With 14 nationalities represented, the transatlantic Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe has never been so cosmopolitan – there will in fact be 25 skippers coming from outside of France setting off on 6th November local time.
Originating from all the continents, from Australia to the United States and China to South Africa, they tell us about their fascination for this race and their desire to see the event become more popular with their fellow citizens.
British sailor Pip Hare (Medallia) has regularly appeared on the pontoons since 2011. That makes her smile, “I don’t feel at all like a foreigner. I really have the impression that I’m part of the ocean racing community. I feel at home in France.”
Many of the other sailors feel that way too. Sailing does not have boundaries. In all, 25 skippers from outside of France will be competing in this 12th edition of the race. They are represented in four of the six classes taking part with the largest contingent in the IMOCA class (13 skippers) and Class40 (10 sailors).
There are also two with foreign nationality in the Rhum Multi – the Franco-Israelian Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert) and the Belgian skipper, Gilles Buenkenhout (Jess) with British sailor Sam Goodchild (Leyton) competing in the Ocean Fifty class.
Sam Goodchild (Leyton) is indeed one of the favourites to win this race in his category. The winner of the Pro Sailing Tour in 2020 is well aware of that: “Of course, I have a chance of winning, but I’m not the only one. I want to give myself the best chance possible by doing my best,” the British racer said.
There are also some serious outsiders who may be very successful, such as Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) and Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) in the IMOCA class. The same is true for Class40 where Swiss skipper, Simon Koster (Banque du Leman), the Italian, Anbrogio Beccaria (Allagrande Pirelli) and the Croat, Ivica Kostelic (ACI) hope to be up with the winners.
They each have their own personal goals. Some are there to do battle, others to take a giant step forward, while others are in it for the adventure, the challenge or to discover something new.
For the American Alex Mehran (Polka Dot), it is: “The memory of following races with my family from the other side of the world,” that fascinated him.
For Belgian sailor, Jonas Geskens (Volvo), he is thinking about the years he spent as a child in Saint-Malo and still fondly remembers previous editions.
Australian skipper Rupert Henry (Eora) only discovered the pleasures of the legendary transatlantic race and Class40 boats when travelling in France with his family back in 2016. South-African sailor Donald Alexander (Conscious Planet) is particularly keen to see the adventure all the way through, after it all ended prematurely four years ago in la Coruna…
“There was a fantastic welcome. I love being in France. Who could say otherwise,” joked Donald Alexander. I bought my boat in Marseille, had stopovers in La Rochelle, Lorient, Saint-Malo… I saw a lot of the local landscapes and I really love it.”
Everyone stresses the friendly welcome they have received. “The welcome from the ocean racing community and Class40 has been fantastic for me. There’s a great atmosphere,” declared Rupert Henry.
This is a link that Alex Mehran wants to develop in the United States. “Americans love adventure sports and ocean racing is part of that, and this could motivate some sailors. Ocean racing has a lot of potential. The Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe is a massive event like our Superbowl!”
Rupert Henry believes too that in Australia, a growth in interest could attract young sailors in the future: “There is no better school than solo ocean racing to become a good all-round skipper. We don’t yet have that culture, but I hope that my project and my race might show that anything is possible.”
This could contribute even more to making the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe and ocean racing in general even more international.