British solo sailor Miranda Merron crossed the finish line of the 3542 miles La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo Transatlantic race off Pointe-a-Pitre this Thursday afternoon at 16:17:25hrs UTC 12:17:25hrs local time in seventh place from a Class 40 field of 43 starters.
She was due to be promoted to sixth after a 24 hours time penalty imposed on a rival who finished across the line fourth is computed.
Her result comes as the French-based racer's combination of 15 hard years of short-handed, solo and crewed ocean racing is perfectly matched to a very reliable, well prepared good allround boat – on which she has sailed all but 120 of the 49,000 miles on 'La Licorne's' log.
Between Pointe-a-Pitre's heavy rain showers and spells of burning Caribbean sun, she may have mused after finishing this afternoon that she had been 'too cautious' but her pragamtism, where others pressed too much or lost focus, gained her one place in the final 30 miles, and it could be argued also the one place after finishing.
Merron smiled: “I did not tell anyone what my ambitions were before the start but a top 10 was my highest hope. I did benefit from some attrition in the fleet but that is the way of. I am so delighted, just delighted. It will take some time to sink in.”
She arrived neither shaken nor stirred and was promoted to sixth as a result of a 24 hours penalty imposed on Yannick Bestaven – who had finished fourth but who had hit South Africa's Philippa Hutton Squire's Class 40 a glancing blow on the first night.
The French skipper was struggling to regain control and deal with his own pressing issues but the impact damaged the rig of Hutton-Squire's boat, requiring her to retire.
“Philippa did not get to finish her race and so I'll have that place and I was really careful through last night just to hold it together.” Merron quipped. “Maybe, just maybe I was too conservative, but you could argue I gain two placed because I am. Certainly in the second half I maybe feel I was, but there is also a level of attrition. There are guys who might normally have beaten me who are now home on their sofas, having pulled out, or are way behind me.” she ventures sitting with a cold Heineken on the well travelled Class 40 she shares with her life partner Halvard Mabire who lies 17th some 270 miles from the finish.
Sailing the Finot-Conq designed optimised Pogo S2 Campagne de France, Merron 's elapsed time for the passage is 18d 3h 17m 25s. The legendary solo race which taks place only every four years started from Saint Malo, France on Sunday 2nd November. In reality she sailed 4347 miles at an average speed of 9.99kts. Merron finished 1d9h30m17s after Class40 winner Spain's Alex Pella.
After a longtime duel with French rival Fabrice Amedeo (who held seventh place) – after 9 days racing they were a few hundred metres apart Merron passed him this morning less than 30 miles from the finish after he had to pitstop at Basse Terre.
A tightly wrapped spinnaker meant Amedeo chose to halt to fix his problem – receiving outside help from his techncial team – thereby required to stop for a minimum of four hours. Even though he was so close to the finish he considered it too unsafe to try and sail the final upwind miles under the threat of the big sqaulls which were passing through.
Merron's biggest problem – such as it was – was racing only with her back-up wind instruments which offered less accurate and refined information. By design her conservative start, waiting minutes until the traffic cleared, was followed by an astute passage at Ushant where she timed her passage through the first front well, getting immediately up to sixth in the fleet. She fought well in these realms, between sixth and ninth for most of the race.
“Second half I was tireder and always seemed to end up on the wrong gybe. That was the way of it I suppose and some of it was down to the back up instruments.”
It is Merron's second Route du Rhum and her best major solo race result of her career.
“I dont know if I had any real preconceptions coming into the race because I have not done very much solo racing. I even enjoyed bits of this race. I am happy in myself and some of that comes with being on this boat which I know and totally trust. Now I seem to just be able to get on with it. I was probably just a bit too cautious because it is our boat and I did not want to break it. That was not an option. I sailed the first half well. But caution has just won me a place.”
“There were times when I was sending it and the boat just does not have the same speed as the others downwind – and so I think also I did pretty well to just hold on to them.”
“Getting reports every hour really does keep you on your toes.”
Of the well publicised rivalry with her partner Mabire, one of France's most renowned offshore allrounders, she plays it down. He has the newer, theoretically faster but less proven boat which the duo have given many months together to building, finishing and preparing:
“I have never beaten him, but equally I would have had to retire if I had his boat. He had a broken link arm and that would have been the end for most people. But I have time to prepare a nice welcome for him.”