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Offshore adventures in the Route du Rhum, RORC Transatlantic Race and Golden Globe Race 2018

by David Schmidt 27 Nov 2018 09:00 PST November 27, 2018
Loïck Peyron and `Happy` © Pierre de Champsavin

While the first real evidence of winter has now found North America, delivering fresh coats of white to the mountains and an early sheen of ice to myriad docks and dinghy parks, the reality elsewhere is far better for racing, especially if you're a fan of offshore sailing. Three classic events are currently unfurling, namely the tail end of the Route du Rhum, the opening salvo of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Transatlantic Race, and the ongoing saga (now on Day 149) known as the Golden Globe Race 2018.

While most of the award-ceremony silverware has already been decided in the singlehanded, once-per-quadrennial Route du Rhum, it's worth noting that French superstar Loick Peyron, sailing aboard Happy, his 39-foot yellow trimaran that was built to the same lines as Olympus Photo, the tidy trimaran that Mike Birch (CAN) used to win the inaugural Route du Rhum (1978), crossed the finishing line in fourth place in the Multi Rhum class in a voyage that Peyron envisioned to honor ocean-racing greats Birch and Eric Tabarly (FRA).

And while Peyron is more accustomed to speedy rides like big multihulls or IMOCA 60s, the fast Frenchman has long been a student of sailing's rich history. "It was long and a bit tougher than I expected," said a tired-but-elated Peyron in an official Route du Rhum press release.

"I am glad it is over. That is the problem with small boats-you have to cross so many weather systems. I think I crossed five or six low-pressure systems. But that is fine, that is for the memories. The thing is these small boats are so marvelous but really bouncy all the time, uncomfortable when you are racing with an alloy mast and Dacron sails."

As for future Route du Rhum plans, Peyron, who won the 2014 edition of the race aboard the maxi trimaran Banque Populaire VII, seems content to explore different horizons. "I am done," said Peyron in an official event press release. "I have done eight and that is plenty," he said. "The next challenge is a real one in La Solitaire in the new Figaro Beneteau 3; I have started each of the different iterations and I am looking forward to the new 3."

Also Route du Rhum related, American Class 40 skipper Michael Hennessy, sailing aboard Dragon, finished in 12th place in this 36-boat strong class on Sunday, November 25, with a time of 21 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes and 46 seconds. Hennessey is the only American to have finished this edition of the race and no doubt will be returning home with some wild tales of sailing that saw 17 of his fellow Class 40 skippers, including fellow countryman John Niewenhous (USA), retire from racing.

Meanwhile, the fifth edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Transatlantic Race kicked off on Saturday, November 24, at 1200 hours UTC, off of the Spanish-flagged island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, and will take the 10-strong fleet some 3,000 nautical miles to the event's finishing line, off of Camper & Nicholsons' Port Louis Marina, Grenada.

Among the fleet, odds are excellent that one of the two 70-foot trimarans-Giovanni Soldini's Multi 70 Maserati or Peter Cunningham's MOD70 PowerPlay-will take line honors, however odds are also excellent that Pier Luigi Loro Piana's gorgeous Baltic 130 My Song won't be all that far behind.

The table stakes have grown substantially larger in the Golden Globe Race 2018, where Jean-Luc Van den Heede (FRA), sailing aboard his era-specific Rustler 36 Matmut, suffered significant rig damage after pitch-poling several weeks ago. Prior to this calamity, Van den Heede enjoyed a 2,000 nautical mile lead over his second-place rival Mark Slats (NED), who is also sailing aboard a Rustler 36 called The Ohpen Maverick, however this has now been reduced to some 1300 nautical miles thanks to Matmut's Southern Ocean somersault.

Impressively, Van den Heede became the first Golden Globe Race 2018 skipper to round Cape Horn when he made this critical turn over the weekend, and-at the time of this writing-the highly experienced Frenchman had some 6,493 nautical miles separating his bows from the finishing line off of Sables d'Olonne, France.

Still, it's important to remember than Van den Heede was awarded a 18-hour penalty for using his satellite phone to call his wife following his pitchpoling. While this is a fairly small penalty given the total amount of time and nautical miles remaining, it does turn what would have been a walk-away race into a honest contest that could go all the way down to the wire as Van den Heede and Slats slowly approach France.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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