Thomas Ruyant: King of the transats

Published on November 21st, 2022

(November 21, 2022; Day 13) – Thomas Ruyant, solo skipper of LinkedOut, was unofficially crowned ‘King of the Transats’ when he won the 38-boat IMOCA class on the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.

Hollow eyed, wobbly legged and exhausted this morning after setting an infernal, unbeatable pace especially over the last three days and nights of the 3542 nautical miles course from Saint Malo (France) to Pointe-à-PItre (Guadeloupe), Ruyant received universal acclaim from his rivals who finished in his wake.

Ruyant set a new course record of 11d 17h 36m 25secs, which was 11hrs 02min 30secs quicker than the previous record pace set by François Gabart in 2014. His transatlantic success includes last year’s two handed Transat Jacques Vabre which he won with Morgan Lagravière on a similar course from Le Havre to Martinique, and his solo Route du Rhum win in Class40 in 2010.

But the 41 year old skipper from Dunkirk, who is a very rare ‘nordist’ in a solo racing world in which most top sailors are Breton, has also won the Mini Transat in 2009 and two Figaro Transatlantics.

Ruyant, a late starter to offshore and ocean racing who has the wiry build of a jockey and sails with an extraordinary intensity and focus, admitted he pushed himself to the limit, stepping up to a new level to overhaul leader Charlie Dalin on early on November 18, holding off the pre-race favorite on Apivia, the clean sweep of all three IMOCA solo titles of 2022.

Emerging at the top of the biggest and most competitive IMOCA fleet ever mustered for the Route du Rhum, Ruyant finished 2 hours 1 minute and 46 seconds ahead of Dalin, 3hrs 24mins 30secs ahead of third placed Jérémie Beyou (Charal 2), and 5hrs 54 mins 49secs before Kevin Escoffier (Holcim-PRB).

“In the end I crushed Charlie through my sheer desire and commitment even if I know that he also puts in a lot,” said Ruyant. “I did not make any mistakes on my routing.

“I had an overall weather strategy but also there was a lot of cloudy activity in these trade winds, with a lot of squalls. You had to use them which I managed to do well. That took inspiration and luck. You also need success, but you have to push hard to get it.

“This second part of the race was like a dream, it was magical. When I pass in front of Charlie, I feel that he puts on a big layer and suddenly, I put on an even bigger one. Frankly, I’m happy to finish because it’s not a pace you can keep up in a Vendée Globe, it’s a real sprint.”

The downwind speed and power of his highly optimized Verdier and associates design proved crucial in the tradewinds just as it did on last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre, when he and Lagravière also proved dominant on the final 1300 miles. Dalin recovered to within five miles of Ruyant last night but two squalls proved decisive and LinkedOut was gone.

“I had been looking forward to a duel around the island,” shared Dalin. “I thought he might get stuck but everything worked out for him. This was the final race aboard this boat for me. I completed all of the races. I had hoped for a bit better than second place.”

Dalin who, though winning all three solo races this season, has been runner-up on the Vendée Globe, the Transat Jacques Vabre, and now he Route du Rhum.

“I find it hard not to get first place,” he continued. “In the past I would have been more stressed but I raced this as if it was a Figaro. I still love this sport. Sailing downwind in the trade winds with the boat flying along is fantastic; I’m lucky to have a job like this and a boat like this.”

In third, Beyou was also totally spent as he stepped ashore to hug Ruyant and pay tribute to the intensity of his attack. Racing his brand new Sam Manuard designed Charal 2, Beyou acknowledged the extra stress and time required to find the perfect settings and modulate his attack in the big conditions, and to learn the limits of his powerful scow without breaking it.

It is a huge tribute to the teams of Charal and Escoffier’s Holcim-PRB that they have succeeded in getting their new boats to a high level so quickly, when new boats rarely finish this often brutal race.

“The trade winds were so unstable,” noted Beyou. “You can’t eat, sleep, or do anything on the boat. Thomas was so resolute, so driven. I couldn’t find the speed and for thirty hours I wasn’t so good even though I was hard at it all the time.

“I didn’t know where I was with my boat before the start. I don’t think we can push much harder than we did, yesterday in particular. It was a real competition. I wasn’t good for a day or two and Thomas was hard on it, relentlessly. Without that we would have been neck and neck.

“Thomas was just that notch above us. The boat is new and I hadn’t got used to all the gear. On the old boat, everything came naturally. We were looking for speed and that means a more violent boat. Eleven days of that is hard. She’s a new boat so you try to be reasonable, but I could not resist at times. You think twice about pushing hard in 35 knots in a new boat.”

Also highlighting the intensity and relentlessness of the race, Escoffier was pleased with fourth on his new boat, especially considering he has not raced solo since his boat sank during the last Vendée Globe.

“It was tough, what a pace,” said Escoffier. “I’m very pleased, even though I’m very competitive. Yesterday I was a bit disappointed. The boat was launched in May, so putting things into perspective, I know more about the boat now. It is well built.

“I hadn’t sailed solo for a while and last time was in the VG, so this allowed me to get back in the game. If this had been my main goal, I’d be disappointed. In the IMOCA, there are some great boats and people working hard. I felt tired and had hallucinations. The boat is demanding and the competition so tough. I’m happy to see that with a new boat and not having raced solo for two years, I’m up there, so it is all very positive.”

Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux (Teamwork.net) is on course to finish first non-French skipper and first female due in tonight in seventh around 0100hrs UTC. 

IMOCA boats to finish:
• Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) finished at 06:51:25 UTC this Monday after 11 d 17 hrs 36 mins 25 s of racing
• APIVIA skippered by Charlie DALIN finished 2nd at 08:53:11 UTC after 11d 19 hrs 38 mins, or 2hrs 1 minute and 46s behind the winner
• Charal skippered by Jérémie Beyou finished in third place at 10:15:55 UTC, after 11 days 21 hrs and 55 seconds of racing or 3 hrs 24mn behind the winner
• Holcim – PRB skippered by Kevin Escoffier finished in fourth place at 12:46:14 UTC after eleven days 23 hours 31 minutes and 14 seconds of racing and 5hrs 54 mins 49 secs behind the winner

Abandons:
• 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)

DetailsSkippersTracking

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

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