Class40 skipper Gerckens abandons Route du Rhum

Belgian Class40 skipper, Jonas Gerckens, has been forced to retire from the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe this Friday evening local time due to a combination of technical problems which are exacerbated by his poor state of health.

The 42-year-old solo racer from Liege in Belgium, who is on his second Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, reported soon after the start that he was suffering from flu-like symptoms (mainly incessant coughing, loss of voice and intense fatigue). The situation continued to deteriorate over time. A general lack of sleep of the first days and nights of the race did not help his heath improve.

Illness and boat issues have forced Jonas Gerckens out – Jonas Gerckens pic

Gerckens, who is racing a 2021 David Raison designed scow VOLVO 164, was harbouring hopes of a top ten before he started the 3542 nautical miles race from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe on Wednesday and had made a strong start. But early this afternoon he tore his main J1 headsail and then struggled to get it under control because of his lack of energy and poor health.

“I was exhausted after this manoeuvre, which is not usually anything especially hard, I have no more energy I’m at my wit’s end,” he told his manager Delphine Simon before trying to get more rest.

Even without the J1 headsail, Gerckens could still finish the race, but in the afternoon, he suffered an autopilot malfunction. The only way to cure the pilot problem would be to climb the mast which, in his compromised physical state, he cannot ever consider.

Because of these linked problems, his illness, lack of a J1 and now his pilot malfunctions he has taken the hard decision to abandon the race and return to Lorient where he should arrive within 24 hours,

“I could have just about coped with my state of health but the other problems I cannot deal with right now. I no longer felt safe heading into a big front. The situation could very quickly become much worse.”

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