Route du Rhum: leads are threatened
Published on November 15th, 2022
(November 15, 2022; Day 7) – If there is one thing that the 2018 edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe taught us, it is that this solo 3,542 nautical mile Transatlantic race is never over until it is over. In the last edition, long-time race leader François Gabart, French sailing’s golden boy who had previously won the Vendée Globe, the IMOCA Class in the Route du Rhum and who held the solo round the world record, looked set to add the Route du Rhum line honors to his long list of achievements.
But during the hours of darkness when the wind, inevitably, drops to a handful of knots and sometimes nothing, the audacious 61-year-old Francis Joyon came back from a deficit of 150 miles and ghosted past Gabart to steal the title from under his nose.
This year, Gabart is the underdog. He and his SVR Lazartigue team have spent months fighting a ruling that put his boat out of class, in essence because his sails are trimmed from inside his hub. And so, this is his first full on ocean race with his new VPLP designed Ultim 32/23.
In contrast, the highly optimized Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, skippered by Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Charles Caudrelier, has dominated every Ultim ocean racing event since 2019.
Currently, the top-three Ultim 32/23 multihulls are flying at an average speed of thirty knots towards Guadeloupe, and it’s leader Caudrelier who looks well placed to win. But he remains under threat from Gabart and Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3) who have remained hot on his heels since leaving Saint-Malo. This afternoon, with less than 400 miles to the finish line, Caudrelier has just 64 miles in hand over Gabart.
The skipper of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has dominated the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe from the start, gaining mile after mile over his rivals, but he has never shaken them off completely. With a lead varying from sixty to eighty miles depending on who is gybing, Caudrelier is still leading the way to the Tête à l’Anglais buoy, which he may reach early tonight (between 2230hrs and 0100hrs) local time.
But the battle is not yet over. They will be rounding the island of Guadeloupe by night, making it hard to keep his rivals in check, particularly as they know that anything is still possible.
Once they reach the Tête à l’Anglais buoy, the penultimate mark before the final buoy in Basse Terre close to the finish, the Atlantic battle will be over, but the final verdict still awaits them. Any mistake or technical problem will cost the skipper dear in this final stretch. What worries Caudrelier the most is, “I’m afraid François Gabart will do a Joyon on me, as he is out to get his revenge after what happened last time?”
Gabart is super motivated, knowing that in 2018 he had an advantage of almost 150 miles as he approached the Tête à l’Anglais buoy, but that lead was to melt away in the heat of the night in Guadeloupe.
Coville confirmed this. “On our boats, if you are lacking the slightest thing, a rudder flap, a foil regulator, it all stops. The only way to sail, is to stay on it until the line.”
1,700 miles behind the leader, Armel Le Cléac’h added, “It looks like Charles is in full control of his boat, which wasn’t the case four years ago for François, but it is not impossible to lose 100 miles in three hours. It’s not over until the line is crossed.”
ETA Tête à l’Anglais buoy, Ultim32/23 class, plus or minus 2 hours for each timing:
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild: Wednesday, November 15, 10:30 p.m. local time (2:30 a.m. UTC)
SVR Lazartigue: Thursday, November 16, 2:30 a.m. local (6:30 a.m. UTC)
Sodebo Ultim 3: Thursday, November 16, 6:00 a.m. local (10:00 a.m. UTC)
Six days after leaving Saint-Malo, the IMOCA class leaders have now passed the halfway mark. They are likely to be much faster in the second half of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe, where they should be able to take advantage of the trade winds and downwind sailing at speed.
Behind the leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia), the chasing pack remains close together. In spite of the testing conditions most of the new IMOCA boats are proving impressive, not just in terms of performance but they appear closely matched, and none of the new boats have been forced out by the weather.
Germany’s Boris Herrmann on Malizia Seaexplorer, fifth on the last Vendée Globe, is on good form although half wishing he was up with the other new boats as he currently sits in 14th place. But he is remaining super conservative, not least as he needs to finish to make the earliest possible qualification for the 2024 Vendée Globe and get his boat to Alicante to refit for January’s start of The Ocean Race.
Herrmann said, “The boat is going well. I have one little electronics issue and I cannot read my load data but that does not keep me from sailing hard. I will work on that in the afternoon. I am achieving my goal of sailing a safe race. I am not as happy with my position as I was 24 hours ago when I was pacing Corum and last night he had a better angle and I felt I was losing to him. That didn’t feel great. And I would like to have been able to stick with him and close in and have a sparring partner and so now I feel a little bit alone.
