging on at a gallop. When the front of the boat pitches into the back of the next wave, we surge to 18 knots and the whole boat is under water, the hull, the deck the cockpit.

“Our group of seven cowboys has extended away,” added De Pavant. “Yoann is a long way ahead; Phil and Aymeric are going at it for second and third and we are left fighting for the chocolate medal. Arthur (Le Vaillant/Leyton) gets closer with each ranking, Luke (Berry/Lamotte-Module Création) is fast and shadows him. It is easy to forget where and when we started. And there will be stress 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 – Ultime, Multi 50, Imoca 60, Class 40, Rhum Multi, and Rhum Mono – from the start off the Brittany port of Saint Malo (France) to Guadeloupe.

Source: Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe


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