Route du Rhum: Dalin and Caudrelier to the forefront

The title favourite, Charlie Dalin (APIVIA) has been enjoying something of a rich-get-richer scenario at the front of the 36 strong Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe IMOCA fleet, his lead of 60 miles ahead of Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOUt) increasing by the hour.

Meanwhile, Charles Caudrelier on the Verdier designed Ultim 32/23 Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, the out-and-out race pacemaker still has a race on his hands, entering what might prove a key phase of the 3542 nautical miles race to Guadeloupe.

As the leading Ultim duo seeks to squeeze through a ‘mousehole’ in the low-pressure front that would allow them to hook into the best of a northerly breeze generated off the Bermuda high pressure system, Caudrelier, and his routing cell ashore, are keeping a close eye on François Gabart who is 15 miles to his north-west.

Closer to the rhumbline, Gabart is actually credited with the lead this afternoon but the next hours will be critical. There is the potential for Gabart to get to the front first but the key question is what is on the other side.

François Gabart on SVR Lazartigue

Ashore, Caudrelier – whose potential OCS penalty was annulled early this morning – has American guru Stan Honey, Franck Cammas and Morgan Lagravière studying the options. Gabart has veteran Jean-Yves Bernot and La Solitaire winner Tom Laperche in his corner crunching the weather models during what could be a definitive stage.

Meanwhile, in Lorient, where he arrived last night with the Ultim Maxi Banque Populaire XI, dejected Armel Le Cléac’h is trying to be philosophical, waiting to have his broken daggerboard replaced and a hull repair complete whilst looking to find the best weather window to return to the race course to Gaudeloupe.

“Everything stopped in a few seconds,” a hollow eyed Le Cléac’h recalled on arrival at his team base.

“There was a big cracking sound and I saw some pieces of the daggerboard pass astern. I was sailing upwind in a bit of wind and choppy seas, but nothing we couldn’t handle. I’ve been through harsher conditions with that daggerboard. So, I can’t explain what happened or why it broke.

“Some pieces of the daggerboard hit the hull and there are some knocks on it . In one or two places, it went through the hull, so we are going to have to see if we can repair that in a reasonable time. Until Saturday evening, the weather conditions are fine and would allow us to set off. After that, the conditions are set to worsen.

Ian Lipinski’s Crédit Mutuel – Christophe Breschi pic

“We’re giving ourselves 48 hours to decide whether we set off again in the Route du Rhum to finish this story – even if the result isn’t what we had hoped for. We won’t be on the podium but would like to find a way to finish. For now, I don’t know if that is possible.”

Seguin abandons, Dalin gets richer
After being hit by a cargo ship which pulled down his rig of Groupe Apicil in the small hours of the morning, Damien Seguin has abandoned, the first time ever in an ocean race for the former Paralympic world champion and Olympic champion.

Remaining self-sufficient, sailing under rescue kite power, Seguin has been making steady progress back towards the French coast.

Class leader, Charlie Dalin, 160 nautical miles west of Cape Finisterre this afternoon, has everything running in his favour on APIVIA, extending inexorably away from his rivals. Whilst he has many times proven to have a speed edge upwind Dalin has also been always getting into more wind pressure first as he too approaches this weather front which stretches south/south-west to north/north-east.

British weather ace, Will Harris summarises, “Things are looking a bit easier for the IMOCAs though, as this first front is stopping and decreasing in force. Then a second front is arriving and the fronts merge together, crossing it Saturday evening. The key will be to be south where the fronts merge first, then there is less chance of encountering a light winds zone behind the first front.

“As soon as the leaders get across this front, they will be into the westerly airstream and able to tack south. There will be second front Sunday night requiring a tack to the west. The next big thing is the Azores or Bermuda high, which is quite far to the west.

“There is a wide trough extending east-west, which will have very little wind in it. The leader may be able to get through it and away even further, or indeed may get trapped allowing a catch up.”

After a first phase of repairs, Swiss skipper, Oliver Heer, left Saint Malo this morning back in solo ocean racing mode. However, he must make another pit stop, sailing himself into Port La Foret to lift his IMOCA from the water and make a further composite repair to the hull before he can resume racing.

