An operation is under way to rescue Lalou Roucayrol, the French skipper who capsized 1,000 nautical miles east of Guadeloupe early yesterday morning (Wednesday).
The plan to recover Roucayrol from the upturned Multi50, Arkema, will involve fellow Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe skipper Pierre Antoine, the leader of the Rhum Multi division.
This morning Antoine was 250 nautical miles east-southeast of Roucayrol, who is safe and well and spending most of the time inside the main hull of his capsized craft.
A photograph issued by Roucayrol’s team taken from a spotter plane shows the 54-year-old skipper from Port Médoc near Bordeaux sitting on the upturned central hull of his boat wearing blue trousers and a red sailing jacket. The three orange rudders on Arkemamare clearly visible along with the orange centerboard. To one side, one sail is still attached to the boat but is semi-submerged in the sea.
The operation to rescue him is being coordinated by CROSS Griz Nez in close collaboration with Race Direction of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. On board his 50ft trimaran, OLMIX, Antoine is making just over 11 knots this morning and is expected in the area within 24 hours.
It will be the third time in the 40-year history of the Route du Rhum-Destinationa Guadeloupe that a skipper in distress has been rescued by another solo racer after Ian Johnston was picked up by Olivier Moussy in 1982 and Karine Fauconnier was saved from her critically damaged ORMA trimaran by Bob Escoffier in 2002.
At the same time the boat captain of Roucayrol's Arkema team, Quentin Vlamynck, is due to leave Martinique today on board a tug which will take approximately two days to reach the area. Apart from taking Arkema under tow, Vlamynck is also expected to rendezvous with OLMIX and take Roucayrol off by semi-rigid inflatable.
Roucayrol had originally told his team he wished to remain with his boat until the tug arrived but he has clearly now changed his mind or been persuaded that he should be picked up by Antoine first.
Meanwhile the Multi50 class leader, Armel Tripon on Réauté Chocolat, is expected at the Tête à l'Anglais, at the northwest tip of Guadeloupe around 0800hrs local time (1300hrs CET). Then he will start the final 55-mile stage into Pointe-À-Pitre where he will receive a huge welcome as the third finisher in the 11th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.
Making the passage around Basse Terre island during the afternoon, Tripon should enjoy a decent breeze to propel him through the final miles of what will be his most notable victory since winning the Mini Transat in 2003.
On Hugo Boss the British skipper Alex Thomson is in good shape this morning, counting down the miles to what should be his first taste of victory in the IMOCA class. He has 370 miles to finish and is due in the small hours of Friday morning local time.
The battle for second, third and fourth places may still be decided on the final island passage, although second-placed Paul Meilhat on SMAhas proven fast and smart in lighter conditions. After abandoning the last Vendée Globe due to damage to his keel mechanism when lying third, second place would be a very welcome result for the French skipper who, with SMA ending their current sponsorship, currently has no boat for the next Vendée Globe.
Some 500 miles behind leader Thomson, an engaging race-within-a-race continues between three very similar IMOCAs all from the Finot Conq design studio. Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil), new to the IMOCA class and a sailor born with only one hand, leads this trio 32 miles ahead of Alan Roura on La Fabrique with Stéphane le Diraison (Time for Ocean) only eight miles behind. All three have projects which are destined for the 2020 Vendée Globe.
Roura reported this morning: “It's hard work. I'm finding it hard to keep pace with these two guys who are both good sailors. Now it is mostly down to strategy and that is the really interesting part of the magic of offshore racing, battling head-to-head on the open ocean.”
Class 40 leader Yoann Richomme on Veedol-AIC has lost some miles to the hard-driving second-placed British skipper Phil Sharp (IMERYS CLEAN ENERGY). Richomme said this morning: “I feel good, especially as I have nothing broken. I have all my spinnakers intact. I am pushing hard but don't take any risks. I can see Phil has made back some miles, but you have to accept that will happen sometimes. The conditions are great, 18-22 knots of stable breeze now, it shifts back and forth. It is very hot now and I am enjoying sailing in my shorts mostly.”
Richomme leads by 72 miles from Sharp who now has developed a more solid 57-mile cushion over third-placed Aymeric Chapellier on Aina Enfance Et Avenir.