Final miles to determine IMOCA winner
Published on November 20th, 2022
(November 20, 2022; Day 12) – A record sized fleet of 38 IMOCAs at the start line in Saint Malo on November 9 looks set to produce the closest and most exciting finish for the class in the 44-year history of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.
With less than 200 nautical miles left to the finish line at Pointe-à-Pitre – and 53 of them to be raced around the west side of the island through what will be a nerve shredding minefield of local calms and sudden changes in wind strength and direction – there are just 15 minutes between leader Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and Charlie Dalin (Apivia).
Additionally, Jérémie Beyou (Charal 2) in third is poised to pounce if and when the leading duo slow.
The winner is expected at the finish line tomorrow between 0500hrs and 1000hrs UTC, but no amount of weather routing modelling can predict which solo skipper will win. The closest previous finish was in 2006 when Roland Jourdain won by 28 minutes ahead of Jean Le Cam.
In this situation, trying to stay out of the calms and in the best breeze through the darkness of a sultry Caribbean night, most skippers would rather be the hunter than the hunted. The three leading boats will be very evenly matched in lighter airs.
Ruyant does have bigger headsails if there is upwind work at all and has won into Guadeloupe three times in different races and classes. Dalin is a wily, smart, many-times podium finisher on La Solitaire du Figaro and is unbeaten in the IMOCA this year, but is on his first ever Route du Rhum.
And if he can get close enough, three times La Solitaire champion Beyou might spring the big surprise.
Ruyant and Dalin are in sight of each other, certainly on AIS, and will watch each other like a hawk. Both will be trying to be as rested as possible to be lucid for the last long night. However, Dalin has been quieter than his usual taciturn self and may yet reveal damage or a missing sail.
“Everything is fine and I’m back within sight of Thomas who is about five miles south,” Dalin claimed. “There are a lot of squalls and the wind is changing all the time with gusts up to 38 knots, so we had to work hard during the night. It is not easy to get any sleep in these conditions. I’m pleased to have caught up with Thomas.”
The other sailors are also closely watching this thrilling duel at the front of the fleet. “I think it’s fantastic – their battle is really incredible,” Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) said. “I’m pleased that it is going like this all the way to the finish. It’s nice to see the leading pack grouped together with Justine (Mettraux) in amongst them. It’s great to see that.”
Swiss skipper Mettraux (Teamwork.net) is currently in seventh position, around 450nm miles from the finish line this evening, as the top ranked female and international skipper in the IMOCA fleet.
The winner may well smash the race record for an IMOCA held since 2014 by François Gabart, with a time of 12 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes and 55 seconds.
In the Top 5, Paul Meilhat (Biotherm) has also had some technical problems. “Part of the seal around the sail hold hatch split and I spent hours emptying hundreds of litres of water out of the bow section. It feels like I’ve been living in a foot spa for the last couple of days. With the hull so unstable because of this, I have swerved off course a few times. But for now, it’s under control.”
Meilhat is currently in pursuit of Kevin Escoffier in fourth place on Holcim-PRB.
Antoine Cornic (Human Immobilier) revealed that he collided with a UFO a few days ago leading to a serious crack developing in his keel head. He remains in the race, but has to be even more vigilant.
MORE: Erwan Le Roux sailed Koesio across the finish line first in the OCEAN FIFTY fleet this morning at 10:50:52 UTC (06:50:52 local time) to narrowly beat second placed Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema) after nail-biting head to head over the final miles around the west of Guadeloupe. The duo were only 100 or so metres apart early this morning. The older, more experience Le Roux, 47, who won this class in 2014, stayed offshore at the southern turn around the island, picked up more breeze and finished just 18 minutes and 13 seconds ahead of the 29 year old Vlamynck who led since the early days of the race but was caught by Le Roux last night on the final approach to Guadeloupe.
• 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, Sacha Daunar (Bateau Cit’hotel – Region Guadeloupe – Class40), Erwan Thiboumery (Interaction – 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 (postponed to Nov. 9) as in 2022. On this 12th edition, 138 solo racers will 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