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Route du Rhum update, SailGP news, and the Hinman Trophy

by David Schmidt 8 Nov 2022 08:00 PST November 8, 2022
Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe © IMOCA

The last few days have been a game of hurry-up-and-wait for the 138 singlehanded skippers who have assembled in Saint Malo, on France's Brittany Coast, for the start of the 12th Route du Rhum, which takes teams across the Atlantic Ocean to Point-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, as well as for fans of this classic offshore contest. The race was originally slated to commence on Sunday, November 6, however a huge weather system in the near the western entrance to the English Channel convinced the event's powers that be to (wisely) postpone until Wednesday (November 9).

"At that point, the weather should be easier to deal with as there will be a 15-knot westerly wind," explained Francis Le Goff, race director of the Route du Rhum, in an official event communication. "The situation will be favorable and allow the boats to make their way out of the English Channel. The forecasts seem very reliable with a probability of more than 90%. The start of the race should be much less hazardous than if the start had gone ahead on Sunday."

This wise postponement should make for smoother conditions and also reduce the chances of a sizeable attrition rate, especially given that multiple skippers will be sailing aboard new and untested steeds. The decision comes as a relief for the skippers who were otherwise staring down the double barrels of big winds and nasty seas on their first nights at sea.

As of this writing (Monday morning, U.S. West Coast time), was reporting airs in the 35-40 knot range and seas around 15-20 feet on the waters just east of Brest, France.

"The postponement changes a lot of things in our heads," said Isabelle Joschke, skipper of the IMOCA 60 MASCF in an event release. "The idea of setting off in such violent conditions drained so much of our energy. The pressure suddenly evaporated when the postponement was announced. I was relieved, but it's not easy transitioning to a different mode. I'm now looking ahead. But it no longer [is] the same Route du Rhum looming over us."

The bad news for the 138 skippers is that this delay is just that: a delay that requires the right headspace and a pinch of patience.

The good news, however, is that the long-terms forecasts are calling for a fast run to Guadeloupe. And, sailors being sailors, there's already talk of race records falling.

In 2018, skipper Francis Joyon, sailing aboard the maxi trimaran IDEC Sport posted the current multihull racecourse record of 7 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes, and 47 seconds. But, given that there are six Ultim 32/23 maxi trimarans entered in this year's contest, including two skippered by recent Vendee Globe winners (Francois Gabart, sailing aboard SVR-Lazartigue and Armel Le Cleac'h, sailing aboard Maxi Banque Populaire XI), the history books might need some editing once the finishing guns have fallen silent.

The current chatter is that the first Ultim could reach Guadeloupe in six days.

"If we had set off on Sunday, chances were slim of beating the record, as the very heavy weather would have impacted the way we managed the boat and her speed," said Morgan Lagravière, who is helping Ultim skipper (and Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper) Charles Caudrelier, who will be sailing aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, with his weather routing.

"There were a lot of uncertainties about the first few days of the race," continued Lagravière. "With the start postponed until Wednesday, the situation has changed considerably. Today, both weather models we use [CEP and GFS] agree. When we launch routing plans, we come up with some very interesting race times for an Ultim 32/23, beating the record and possibly finishing in less than six days. Finishing in less than a week and achieving such a record would be a bonus."

For now, however, you can safely bet that there are a lot of relieved sailors in Saint Malo who can now spend the next few days fervently checking GRIB files and making last-minute vessel preparations.

We at Sail-World wish all 138 competing skippers fast, safe, and fun passage from France to Guadeloupe, and we will keep our eye on the clock to see if record-breaking celebrations are in order once the fleet reaches the finishing line.

Meanwhile, in inshore sailing news, this coming weekend marks the first time that SailGP's fast-foiling sailing circus will race on Middle Eastern waters. The Dubai Sail Grand Prix (November 12-13) will see nine teams competing, and promises interesting racecourse action.

A glance at SailGP's Season 3 leaderboard shows Australia on top (again... they won the first two season championships and are the team to beat), followed by New Zealand (no surprise there) and France after six completed Season 3 events. Impressively, Canada, which is contesting their first season in the league, is in fifth place, while the U.S.-flagged team is sitting in seventh place.

"To have experienced all the conditions that you can experience and be in the middle of the fleet is a good place for us and we're only going to get better from here as the season goes on," said Phil Robertson, driver of the start-up Canadian team. "Your first phase of learning is really steep but now we've taken those big steps and we're looking at all the details."

Meanwhile, much closer to home, the 39th biennial Marblehead to Halifax Race, which was last contested in 2019, has announced that the 2023 edition will start on July 9 on the waters off of Marblehead, Massachusetts, and will take crews some 352 nautical miles to the north and west to the beautiful coastal city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The NOR has been posted and registration is now open.

Also, word recently hit the dock that the 2024 ORC World Championships will take place on the historic waters off of Newport, Rhode Island, from September 27 to October 5. This news was announced at the 53rd ORC Congress Annual Meeting, which recently concluded in Montecatini, Italy.

Finally, Team Blueberry Faygo (Shawn Harvey, Sonia Lingos Utley, Teddy and Graceann Nicolosi, Sean Segerblom, and Caroline Teare) bested team Holiday Sideshow to win the prestigious U.S. Team Racing Championship (November 4-6), which recently concluded on the waters off of Norfolk, Virginia.

"Winning the Hinman feels awesome - we've been giving it our all this weekend," said Harvey in an official event communication. "We had this exact team and exact situation last year where we went best of five racing against Holiday Sideshow, but the ending of this movie was a little different."

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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