Heer’s key objective is to get to the finish line in Guadeloupe and clock up essential Vendée Globe qualifying miles.

Rookies going steady
Around 150 to 170 miles behind the Dalin, international rookies James Harayda of Britain (Gentoo), Hungary’s Szabi Weeores (Szabi Racing) and China’s Jingkin Xu (China Dream-Haikou) are all making good, steady progress on their first major transoceanic IMOCA race,

“I have slept a bit last night when I got a bit of separation from some boats and got a few 15–20-minute naps. Food has been the leftover pizza from the night before we left,” the 24-year-old Brit, Harayda reported.

“I am feeling a bit dehydrated, so am trying to smash some water down me. I feel good, but I am ready for it to get warmer. We have a transition period coming up which is good for me, as I hopefully can pull a few miles back as we get close to it.

“I will be upwind and then this short-lived transition period, so I will be paying a lot of attention to the weather. It is exciting. I have some miles to catch up but there is a long, long, long way to go.”

Hublot skipper Alan Roura noted that he had almost suffered the same fate as Seguin: “During the second night at sea, it wasn’t much fun. Throughout the night there were a whole lot of cargo ships we needed to avoid in the Bay of Biscay.

“I managed to snooze for a few moments, as I was really tired. Even my alarm clock took time to wake me. I was lucky, as I was 50 metres away from a huge ship delivering Amazon… A really scary moment, but in the end, it worked out fine, so I’m really thinking about Damien and his team.”

Favourite Douguet leads compact Class40 peloton
With the Class40 fleet continuing towards the south-west, there are around 30 skippers grouped together in a radius of 50 miles. Ex Figaro stalwart, Corentin Douguet (Queginer-Innoveo), leads on his Lombard Lift V2 Queguiner Innoveo. He is closely followed by Ian Lipinski (Crédit-Mutuel) as the frontrunners approach the first front.

For the Class 40s also, getting through the front is likely to be a key moment in the race, but the adventure is already over for Laurent Camprubi (Glaces Romanes), Geoffrey Mataczynski (Fortissimo) and Martin Louchard (Randstad-Ausy). Mikael Mergi (Centrakor) and Maxime Cauwe (Wisper) carried out a pit stop in Camaret, Jean Galfione (Serenis Consulting) in Brest, but all three they have set sail again.

Australia’s Rupert Henry admitted today that he was very nearly on the casualty list too, only just spotting that a lashing had failed, threatening the rig of his Eora. His quick thinking saved the rig and his race.

Henry, whose next gig is the Rolex Sydney Hobart in double-handed mode, reported, “ I had a huge problem this morning, my mast almost fell down. I had to stop and sail the wrong way for an hour while I fixed it, but I am going again now.

“The lashing underneath the furler broke. I saw the forestay go slack, so I turned the boat downwind, put a J2 up and replaced it. But I was close, very close, to losing the mast. During the night I saw the forestay a little slack. Now I feel pretty tired. It has been quite rough.

“I was in a good position and then I just started to put the bow down to try and get across them and line up with them before this happened. I am just trying to make a strategy to minimise my losses and get back into the fleet.”

Henry had dropped to 21st, American Alex Meharg on Polka Dot is fifth and the defending title holder Yoann Richomme – who took a four-hour penalty after the start – is up to tenth 17 miles behind his former Figaro rival Douguet.

In the Rhum classes, Brieuc Maisonneuve leads the Multi fleet on CMA Ile de France-60,000 rebonds, over 30 miles ahead of Roland ‘Bilou’ Jourdain whilst in the Mono division Catherine Chabaud and Jean Pierre Dick are enjoying a spirited match race in second and third, closest to the conventional route.

Eight boats abandon:
Ocean Fifty
DMG MORI Global One
Groupe Apicil

Glaces Romane
Randstad Ausy
E. Leclerc
Rhum Multi
Rayon Vert

Follow the fleet on the live tracker:

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JPK 11.80 July 2024