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Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe racecourse action intensifies

by David Schmidt 5 Nov 2018 12:48 PST November 5, 2018
Spectacular scenes off Saint Malo as the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe gets underway in perfect conditions © Alexis Courcoux

As the final war drums for the 2018 U.S. mid-term elections reach a fervent pitch here in the United States, surrounded by all of their accompanying political attack ads, hyperbole, and count-on-it wedge issues, I for one am extremely happy to be able to escape into the world of offshore sailing. And while the Golden Globe Race 2018 provides a great chance to mentally wrap one's head around some of the challenges that the first singlehanded around-the-world sailors experienced during the original Golden Globe Race of 1968/1969, the ongoing Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, now in its 11th running over 40 years, provides a different kind of mental escape that involves state-of-the-art offshore monohulls and multihulls.

For readers who are just tuning into this largely Francophile affair, the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe began on Sunday, November 4th in Saint Malo, France and encompasses some 3,542 miles of singlehanded offshore sailing before ending in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. The race features six classes, including six of the massive and awe-inspiring "Ultime" class of maxi trimarans, six Multi50 trimarans, 20 IMOCA 60 monohulls, a gob-smacking 53 Class 40 monohulls, 21 RhumMulti multihulls, and 17 RhumMono monohulls.

Of these 123 starting boats, only one-Michael Hennessey's Class 40 Dragon-hails from North America, but that certainly doesn't diminish the competition levels, especially in the big multihull and IMOCA 60 classes, which have traditionally been dominated by French sailors.

Given their sheer size, speed potential, and overall sex appeal, it's impossible not to cast a long and only slightly jealous eye (OK, a set of massively jealous eyes) at the Ultime class, which, at the time of this writing, was being lead by Francois Gabart (FRA), who set the current singlehanded, non-stop-around-the-world record aboard his powerful trimaran MACIF earlier this year. Gabart and MACIF are being stalked by Armel Le Cleac'h, sailing aboard his Ultime Banque Populaire, and Francis Joyon, sailing aboard IDEC SPORT.

In the Multi50 class, Lalou Roucayrol (FRA), sailing aboard Arkema, is currently in the pole position, with Armel Tripon (FRA), sailing aboard Reaute Chocolat, and Thierry Bouchard (FRA), sailing aboard Ciela Village, in hot pursuit.

The IMOCA 60 class likely holds the most universal appeal, aside from possibly the Ultime class, given that this design will be used to contest both the singlehanded Vendee Globe and the fully crewed event that was formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race (N.B., the old VOR is under new management, and sweeping changes abound). Here, Alex Thomson (GBR), sailing aboard Hugo Boss, is leading the charge, followed by Vincent Riou (FRA), sailing aboard PRB, and Paul Meilhat (FRA), sailing aboard SMA.

Meanwhile, among the smaller Class 40 monohulls, Yoann Richomme (FRA), sailing aboard Veedol-AIC, is in the lead, with Louis Duc (FRA), sailing aboard Carac, and Arthur Le Valliant (FRA), sailing aboard Leyton, providing motivation from astern. (Also at the time of this writing, Hennessey, the lone Yankee, sailing aboard Dragon, is currently sitting in 21st place.)

In the RhumMulti class, Pierre Antoine (FRA), sailing aboard Olmix, currently commands the pole position, with Jean-Francois Lilti (FRA), sailing aboard Ecole Diagonale Pour Citoyens du Monde, and David Ducosson, sailing aboard his Air Antilles-Caseneuve Maxi Catamaran, attacking from astern.

And finally, Volvo Ocean Race and MOD70 veteran Sidney Gavignet (FRA), sailing aboard Café Joyeux, is leading the hunt in the RhumMono class of monohulls, followed by Andrea Mura (FRA), sailing aboard Vento Di Sardegna, and Wilfrid Clerton (FRA), sailing aboard Cap Au Cap Location-SOS Villages D'Enfants.

With the exception of the lightning-fast Ultimes, all skippers have north of 3,000 miles to go before reaching Pointe-à-Pitre, meaning that this contest will last far longer than the now-dwindling final hours of the U.S. midterm elections, which is great news for anyone as utterly sick of political fisticuffs as I am. And while us armchair sailors can't influence the outcome of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, aside from rooting for your favorite skippers (go Dragon go!), the American citizens in our midst can influence the election.

And while certainly isn't in the business of influencing anyone's voting practicalities, aside from politely reminding all readers of the necessity of clean air and water for the sport we all love best, we are perfectly content to try to influence participation levels, so we leave you with a one-word reminder of your week's most important task: VOTE.

Otherwise, watching tomorrow's returns will be no different in terms of actionable impact than madly hitting refresh on the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe's racecourse tracker, namely a fun-but-ultimately-uninvolved form of spectatorship, rather than engaged democracy.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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