Please select your home edition
J Composites 2022 - J45 v4 LEADERBOARD

Joyon snatches record-setting victory in thrilling finale to Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe

by Route du Rhum 11 Nov 2018 22:56 PST 12 November 2018
Francis Joyon took line honours and set a new record time for the 3,542-nautical mile Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race from Saint Malo in Brittany to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe © Yvan Zedda

In the closest finish since it was first staged in 1978, the French ocean racing veteran Francis Joyon won the 40th anniversary Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race from Saint Malo to Pointe-À-Pitre early this morning.

In the clammy heat and very light winds of the Caribbean night, Joyon, 62, glided across the finish line on IDEC Sport at 23:21.47 local time (03:21.47 UTC) to pip the poster boy of French sailing, François Gabart on MACIF by just seven minutes and eight seconds.

This concluded a heart-stopping finale in the ULTIME class to the classic ocean race which takes place every four years and started last Sunday off Saint Malo in Brittany, with six classes and 123 skippers competing in total.

Competing in his eighth Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, Joyon, aged 62, set a new record time for the 3,542-nautical mile course of just seven days, 14 hours and 21 minutes. This reduces the previous best time set in 2014 by the French sailor Loïck Peyron sailing the same boat as Joyon but under the name Banque Populaire VII.

Joyon was delighted to finally win the race after so many attempts and having finished second in 2010. "The rum of Guadeloupe is symbolic of the Route du Rhum, what a taste! After so many attempts the taste is all the better for it," he said as he celebrated on board.

"It was only one-and-a-half minutes before the finish that I realised I could win," he added. "Before the last gybe François was faster than me with his Code Zero (sail) and practically all the way to the finish line I had a vision of him steaming in and passing me again because he was going two or three knots quicker.

"After the start and getting through the bad weather and now this finish, it was an extraordinary race," he continued. "I am happy for the boat as there are no other boats which have won the Route du Rhum three times. I am happy too for my team; we are a little team but together we have prepared a boat which stood up to this Route du Rhum right to the finish and which arrived in a good state." Joyon only took the lead of the race at the final turn, the famous Basse Terre buoy, some 24 miles before the finish line as he and Gabart drifted their way around the windless west side of Basse Terre in the dark

Gabart had led the race almost continually from the start with Joyon tracking him across the Atlantic but never overtaking and sometimes slipping back to over 150 miles behind. But it all changed as Gabart limped home on a damaged boat that had suffered the loss of one foil and one rudder.

At one point in the last two hours Joyon had extended to be over three miles ahead of his younger adversary, but Gabart proved faster in the very light airs. At one mile from the finish the two solo skippers were racing side by side.

When they arrived into the view of the thousands of waiting spectators it was like the denouement of a carefully choreographed thriller. But it was Joyon who took the finish gun to huge cheers, taking line honours and winning the ULTIME class for the biggest yachts in the race.

As he crossed the line the veteran Joyon remained motionless for nearly a minute. It was as if the quiet, reserved, self-contained mariner could not quite believe he had finally completed the victory of his career, more than 30 years after his first participation in the race known as the 'Queen' of the transatlantics.

The huge crowds reserved an especially loud welcome for Joyon, many having grown up with the Route du Rhum taking place every four years, and the arrival of the first finishers always mark the beginning of two weeks of parties in Pointe-À-Pitre. Family members of all ages assembled along the coast from early afternoon to make sure of the best vantage points.

In a fleet of six ULTIMES sailed by some of France's highest profile and most successful skippers, Joyon was considered very much the outsider. His boat is three tonnes heavier than Gabart's newer foil-assisted MACIF. But his lifetime of ocean racing and record-setting experience perfectly complemented his IDEC Sport trimaran, on which he and five crew set the current 40-day, non-stop, round-the-world record in 2017.

Stormy conditions took their toll in the Bay of Biscay during the first 24 hours of the race with two of the newest ULTIMES having to abandon the race. Banque Populaire IX capsized on the second afternoon at sea requiring skipper Armel Le Cléac'h to be rescued by a Spanish trawler.

Joyon's victory means Gabart's extraordinary string of successes is temporarily halted. The winner of the Vendée Globe, Transat Bakerly and the 2015 two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre, as well as being holder of the solo, non-stop round-the-world record, Gabart must have thought another trophy was coming his way.

But the hard-driving Joyon was unrelenting. A fiercely independent character, Joyon is a solo sailor who is happiest at sea. He loves the craft of ocean racing and the maintenance of his yacht's systems, often preferring rustic simplicity over mechanical or electrical advantages.

