Into the Route du Rhum race rhythm as first big front is anticipated

10 NOVEMBER 2022
With the first 24 hours of racing completed and the record sized fleet of solo racers settling into their ocean racing rhythm, the biggest threat to the lead of Charles Caudrelier and the Ultim 32/23 pacemaker Maxi Edmond de Rothschild seems to be a potential judgment that he jumped Sunday’s 1415hrs start gun.

With unlucky rival Armel Le Cléac’h reporting at midday today that he has a damaged daggerboard and is taking his Maxi Banque Populaire XI to Lorient for analysis – and potentially to fit a spare – favourite Charles Caudrelier was opening the 3542 nautical miles course from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe in confident style. He was around 20 nautical miles further south than François Gabart who is progressively winding up his SVR-Lazartigue on which Gabart, 2018’s runner up, is contesting his first ocean race.

But Caudrelier’s Gitana team are contesting the call that their Ultim broke the line early. The data from the line marker buoys is updated in real time and is now being analysed against the Gitana team’s positioning software and the tracking.

“All of the data has been recovered from the supplier of the beacons and is being compared to the track of the boat,” reported Race Director Francis le Goff, adding “Either the committee considers that they have made a mistake when they see these elements and the penalty would be cancelled, or the committee will confirm its first judgement and the International Jury will meet to give a decision.”

If there is judged to be no penalty required that will be announced this evening. Otherwise a jury hearing is needed and that will require a further 24 hours. If they agree a penalty should be imposed then it must be taken within 48 hours of that decision.

The leaders were heading upwind across the Bay of Biscay in freshening breezes ahead of the first big frontal system of the course which is expected tonight. Thomas Coville (Sodebo) looks set to venture further west.

Gabart said this morning, “The first night wasn’t easy, fairly technical with quite a few manoeuvres. It was a starry night, so pleasant sailing conditions. I got off to a cautious start with a few mistakes with my trajectory, but in general, there aren’t any surprises with how everyone is performing. Our idea was always to head off west and then south afterwards. I have just changed tack and am sailing upwind in 20 knots. The wind is set to strengthen today and we should cross the front late in the night. The boat is doing well. It’s a bit harder on the port tack in the swell. I think I’m sailing slightly lower than Gitana and sometimes a bit faster than Banque Populaire XI which I was catching. It’s all very close.”

François Gabart's SVR - Lazartigue © Guillaume Gatefait
François Gabart’s SVR – Lazartigue © Guillaume Gatefait

In the IMOCA fleet the main peloton has been fighting to get south seeking to find the best point to cross the front, at the same not getting too much of a battering in a short, sharp system which could see 40kts plus, but at the same time looking to get good breeze behind it and not drop into the messy edge of the high pressure system. The indomitable Charlie Dalin on APIVIA is sailing to his seeding and was six miles ahead of perennial rival Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) but making more than 2.5 to three knots quicker in the upwind conditions. He was also quicker than the new boats Jérémie Beyou’s Charal 2 and Kevin Escoffier’s Holcim-PRB being around 18-20 miles behind.

Kiwi Conrad Colman on the non-foiling Imagine was going well in the early part of the day but as he moved south this afternoon he was crossed by a strong group including wily Seb Marsset (Cap Agir Ensemble) and Eric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme powered by Altavia) both on 2006-7 Farr designs.

Colman explained, “We need to pick a spot which has not too much wind but which does not have a big calm spot behind it. So that is why I am positioning myself a little more to the south now, to try and get through the first front.
The first front should be around early morning tomorrow. I feel pretty tired, I am going to get some food and get a sleep. But overall I feel good, happy with the way I am sailing the boat in these quite challenging conditions. I am full of beans, confident. The weather is nothing horrendous, it is quite lumpy and every once in a while the boat slams with a bang when it comes off a wave, the wind is anything from 18 to 26kts and so we are straight upwind, as tight as we can get with this pretty uncomfortable sea state. What makes it tricky is the wind is extremely variable, your trim the boat for 18 knots and then 26 comes in and you are on your side. It is pretty engaging at the moment.”

In Saint Malo Kojiro Shiraishi’s team announced the official abandon of their DMG MORI Global One which was damaged in a collision with Swiss rookie Oliver Heer (Oliver Heer Ocean Racing). The DMG MORI shore team have combined forces to help repair the bow and bowsprit of Heer’s IMOCA as they try to get the Swiss skipper back on the race course ‘within two or three days’.

