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Route du Rhum - Yann Guichard to sail Spindrift 2 solo

by Spindrift Racing on 26 Sep 2014
Yann Guichard hard at work onboard Spindrift 2 Eloi Stichelbaut/Spindrift Racing http://www.spindrift-racing.com/
Multihull expert Yann Guichard will depart from Saint-Malo on November 2nd to take on one of the biggest challenges of his career to date. He will be representing Spindrift Racing, the professional sailing team he manages alongside Dona Bertarelli.

For this 10th edition of the famous Route du Rhum race, he will be alone at the helm of Spindrift 2, a 40-metre maxi-trimaran initially designed to beat crewed records. Aware of the huge stakes, the experienced sailor has worked on the boat assiduously and passionately. Over the past few months, he has put together the pieces to prepare for this unique experience and iconic Route du Rhum. The skipper continues his training off the coast of La Trinité-sur-Mer but, with just month to go, he feels that he is ready technically, physically and psychologically.

In late 2013, amidst deep thought, Yann decided to take the decision in hand: he sailed Spindrift 2 from Miami back to France in single-handed mode. Under reduced sail, he manoeuvred and steered the boat to its home port, proving that the challenge is feasible. With the support of his team, as well Spindrift racing’s partners Mirabaud, Genes-x and Zenith, the skipper decided to take the plunge. Preparations for the Route du Rhum commenced, starting with three months’ work in the boatyard.


Converting Spindrift 2 into a single-handed boat has never been an option, and the trimaran remains first and foremost a formidable weapon for crewed challenges. That said, the Spindrift racing designers and technicians hired by Yann and Dona have used all possible skills to adapt the boat for the 2014 Route du Rhum. From January to March, hidden away in Lorient, the giant of the seas was given a makeover. The mast was shortened by six metres, reducing the sail area by a fifth to make it more manoeuvrable without the help of a crew. The cockpit, meanwhile, was condensed so it could be used by a single-handed sailor. A bicycle was also attached to the deck so that Yann could operate the winches with either his arms or his legs. Finally, an autopilot system – an essential feature for single-handed ocean racing – was both designed and fine-tuned by Spindrift racing. As Yann needs to carefully manage his onboard movements, being unable to be in more than one place at one time, he needs to have the trimaran’s controls within reach. During the race, he will thus live outside under the canopy, in a special pilot’s unit, which will host his computer, his bunk and all other necessary equipment.

The technical changes to Spindrift 2 have required significamt tests out at sea. For Yann, it has been particularly important to ensure that the boat strikes the right balance between performance and safety. Over time, he has had to get to grips again with a boat he knows inside out when sailing with a crew of 14, to see what can be achieved when sailingsingle-handed. This summer, Spindrift 2 was in Newport on standby to attempt the North Atlantic Record and 24-hour distance record. Unfortunately suitable weather conditions did not allow for the record to be attempted, so Yann left the United States in late August with a reduced crew to practise in 'pseudo-single-handed mode'. After hitting a container drifting in the mid-Atlantic, the maxi trimaran made a technical stop in the Azores to replace the damaged starboard rudder. The skipper then departed on his own, sailing for the first time without the support of his crew. Yann arrived in Brittany having earned his official qualification for the Route du Rhum. More importantly, he had built up his confidence, having working day and night with a vast array of sails. Since then, the technical team has been fine-tuning every last detail to ensure that everything is in place for Yann to continue his intense physical daily training regime and navigate Spindrift 2 as much as possible in the Bay of Biscay – a mere 'playground' by comparison, when one is so eager to venture into the deep waters of the Atlantic.

Spindrift racing’s elegant trimaran will be the largest on the start line in Saint-Malo, making it one of the clear race favourites. But Yann is only too aware of the difficulties that lie ahead. The weather will be a key factor, as depressions are notorious for giving competitors a rough ride during these autumnal transatlantic crossings. He knows that with a boat this size, he must get his tactics right and anticipate the conditions to avoid performing manoeuvres that will slow him down and get him caught in unstable winds. Finally, the skipper of Spindrift 2 appreciates that, unlike his opponents, he is not a specialist in single-handed racing, and that his boat was not initially designed and optimised for this form of racing.

Yann is steadily and cautiously making headway in the Ultimate class, the race category which will see eight ocean-going maxi multihulls. The 40-year-old is fully aware of the strength of his partnership with Spindrift 2, but also aware of his weaknesses. The professional competitor is confident that he can rise to the challenge of sailing such a boat in this iconic event, which this year has a record 90 competitors. Don’t miss the start of this epic race! Spindrift Racing

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