In the ULTIME division where, due to the high speeds and high loads, weather routing is permitted by specialists on shore, Joyon prefers minimal intervention. In 2014 he relied on a single email each morning and evening. "One word or two, a vague text to his phone is enough for Francis," a previous router asserts.

The 2014 Class40 winner Alex Pella of Spain, sailed on Joyon's Jules Verne Trophy round-the-world record-breaking crew, and loves Joyon's approach, one which contrasts with Gabart's big team, big budget and big ambitions.

"Guys like François Gabart have come up through training initiatives and have made sure they have the best of everything, but Francis learned everything himself," Pella explains. "But although he is old school he loves all of the technology of these boats and loves to listen and learn. He loves the rigs, sails, and the everything about foiling. He has built boats from scratch himself, with his own hands, 40 years ago and has sailed everywhere in the Caribbean and all over the world."

Pella added: "His team are his daughter and his son and a couple of friends. Compare that with MACIF and Gitana with teams of engineers and preparateurs and Francis does it himself or with his friends and family."

With the top two runners now decided, the focus turns to the rest of the fleet, including who will clinch the final podium place in the ULTIME class between Romain Pilliard and Thomas Coville. Meanwhile, the five remaining classes have everything to play for, with the Multi50's currently set to arrive into Guadeloupe on Wednesday

Related Articles

Catherine Chabaud has double reason to celebrate
After Rhum Mono Class Second Place Catherine Chabaud completed a successful, popular return to ocean racing when she finished the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in second place in the Rhum Mono class. Posted on 29 Nov 2022
Rhum Multi and Rhum Mono Classes decided
Loic Escoffier wins Rhum Multi, Roland Jourdain denied hat trick by engine seal penalty Friday night into Saturday's early hours The Memorial ACTe, Pointe-à-Pitre's proud, giant structure which is dedicated to the history, heritage and memories of the Caribbean slave trade, saw the busiest spell yet of finishers completing the 12th edition. Posted on 26 Nov 2022
Loïc Escoffier wins the Rhum Multi class
Penalty for Roland Jourdain as he had a broken lead seal on his boat Loïc Escoffier (Lodigroup) who crossed the finish line second has been declared winner of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe in the Rhum Multi division. Posted on 25 Nov 2022
Roland Jourdain finishes first in Rhum Multi class
Rhum Mono winner expected Saturday French skipper Roland Jourdain (We Explore) finished first in the Rhum Multihull class in the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe when he crossed the finish line at 19:06:00hrs UTC (Friday 25th November). Posted on 25 Nov 2022
Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe day 16
Sunshine stories prevail with the odd dark cloud On the 16th day of the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe there are still seven IMOCA solo skippers to finish, whilst by midday today, Thursday 24 November, there were seven Class40s finished with 30 still on the race course and 18 abandoned. Posted on 24 Nov 2022
Rhum Multi Class leader Gilles Buekenhout capsizes
The Belgian skipper is on board and reported that he is not injured At 1920hrs this Wednesday, November 23, the race management of the 12th edition of La Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe received a message from CROSS Antilles to tell them that Gilles Buekenhout (JESS) had triggered his distress beacon. Posted on 24 Nov 2022
Beccaria finishes second Class 40 in Route du Rhum
A hard-earned place for the Italian in the highly competitive 55 boat fleet Italian skipper Ambrogio Beccaria brought his 100% Italian made Alla Grande-Pirelli across the finish line of the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe at 2038hrs UTC to take a hard earned second place in the highly competitive 55 boat Class40. Posted on 23 Nov 2022
Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe update
Yoann Richomme does the double, winning Class40 for the second time French skipper Yoann Richomme joined the very elite group of solo ocean racers to have twice won their class on the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe today, with a win in the Class40 from a record entry of 55 boats. Posted on 23 Nov 2022
Flurry of finishes for international skippers
In Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe IMOCA class The notorious final miles around Guadeloupe, negotiating a minefield of calms and light winds whilst significantly underpowered because of a hole in her mainsail, proved a cruel sting in the tail for Briton Pip Hare (Medallia). Posted on 23 Nov 2022
Swiss skipper Justine Mettraux top female
Finishing seventh IMOCA in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe Swiss skipper Justine Mettraux ( took seventh place in the IMOCA class when she crossed the finish line of the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe at 02:41:35 UTC this morning, 22 November. Posted on 22 Nov 2022
Hellamarine-Apelo-A3-@2x_1456x180px BOTTOMDoyle Sails 2020 - Redefining Boundaries 728x90 BOTTOMPredictWind - GO! exec 728x90 BOTTOM