Route du Rhum: demonstrating superiority

Published on November 11th, 2022

(November 11, 2022; Day 3) – While title favorite Charlie Dalin (APIVIA) has been enjoying something of a rich-get-richer scenario at the front of the 36 strong Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe IMOCA fleet, his lead of 60 miles ahead of Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOUt) increasing by the hour, Charles Caudrelier on the Verdier designed Ultim 32/23 Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, the out-and-out race pacemaker still has a race on his hands entering what might prove a key phase of the 3542 nautical miles race to Guadeloupe.

As the leading Ultim duo seek to squeeze through a ‘mousehole’ in the low pressure front that would allow them to hook into the best of a northerly breeze generated off the Bermuda high pressure system, Caudrelier, and his routing cell ashore, are keeping a close eye on François Gabart who is 15 miles to his NW.

Closer to the rhumb line Gabart is actually credited with the lead this afternoon but the next hours will be critical. There is the potential for Gabart to get to the front first but the key question is what is on the other side.

Ashore Caudrelier -whose potential OCS penalty was annulled early this morning- has American guru Stan Honey, Franck Cammas and Morgan Lagravière studying the options whilst Gabart has veteran Jean-Yves Bernot and La Solitaire winner Tom Laperche in his corner crunching the weather models during what could be a definitive stage.

Meanwhile in Lorient, where he arrived last night with the Ultim Maxi Banque Populaire XI, dejected Armel Le Cléac’h is trying to be philosophical, waiting to have his broken daggerboard replaced and a hull repair complete whilst looking to find the best weather window to return to the race course to Gaudeloupe.

“Everything stopped in a few seconds.” Recalled a hollow eyed Le Cléac’h on arrival at his team base, “ There was a big cracking sound and I saw some pieces of the daggerboard pass astern. I was sailing upwind in a bit of wind and choppy seas, but nothing we couldn’t handle. I’ve been through harsher conditions with that daggerboard. So, I can’t explain what happened or why it broke. Some pieces of the daggerboard hit the hull and there are some knocks on it and in one or two places it went through the hull, so we are going to have to see if we can repair that in a reasonable time.

“Until Saturday evening, the weather conditions are fine and would allow us to set off. After that, the conditions are set to worsen. So we’re giving ourselves 48 hours to decide whether we set off again in the Route du Rhum to finish this story even if the result isn’t what we had hoped for. We won’t be on the podium, but would like to find a way to finish. For now, I don’t know if that is possible.”

After being hit by a cargo ship which pulled down his rig of Groupe Apicil in the small hours of the morning Damien Seguin has abandoned, the first time ever in an ocean race for the former Paralympic world and Olympic champion. Remaining self sufficient, sailing under rescue kite power, Seguin has been making steady progress back towards the French coast.

Class leader Charlie Dalin, 160 nautical miles west of Cape Finisterre this afternoon, has everything running in his favor on APIVIA, extending inexorably away from his rivals. Whilst he has many times proven to have a speed edge upwind Dalin has also been always getting into more wind pressure first as he too approaches this weather front which stretches SSW to NNE.

British weather ace Will Harris summarizes, “Things are looking a bit easier for the IMOCAs though as this first front is stopping and decreasing in force. Then a second front is arriving and the fronts merge together, crossing it Saturday evening, the key will be to be south where the fronts merge first, then there is less chance of encountering a light winds zone behind the first front. As soon as the leaders get across this front they will be into the westerly airstream and able to tack south.

“There will be second front Sunday night requiring a tack to the west and then the next big thing is the Azores or Bermuda high which is quite far to the west. There is a wide trough extending E-W which will have very little wind in it. The leader may be able to get through it and away even further, or indeed may get trapped allowing a catch up.”

After a first phase of repairs Swiss skipper Oliver Heer left Saint Malo this morning back in solo ocean racing mode but he must make another pit stop, sailing himself into Port La Foret to lift his IMOCA from the water and make a further composite repair to the hull before he can resume racing. His key objective is to get to the finish line in Guadeloupe and clock up essential Vendée Globe qualifying miles.

Around 150 to 170 miles behind the Dalin, International rookies James Harayda of Britain (Gentoo), Hungary’s Szabi Weeores (Szabi Racing) and China’s Jingkin Xu (China Dream-Haikou) are all making good, steady progress on their first major transoceanic IMOCA race, “I have slept a bit last night when I got a bit of separation from some boats and got a few 15-20min naps and food has been the leftover pizza from the night before we left.”

Reported the 24 year old Brit Harayda, “And I am feeling a bit dehydrated and so trying to smash some water down me. I feel good, but I am ready for it to get warmer. We have a transition period coming up which is good for me as I hopefully can pull a few miles back as we get close to it. I will be upwind and then this short lived transition period. And so I will be paying a lot of attention to the weather. It is exciting. I have some miles to catch up but there is a long, long, long way to go.”

Hublot skipper Alan Roura noted that he had almost suffered the same fate as Seguin, “During the second night at sea, it wasn’t much fun. Throughout the night there were a whole lot of cargo ships we needed to avoid in the Bay of Biscay. I managed to snooze for a few moments, as I was really tired. Even my alarm clock took time to wake me. I was lucky, as I was 50 metres away from a huge ship delivering Amazon… A really scary moment, but in the end it worked out fine, so I’m really thinking about Damien and his team.”