“Thirty six hours should be enough to get through this high pressure zone and into the trade winds. Until then it will be sketchy and light, with instability already in the clouds. It is a bit like the doldrums, not a very fast situation for the next few days.” Herrmann should gain places and ground when he has his powerful new boat get into the trade winds conditions in about 36 hours’ time.
And 24-year-old British rookie James Harayda (Gentoo) is feeling the accumulated muscle fatigue and tiredness. He was diverted yesterday to potentially help in the rescue of Fabrice Amedeo who had an explosion and a fire on his boat which sank.
Harayda reported today, “I sailed down an hour to his last known position. He did not have AIS so I was just going to a position updated every hour. As I got near to him, I got lines out and it sounded pretty bad and I was half expecting to come into a raft to circle round and grab him, worst case. I got closer to him and was in a WhatsApp group with his Team Manager and the DC and then they told me the situation was under control and to continue racing.
“I double checked and all was OK. Then I got a message yesterday saying what happened to Fabrice and I was very thankful he is OK. I maybe lost two hours and have asked for redress. The most important thing is Fabrice made it off his boat in time.”
Speaking about his race so far, Harayda continued, “It has been very challenging, fun, but challenging. Even getting sails up today when winds are light I am finding it tough. I think the last four or five days take more of a toll than you think. You might not be changing sails all the time but just holding on and moving about when the boat is bouncing around it takes it toll, so my winter project is going to the gym a bit more.” He is 27th and in a good race with Hungarian rookie Szabi Weeores and China’s Jigkun Xu.
As he was making his way to Spain with sail and engine problems, Erwan Thiboumery (Interaction) found himself pushed towards the coast in strong winds and difficult seas. The skipper was forced to abandon his boat and was taken off by helicopter. Erwan is now ashore and in good health, but his boat washed up on a beach in Ferreira.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Notre Méditerranée – Ville de Nice) is due to arrive in Ponta Delgada in the middle of the night. He will drop off Brieuc Maisonneuve (CMA – île de France – 60000 REbonds), the skipper he rescued on Sunday, November 13.
Daniel Ecalard ( Sos Pare Brise +) has arrived in Vigo, where he will try to repair his autopilots. He hopes to set sail again as quickly as possible.
Two Class40 boats are planning pit stops in Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores: Emmanuel Le Roch (EDENRED) and Andrea Fornaro (Influence).
Dealing with several technical problems aboard his Class40 Rennes, Saint-Malo / Parenthèses de Vies, Baptiste Hulin will carry out a quick pit stop tomorrow morning on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores. His shore team are preparing to meet him there.
Croatian sailor and Olympic ski champion, Ivica Kostelic (ACI) announced he was retiring from the race this morning. Kostelic, who was racing in the Class40 division, is heading for Cascais in Portugal, suffering from many technical problems, including the loss of his wind gear.
After a brief pit stop in La Coruña on Saturday and considering the difficulties he is now facing, he has made the painful decision to retire from the race. A top class sportsman, who worked hard to compete in the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe, Ivica is clearly very disappointed. At 1000hrs this morning, the Class40 ACI was sailing at 7.5 knots 120 miles West of Porto.
In all, 22 solo skippers have so far retired: 14 in Class40, 4 in IMOCA, 3 in the Rhum Multi category, 2 in Ocean Fifty. 116 sailors remain in the race.
• Skippers that 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, Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil – IMOCA), Victor Jost (Caisses Reunionnaises Complementaires – Class 40), Martin Louchart (Randstad-Ausy – Class40), Geoffrey Matacyznski (Fortissimo – Class 40), Laurent Camprubi (Glaces Romane – Class40), Thibaut Vauchel-camus (Solidaires En Peloton – ARSEP – Ocean Fifty), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallee – IMOCA), Fabrice Amedeo (Nexans – Art & Fenêtres – IMOCA) after a fire broke out aboard his Imoca, Amelie Grassi (La Boulangere Bio – Class40), François Jambou, (A l’Aveugle – Trim Control – Class40) after dismasting, Aurelien Ducroz (Crosscall – Class40), Jean-Pierre Balmes (FullSave – Class40) due to problems with his ballast tanks and staysail hook, Brieuc Maisonneuve (CMA Ide-de-france 60 000 Rebonds – Rhum Multi), Ivica Kostelic (ACI – Class40) due to technical problems, including the loss of his wind gear.
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