Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe start postponed

The 3542 miles Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo race across the Atlantic from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe, due start on Sunday at 1302hrs local time, has been postponed due to forecast storms which would have hit the 138-boat fleet during the first 36 hours of the course and particularly in the English Channel.

Announced at 10.30 am local time Saturday at the skippers’ Weather Briefing, this decision was made particularly because of the passage of a very violent depression, accompanied by a very big sea blocking the course during the first night and leaving no escape for the sailors to get out of the English Channel.

After consultation with Météo Consult forecasters, OC Sport Pen Duick, the organiser of La Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe, and Race Director Francis Le Goff, have therefore decided to postpone the start while waiting to find a next more favourable window for a new start on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Giving a start on Sunday in 20 to 25 knots of westerly wind was possible. But the latest 48-hour accurate weather reports showed conditions were much tougher during the first hours of the race.

Skippers listen to the forecast – Arnaud Pilpré pic

An active cold front with average winds of around 40 knots and gusts above 50 knots will be accompanied by a very big swell created by tropical storm Martin, creating a 7 metre swell in the Channel from Monday. It is the timing of the phenomenon that is making the situation critical leaving no alternative course for an escape south to safety.

The decision aims to maximise the safety of the fleet and the best possible conditions for the sporting success of the event, for sailors and the general public.

Hervé Favre, president of race organisers OC Sport Pen Duick, declared: “This decision was imposed upon us just like so many adventures that occur in ocean racing. Nonetheless this race will be great.”

“We are going to try to reorganise everything to maintain a high level of activity on site and preserve the mood of the race on start day, ” Joseph Bizard, manging director of OC Sport Pen Duick enthused.

British skipper Sam Goodchild (Leyton) who is among the favourites to win the Ocean Fifty multihull division commented: “Right or wrong, the good thing is the decision is made for us and that is good. Some of us were already asking the question whether it would have been wiser to have stayed and waited for the weather to be better and for me, going out trying to win, that was an option.

“Now, it’s good that the decision is taken for us. We have a great team around us, we’re always ready for anything and this is the Route du Rhum in November and we had discussed this possibility.”

Germany’s Boris Herrmann, who is due to set out with his brand new, relatively untested IMOCA Malizia-Seaexplorer, said: “There is a certain relief. We would have accepted any decision that race direction made, including leaving tomorrow, if that was what was to happen.

“This gives us a just a little more time to tweak and finesse the little details. The weather situation was very challenging. For me I was more worried about the first two hours of the race than the big cold front. Tacking upwind in a narrow corridor with 138 boats between the wind farm and the exclusion zone, that is what made me not sleep last night.”

France’s Charlie Dalin, the outstanding top seed in the 38 boat IMOCA fleet, commented on the news: “When I came to this briefing this morning, I was not expecting this, I was fully expecting to go, but I respect the decision. I will be ready to go whenever the start is. I am neither happy nor unhappy about it, I just get on and deal with it.”

GBR Medallia’s skipper, Pip Hare, said: “Nobody really wanted to go into that. The wave height was nasty. I just was not expecting this decision. I am surprised and processing it. I thought they would say ‘it is your decision to race’ and then give people the option what to do. I am surprised and it makes it very difficult for the teams like ours now.”

Past winner of La Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe in the Class40, Yoann Richomme on Paprec-Arkea said: “The decision comes as a surprise to me because I was focused on a race start tomorrow.

“I have learned over the years, before each competition, to focus on one objective at a time and not to scatter myself in lots of different scenarios. I hear this this morning, I accept it. I think it is a correct decision by the race direction who must make their decision based on many different factors of safety and organisational issues across all classes.

“Us? We are going to focus on giving the sponsors who came to see us for the start a good time, trying to get them to participate as much as possible in what a race start would have been like. And it’s only a postponement for a start on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

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