With the Class40 fleet continuing towards the SW there are around thirty skippers grouped together in a radius of fifty miles. Ex Figaro stalwart Corentin Douguet (Queginer-Innoveo) leads on his Lombard Lift V2 Queguiner Innoveo. He is closely followed by Ian Lipinski (Crédit-Mutuel) as the frontrunners approach the first front.

For the Class 40s also, getting through the front is likely to be a key moment in the race. But the adventure is already over for Laurent Camprubi (Glaces Romanes), Geoffrey Mataczynski (Fortissimo) and Martin Louchard (Randstad-Ausy). Mikael Mergi (Centrakor) and Maxime Cauwe (Wisper) carried out a pit stop in Camaret, Jean Galfione (Serenis Consulting) in Brest, but all three they have set sail again.

Belgian Class40 skipper Jonas Gerckens has been forced to retire from the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe this Friday evening due to a combination of technical problems which are exacerbated by his poor state of health.

The 42 year old solo racer from Liege in Belgium who is on his second Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe not long after the start reported that he was suffering from flu-like symptoms (mainly incessant coughing, loss of voice and intense fatigue). The situation continued to deteriorate over time. A general lack of sleep of the first days and nights of the race did not help his heath improve.

Gerckens, who is racing a 2021 David Raison designed scow VOLVO 164, was harboring hopes of a top 10 before he started the 3542 nautical miles race from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe on Wednesday and had made a strong start. But early this afternoon he tore his main J1 headsail and then struggled to get it under control because of his lack of energy and poor health.

“I was exhausted after this maneuver which is not usually anything especially hard, I have no more energy I’m at my wit’s end,” he told his manager Delphine Simon before trying to get more rest.

Even without the J1 headsail Gerckens could still finish the race but in the afternoon he suffered an autopilot malfunction. The only way to cure the pilot problem would be to climb the mast which, in his compromised physical state, he cannot ever consider.

So because of these linked problems, his illness, lack of a J1 and now his pilot malfunctions he has taken the hard decision to abandon the race and return to Lorient where he should arrive within 24 hours, “I could have just about coped with my state of health but the other problems I cannot deal with right now and I no longer felt safe heading into a big front. The situation could very quickly become much worse.”

Australia’s Rupert Henry admitted today that he was very nearly on the casualty list too, only just seeing that a lashing had failed threatening the rig of his Eora. His quick thinking saved the rig and his race. He reported, “ I had a huge problem this morning, my mast almost fell down. I had to stop and sail the wrong way for an hour while I fixed it. But I am going again now.

“The lashing underneath the furler broke. I saw the forestay go slack so I turned the boat downwind and put a J2 up and replaced it. But it was close, very close to losing the mast. During the night I saw the forestay a little slack. Now I feel pretty tired. It has been quite rough. I was in a good position and then I just started to put the bow down and try and get across them and line up with them before this happened. I am just trying to make a strategy to minimise my losses and get into the fleet.”

Henry had dropped to 21st, American Alex Meharg on Polka Dot is fifth and the defending title holder Yoann Richomme – who took a four hour penalty after the start – is up to tenth 17 miles behind his former Figaro rival Douguet.

In the Rhum classes Brieuc Maisonneuve leads the Multi fleet on CMA Ile de France-60,000 rebonds, over 30 miles ahead of Roland ‘Bilou’ Jourdain whilst in the Mono division Catherine Chabaud and Jean Pierre Dick are enjoying a spirited match race in second and third, closest to the conventional route.

Abandons and pit-stops:
• 4 skippers have retired: Sam Goodchild (Leyton – Ocean Fifty) after being injured during the pre-start phase, Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG Mori Global One – IMOCA) following a collision off Cape Fréhel, Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert – Rhum Multi) with a ripped mainsail, Antoine Magré (E.Leclerc Ville-La-Grand – Class40) after hitting the rocks off the island of Batz.

• 11 Pit stops: Maxi Banque Populaire XI (Armel Le Cléac’h – Ultim 32/23), Oliver Heer (Oliver Heer Racing – IMOCA), Mikael Mergui (Centrakor – Class40), Pierre-Louis Attwell (Vogue avec un Crohn – Class40), Martin Louchard (Randstad-Ausy – Class40), Jean Galfione (Serenis Consulting – Class40), Sacha Daunar (Cit’Hôtel – Région Guadeloupe – Class40), Romain Pilliard (Use it Again ! by Extia), Jean-Sébastien Biard (JSB Déménagements – Rhum Mono), Etienne Hochedé (Pir2) et Philippe Poupon (Flo – Rhum Multi).


In the 44 year history of the Route du Rhum, there has never been so many solo skippers planning to start November 6 (now delayed) as in 2022. On this 12th edition, 138 solo racers with compete on the classic race which leaves Saint-Malo, France and heads across the Atlantic to Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe.

Six divisions will compete, beginning with the eight entries in the Ultims and eight in the Ocean Fifty division. Thirty-seven IMOCAs will be there, 55 Class40s as well as 16 in the Rhum Multi (64-feet and less) category and 14 in Rhum Mono (39+ feet) fleets.

Among the competitors, 5% (7) are women across the IMOCA, Class40, and Rhum Mono. Fourteen nationalities will be represented, including Japanese and Chinese skippers. In total, 20% of the participants are from outside France. Half of the French skippers are either residents or natives of Brittany where the race starts from, while there are also 6% Guadeloupeans among the competitors.

Source: OC Sport Pen Duick

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