Great start conditions for 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe

09 NOVEMBER 2022
Editor update: At the time of writing this post, Rupert Henry’s Eora was in 7th place in the Class40 Division.

Postponed for three days due to stormy conditions in the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay today’s rescheduled start to the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe was blessed with near perfect weather conditions as the record sized fleet set sail on the 3542 nautical miles solo Transatlantic race from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe.

A southwest by westerly wind of 11-15kts, bright sunshine and blue skies produced a picture postcard panorama as the record sized fleet of 138 boats in six classes. Several boats in most classes – including some of the favourites – appeared to have jumped the start gun and crossed the start early but this was being reviewed to be sure who the transgressors were. The standard penalty is four hours to be taken in the first 48 hours.

During the start phase British solo racer Sam Goodchild, the 32 year old skipper of Leyton, one of the favourites to win the eight boat Ocean Fifty class, was injured and had to be evacuated ashore to hospital in Saint Malo. He was reported to have injuries to his arms and face.

A statement from the Leyton team this evening said “Whilst trimming the sails of his Ocean Fifty Leyton during the start phase Sam Goodchild suffered injuries to his arms and face. A technical problem caused the pedestal winch to backwind and he was hit hard by the handles. He was evacuated from the boat and taken to hospital by doctors. He was able to see his family. It is with deep sadness that he is forced to abandon the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe.”

Sam Goodchild © Yann RIOU
Sam Goodchild © Yann RIOU

The 17 miles upwind passage to Cape Frehel saw the class leaders, mostly the pre-race favourites, stretch away in the solid breeze. Charles Caudrelier on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was first to break the CIC gate at the Cape much to the delight of the hundreds of spectators, including many camping car dwellers, who had prolonged their stay on the point to see the fleet pass this traditional final milestone before the open Atlantic. Caudrelier broke the gate at 1521hrs local time, Armel Le Cléach on Banque Populaire XI some eight minutes later.

Charles Caudrelier - Maxi Edmond De Rothschild © Alexis Courcoux / #RDR2022
Charles Caudrelier – Maxi Edmond De Rothschild © Alexis Courcoux / #RDR2022

In the 38 strong IMOCA fleet favourite Charlie Dalin was also first to pass Cape Fréhel, the renowned upwind speed superiority of his fully optimised APIVIA proving key in the early stages of a classic race he has never contested and wants to win, as the swansong for his boat on which he has collected almost all the IMOCA class honours in recent years.

At three hours after the start gun Dalin was being pursued by Saint Malo’s Louis Burton, over 1,5 miles behind on the Manuard designed Bureau Vallée with Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) in third. The first new, 2022 launched boat was Jérémie Beyou’s Charal II in fourth, threatening Ruyant and going well.

At the Cape Fréhel buoy just around 1700hrs there was a collision between Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI Global One) and Swiss rookie Oliver Heer (Oliver Heer Ocean Racing) both boats suffered damage and this evening were heading back to Saint Malo. Heer’s boat has a damaged bow but both boats will be fully assessed when back in port.

Charlie Dalin's Apivia © Vincent Olivaud / #RDR2022
Charlie Dalin’s Apivia © Vincent Olivaud / #RDR2022

Class 40 Teams were still awaiting final confirmation as to which, if any, boats were over the start line and will therefore have to take the requisite four hour penalty. But again in Class40 it is the favourites who were trading tacks and changing places on the upwind to Cape Fréhel. Corentin Douguet (Queguiner Innoveo), Amélie Grassi (La Boulangère Bio), Xavier Macaire (SNEF Group), Ian Lipinski (Crédit Mutuel), Simon Koster (Banque du Leman) point in turn at the head on the road towards the CIC Cap Fréhel gate. As for the defending champion Yoann Richomme (Arkea Paprec) he was in the leading group but among those to break the start line first. Australia’s Rupert Henry (Eora) was well placed in the top ten on his new build Lombard Lift 40 V2 whilst the USA’s Alex Mehran was 15th on Polka Dot.

Before leaving Saint Malo the Aussie skipper said, “I am happy with the weather now. It will be a strategic tactical first week. I want to manage the risks carefully, not separate from the fleet and look for the best opportunity to pick up the downwind conditions later on. I have gone OK in the races this season but I kind of feel I have the tiger by the tail. It has been a big learning curve and coming from Australia I did not realise how big and established this class really is, and how experienced and good some of the top campaigners in Class40 actually are. So it has been good. We got a sixth (with Jack Bouttell) in the Channel Race but that was six months ago when the boat was brand new and since then I have done 4 or 5 000 miles. The boat (Lift V2) is very quick, it is the quickest in reaching conditions and good upwind, VMG running is not so good but it is not meant to be.”

The Class40 just after the start © Alexis Courcoux / #RDR2022
The Class40 just after the start © Alexis Courcoux / #RDR2022

In the Ocean Fifty fleet Thibaut Vauchel-Camus on Solidaires en Peloton ARSEP made the best start but soon gave up the lead to Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema) which seemed quicker upwind. But as the lead group set into the bay at Saint Briuec to seek shelter from the current, there was less than a mile between the top five, suggesting the opening phase is being raced at Ocean Fifty grand prix pace rather than that of a solo Transatlantic.

Quentin Vlamynck on Arkema © Alexis Courcoux / #RDR2022
Quentin Vlamynck on Arkema © Alexis Courcoux / #RDR2022

Rhum Mono et Multi: a great opening but two boats returning to Saint-Malo
From the start, everyone seemed eager to get away. Roland Jourdain (We Explore) and Brieuc Maisonneuve (CMA Ile de France – 60000 rebonds) were the frontrunners among the multihulls. To the North of the start line, Loïc Escoffier (Lodigroup) got behind Philippe Poupon (Flo) with a cautious start. Jean-Pierre Dick (Notre Méditerranée – Ville de Nice) one of the favourites in this Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe took the lead from the outset in the monohulls. Catherine Chabaud (Formatives ESI Business School pour Ocean As Common) and Wilfrid Clerton (Cap au Cap Location), with their boats designed for upwind sailing also got off to a good start. It will take around four hours for this fleet to sail the twenty miles to Cape Fréhel. Two boats are returning to Saint-Malo including the boat skippered by Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert) after damage to his mainsail. “The mainsail ripped during a gybe and that means we can’t continue,” said the skipper of Rayon Vert. “We’re trying to find a technical solution and would like to set off again.” Jean-Sébastien Biard (JSB Déménagement) is also returning to Saint-Malo.

The live tracker to follow the fleet’s progress at this link:

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