Route du Rhum: Le Vaillant finishes before gold rush

Arthur Le Vaillant brought his 21-year-old Ultim, Mieux, through the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe finish line in sixth place this afternoon.

From fourth in Class40 in 2018, it is something of a step up for the 34-year-old skipper from La Rochelle to this famous Ultim, which started life as Olivier de Kersauson’s Geronimo. It was largely remodeled to become Sodebo on which Thomas Coville smashed the solo round the world record in 2016.

Mieux was the only arrival into Guadeloupe today, on the eve of an almost unprecedented rush of finishers which is likely to start Sunday local time, when the first Ocean Fifty’s are due in the morning.

Armel Le Cléac’h is due in the afternoon, on the Maxi Banque Populaire XI, while Monday early morning will see the start of a swift succession of IMOCAs.

In the Ocean Fifty class, there is an engaging duel between the youngest skipper in the class. Quentin Vlamynck, the 28-year-old ex mini sailor on Arkema, is on his first solo multihull transatlantic and is trying to cover 2014 Route du Rhum Multi 50 class winner, Erwan Le Roux, the 47 year old skipper of Koesio, in the final miles of his fifth Route du Rhum.

Race novice Quentin Vlamynck is enjoying a race within a race – Quentin Vlamynck pic

Vlamynck, who has led since the Azores, has just over 28 miles in hand and 150 miles to cover to the northern tip of Guadeloupe this Saturday afternoon.

The IMOCA duel is as hot as it ever has been, as leader Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOUT), has maintained a steady 2 nautical mile margin over Charlie Dalin (Apivia) since last night. The leading pair are trading gybes to get down to the long layline to Guadeloupe.

Ruyant is not short of Transatlantic race winning experience, having triumphed on the Transat Jacques Vabre into Martinique a year ago, won the AG2R into Saint Barths on the Figaro in 2018, the 2010 Route du Rhum in Class 40 and the 2009 Mini Transat to this same finish line. So, while Dalin is unbeaten this season on Apivia, this is his first Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.

Malizia Seaexplorer – Antoine Auriol pic

Germany’s Boris Herrmann has had to revert to ‘delivery’ mode, now racing with his foils retracted on his brand new Malizia-Seaexplorer, after bolts in the foil casing on both sides have failed or bent,” said the German skipper, who was fifth on the last Vendée Globe and one of the first to announce he would build a new boat for the 2024 race.

“It is a little bit shit, because I had put in so much effort to get this boat as good as possible and it is not where I want to be right now. I cannot deny it is making me a bit down for sure. I try to distract myself, but I tell myself the objective is to finish the race to qualify for the Vendée Globe and I seem to be achieving that. But my emotions are a little bit broken just now.”

The IMOCA battle is really the first skirmish for many of the newly launched boats and there are a few conclusions to be drawn so far. Kevin Escoffier’s choice to take on and complete a boat which was already in build is proving wise as he is in fourth. Not many observers gave Paul Meilhat, the 2018 IMOCA winner, much of a chance of finishing given how new his Biotherm is, but he is absolutely in the match in fifth.

Paprec-Arkéa – Vincent Olivaud pic

Certainly, the top half of the IMOCA fleet, at least, will be observing the Class40 performance of Yoann Richomme (Paprec-Arkea). If they had not already marked him out as a Vendée Globe podium contender, the way he is sailing away from the fleet – even after a four-hour penalty on day 1 – is another reminder of what Richomme is capable of.

Richomme said this morning, “I feel at ease with my boat. We’re gliding along and it feels very pleasant. The weather is more favourable than for my rivals. I’m gaining miles, but we know there will never be enough. Now, it’s straight on. I’m starting to think about the finish, but the voyage around Guadeloupe can always upset things.”

Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut – Pierre Bouras pic

Less than 100 miles behind, Italy’s second placed Ambrogio Beccaria (Allegrande-Pirelli) is the fastest in the fleet this afternoon in good downwind conditions. While the 31-year-old winner of the 2020 Mini Transat clearly has a very fast new, all Italian Class40, his video today also showed that his consumption of quantities of homemade pasta are also helping his pursuit of the runaway Richomme.

Follow the fleet on the live tracker:

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