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Route du Rhum - The gale abates on Day 3

by Route du Rhum 7 Nov 01:15 PST 7 November 2018
Sodebo and IDEC Sport - Start, Route du Rhum - Gouadeloupe 2018 © Alexis Courcoux

After yesterday’s gale which ended the hopes of many skippers, conditions are now more manageable for the boats in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe fleet that are still actively racing.

French sailor Armel Le Cléac’h was successfully rescued by a fishing boat overnight, plucked from his upturned Banque Populaire IX ULTIME trimaran around 2130hrs CET. The fishing boat is heading to Spain.

Also out of the solo 3,542-nautical mile race from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe is Britain’s Sam Davies who heading for land after discovering significant delamination damage to the hull of her IMOCA, Initiatives Coeur.

The worst of the gale has passed through and whilst dozens of skippers are left licking their wounds, the leading groups in each of the six divisions are now able to make good speeds to the southwest.

Passing north of Madeira this morning the two race leaders François Gabart on MACIF and Frances Joyon on IDEC Sport have been struggling to break through the light, erratic winds of the Azores high pressure system. But they should emerge into the first of the tradewinds by this evening. Gabart, winner of the IMOCA class in this race in 2014, holds a lead of 70 miles over Joyon opening up some 30 miles since yesterday afternoon.

Thomas Coville has reported he plans to resume racing, aiming to leave La Coruna just as soon as the repairs to the cross beam of his Sodebo Ultim’ are completed. Third placed ULTIME skipper Romain Pilliard on the smaller, lighter Remade-Use It Again is heading to La Coruna for repairs, leaving just two currently racing in the ULTIME class.

It has been a good night’s work for Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss. The British skipper, who has led the IMOCA fleet since the first morning, is now more than 85 miles ahead of second-placed Paul Meilhat on SMA after taking a route 150 miles to the west of his rivals.

Traditionally ‘west is best’ in transatlantic races and Thomson, on his first attempt at the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe should continue to profit from a faster wind angle as far as the lighter winds zone of the Azores high which is impeding the progress of the lading ULTIMEs today.

Of the race-record fleet of 20 IMOCAs which started, 12 are left actively racing, heading towards Pointe-à-Pitre. As well as Davies, yesterday afternoon and evening saw Fabrice Amadeo turn Newrest-Art et Fenêtres eastwards for land with a damaged bowsprit and Yannick Bestaven head to Cascais to make repairs to Maitre-Côq. It remains to be seen how many return to the racecourse.

The leader of the Multi50s is the French skipper Thibaut Vauchel-Camus on Solidaires En Peloton-Arsep who is campaigning in his first year in the fleet after stepping up from the Class40 division.

Second in that monohull class on the last Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, Vauchel-Camus was 340 miles west of Cape Finisterre this morning with his closest rivals in his wake. Fifth placed Armel Tripon is much further to the south, but now slanting to the west from close to the Lisbon coast.

Vauchel-Camus told Race HQ this morning: “We are getting out of the second depression and still had gusts of 40 knots during the night, but I am so happy we are getting out of it. We had a dark night when we could see nothing, not easy to sail like that. The wind is down to 23-35 knots but the seas are still short and coming at us, so we are slamming still. Our next goal is to get down to the Azores. I am happy with where I am even if Armel Tripon seems to be going fast where he is."

In the Class40 fleet the leading group has largely proven resilient through the 36 hours of the gales. As Yoann Richomme continues to lead on Veedol AIC, the only high profile casualty among the top contenders so far is Briton Sam Goodchild’s broken mast on Narcos Mexico.

Richomme controls the front of the fleet with lead of 38 miles while Phil Sharp is still locked in a battle for second on a route some 70 miles to the east on IMERYS CLEAN ENERGY. While they may through the worst of the weather they are still seeing 30 knots or more of wind this morning.

Jack Trigger, the 24-year-old British hope, is making good progress on his first major solo transatlantic. Now lying 13th and having moved up from a position in the early 20s, he has raced to his pre-start strategy, sailing safe and solid to preserve Concise 8 which has suffered race-ending breakdowns on previous transatlantics.

In the Rhum Mono class Sidney Gavignet has drawn on his 30 years of ocean racing experience on craft as varied as maxi trimarans, MOD70s and Volvo Ocean Race boats, to guide his potent 50-footer, Café Joyeux, through the bad weather and earn a commanding 140-mile lead over Sébastien Destremau’s IMOCA, Alcatraz It Faceocean.

Gavignet, who was rescued from his damaged maxi trimaran early in the 2010 race, reported this morning: “I will not forget this Rhum! The pilot is suffering from water inside it and failed, broaching us with the keel on the wrong side. I had no foul weather gear on - I was getting changed. And I had no boots on. But I managed not to panic; I told myself everything is stable. I sorted it all out calmly with no obvious damage. But then I had no alternative to stay at the helm in up to 45 knots of wind.”

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