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Thomas Ruyant: Yes, it's a good boat

by Ed Gorman / IMOCA Globe Series 13 May 2023 05:02 PDT

Who can stop Thomas Ruyant? After the disappointment of finishing sixth in the last Vendée Globe, he has won the Transat Jacques Vabre, then the Route du Rhum and now followed that up with a scintillating performance in the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race on his brand new boat.

It is hard to believe that Ruyant - who now leads his own two-boat IMOCA team under the name TR Racing - had only sailed on the Antoine Koch/Finot Conq-designed For People six times before he took the start of the fourth Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race last Sunday off Brest.

But there were no signs of nervousness or concerns that untested kit might break. Ruyant and co-skipper Morgan Lagravière ripped into the sprint around the northeast Atlantic, displaying electric pace upwind, off the wind and downwind in a contest that tested boats and crews at all angles of sail and in varying sea states.

Featuring 13 double-handed crews, the race was dominated at the front by the battle between Ruyant and Jérémie Beyou, sailing with Franck Cammas on the black and red Charal. Rather like the recent duel between 11th Hour Racing Team and Team Malizia in The Ocean Race, these two crews were almost inseparable throughout an absorbing contest.

Charal led at the first offshore mark, after a long lightwind beat to a point 200 miles southwest of Brest. Then Ruyant and Lagravière were ahead at the iconic Fastnet Rock, 300 miles to the north, after a challenging off-wind leg. Then the two boats stormed downwind to a mark about 100 miles west of Brest with Charal once again just ahead. And after a punishing beat into heavy seas and big winds, For People was once again ahead at the final offshore mark before Ruyant and Lagravière managed to pull ahead on the long, powerful downwind stage to the finish.

At the line, For People had been at sea for four days, six hours and 15 minutes while Charal got there less than half an hour later. The 41-year-old Ruyant was in ebullient form on the dockside, thrilled by his new boat and by having started his new campaign with another stunning win.

"We thought we had a good boat and when we started racing we both got on really well as we always do," he said of himself and Lagravière who teamed up to win the last Transat Jacques Vabre in 2021 and will defend their title together later this year. "And yes, it's a good boat!" added For People's proud skipper.

"We haven't discovered all of her secrets, we already know some of them. But we're still discovering her," Ruyant added after a race in which the only failure was a broken jib sheet. "It's a well-built boat which works well and has no major faults. But it's still very demanding to sail...the boat is solid - we just broke a sheet but there are no structural problems and that gives us confidence for the future."

Ruyant noted that the new hull is more comfortable to sail than his former boat - LinkedOut - even when going hard upwind, and easier to hand steer which, he said, makes it much more pleasant to sail. Lagravière said they were learning throughout the race with Charal alongside them as a reference. He said they improved their upwind speed against Beyou's boat, even during the race.

Lagravière also pointed out that though this was a nice win, there were quite a few of the big contenders for podiums in the Class missing from this early season smash around the Atlantic. "There wasn't the whole field there on this race," he said. "There are still new boats to come and others that will return from The Ocean Race, so the level will continue to rise, which is what is very interesting."

For 46-year-old Beyou, the hunt for a first victory in his new Charal continues after his first race alongside Cammas. The pairing seems to have worked well together, but they came ashore talking of how they can improve their game. "Once again it was close with Thomas," reflected Beyou, "once again he's in front, so it's starting to get a bit annoying, but they sailed really well."

Cammas was more philosophical: "Yes, I'm a bit disappointed with second place, but being unhappy with a second place in a team is a good sign," he said.

The race also saw an excellent start to his IMOCA career by the British single-hander Sam Goodchild at the helm of Ruyant's old boat (now called For The Planet) and sailing alongside Antoine Koch, the co-designer of For People.

These two led the race in the early stages upwind before losing out to the leaders at the first mark and then settling into third place. Goodchild has spent more time at sea this year than on land after taking part in The Ocean Race on board Holcim-PRB. He seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed his first race alongside Koch with whom he will compete in the Transat Jacques Vabre in late October.

"We are learning a lot of things, but we have the whole TR Racing team around us so we are very happy," said Goodchild. "The new boats are going very, very fast, so it's a bit scary but it gives us goals. Sailing with Antoine, everything is calm and it's very good. No stress. It's all about communication and that's how I like to sail. We have a very good base to progress all year long," he added.

Behind For The Planet, the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race saw a great battle for fourth place between Sam Davies and Damien Seguin (a duo fresh from Leg 3 of The Ocean Race!) on Initiatives-Coeur and Jean-Marie Dauris and Julien Pulvé on the new Maître CoQ, with the latter pairing just edging it at the finish by a little over an hour. Yoann Richomme and Yann Eliès finished sixth on their first outing in the new Paprec Arkéa.

In the non-foiling fleet, there were five starters, three of which abandoned the race - Freelance.com (Guirec Soudée and Corentin Douguet, broken bowsprit), Fives Group-Lantana Environnement (Louis Duc/Halvard Mabire, broken hydro-generator mounting), and Human Immobilier (Antoine Cornic and Jean-Charles Luro, water leak). That left Benjamin Ferré and Pierre le Roy on Monnoyeur-Duo for a Job - who excelled in the early stages upwind - on course to finish as top-placed daggerboard boat in ninth place, with Scott Shawyer and Ryan Barkey on course to complete a more than competent debut in the Class on Canada Ocean Racing in 10th position.

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