Conrad Colman on Imagine © Arnaud Pilpré / #RDR2022
Conrad Colman on Imagine © Arnaud Pilpré / #RDR2022

In Class40 the leading group is compacted to within a couple of miles, all pushing west together today. Defending champion Yoann Richomme had pulled up to 26th from 51st after taking his four hours penalty yesterday evening and night for breaking the start line early on Arkea-Paprec. He explained, “There were a lot of people pushing towards the line and I forgot to look at the chart. So I was a bit caught out like a schoolboy. There was the possibility of doing the penalty at Fréhel where there wasn’t much wind and a strong current. The idea was to hang around there and then we wouldn’t lose too much ground. It was a good operation after the bad one at the start. I’m sailing upwind and it’s quite rough. The wind got up off Ushant. It’s going to be a long tack westwards for two or three days. It doesn’t look like much fun in the coming days. There are going to be some complicated transitions so I hope to claw my way back into it little by little. It was a wonderful night in the full moon off Northern Brittany.”

Italian skipper Ambrogio Beccaria on his brand new boat (Allagrande Pirelli) is third at less than two miles behind the leader whilst the USA’s Alex Mehran (Polka Dot) is second, closest to the rhumb line.

Italy's Ambrogio Beccaria's Allagrande Pirelli © Vincent Olivaud / #RDR2022
Italy’s Ambrogio Beccaria’s Allagrande Pirelli © Vincent Olivaud / #RDR2022

Ocean Fifty: There are three rookies in the top four Ocean Fifty boats currently taking advantage of decent winds and pleasant conditions for their multihulls. Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema) has not flinched since the start and continues to ward off the attacks from Sébastien Rogues (Primonial) on a Southerly route, while Eric Péron (Komilfo) is back up to fourth place just behind Erwan Le Roux (Koesio).

The 50-foot trimarans are diving south and as Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires-En-Pelton – ARSEP) explained, “hoping to cross the front 150-200 miles off Cape Finisterre” to avoid the continental shelf and the effects of the hills along the Spanish coast.”

Sébastien Rogues' Primonial © Muriel Vandenbempt
Sébastien Rogues’ Primonial © Muriel Vandenbempt

Rhum Mono: The first night was more comfortable than expected with the Rhum Mono fleet able to make their way out of the English Channel on one tack. This morning they had to choose whether to round the TSS via the North or head South. Wilfrid Clerton (Cap au Cap Location) chose the former option and is likely to encounter rougher conditions than those who went south, but in so doing will make progress westwards. This afternoon he is in second position, while Jean-Pierre Dick still leads this fleet.

Rhum Multi: In the Rhum Multi category, Gilles Buekenhout (Jess) has been the big surprise. The Belgian got off to a cautious start, but kept his speed up during the night to take the lead. It is a pleasing situation for the skipper who suffered some serious damage to his Multi40 (designed by Martin Fischer/ Benoît Cabaret) when he was arriving in Saint-Malo.

Belgium's Gilles Buekenhout on Jess © DR
Belgium’s Gilles Buekenhout on Jess © DR

Abandons and pit-stops

  • 4 skippers have retired: Sam Goodchild (Leyton – Ocean Fifty) after being injured during the pre-start phase, Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG Mori Global One – IMOCA) following a collision off Cape Fréhel, Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert – Rhum Multi) with a ripped mainsail, Antoine Magré (E.Leclerc Ville-La-Grand – Class40) after hitting the rocks off the island of Batz.

-11 Pit stops: Maxi Banque Populaire XI (Armel Le Cléac’h – Ultim 32/23), Oliver Heer (Oliver Heer Racing – IMOCA), Mikael Mergui (Centrakor – Class40), Pierre-Louis Attwell (Vogue avec un Crohn – Class40), Martin Louchard (Randstad-Ausy – Class40), Jean Galfione (Serenis Consulting – Class40), Sacha Daunar (Cit’Hôtel – Région Guadeloupe – Class40), Romain Pilliard (Use it Again ! by Extia), Jean-Sébastien Biard (JSB Déménagements – Rhum Mono), Etienne Hochedé (Pir2) et Philippe Poupon (Flo – Rhum Multi).

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

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