Route du Rhum: Roland Jourdain wins Rhum Multi class

French skipper Roland Jourdain (We Explore) has won the Rhum Multihull class in the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe when he crossed the finish line at 19:06:00hrs UTC (Friday).

Jourdain’s elapsed time for the 3542 nautical mile solo course from Saint-Malo to Guadelope is 16 days 5 hours and 51 minutes.

A popular, charismatic former Vendée Globe skipper and multihull racer Jourdain, 58, won the IMOCA class in 2006 and 2010 and so joins Franck-Yves Escoffier as the only sailors to have won their classes in the legendary solo Transatlantic three times.

Jourdain now focuses his attentions on sustainable boatbuilding solutions in the marine industry and commissioned his 60 foot catamaran from designers VPLP and it was built using mainly flax fibres.

In the Rhum Monohull class, two-times Barcelona Race winner and four-times Transat Jacques Vabre winner Jean Pierre Dick (Notre Mediterranée-Ville de Nice) should win the title tonight or early Saturday morning.

Gilles Buekenhout (right) – happy to be home – Arnaud Pilpré pic

Belgian solo skipper and long-time race leader, Gilles Buekenhout, may have likely already won the Rhum Multi class based on his previous pace, but capsized suddenly two days ago and was rescued by a cargo ship. He arrived into Pointe-à-Pitre last night where there was an emotional reunion with his family and friends.

The 60-year-old skipper of the 12m trimaran Jess – whose name was changed from Jessica Rabbit because of the French superstition that any rabbit connection to a boat brings bad luck – Buekenhout recounted the story of his capsize and rescue.

“The whole rescue experience and rescue by the freighter is quite extraordinary. It is not like you practice on the survival courses; the reality is something else. When you have to swim 50 meters in water to recover the lifebuoy that has been thrown from the boat, it is not the same. But I made it and I’m happy to be here and to be in a good mood for the finishes into Pointe-a-Pitre.

“I was in fairly normal sailing mode I was not pushing hard or going too fast. I was inside and had just shaved and was preparing my fenders for the finish. Suddenly I felt that the boat accelerating to 18-19 knots. There was a squall that had been quite far away and I didn’t worry too much.

“I got myself on the helm, I cut the pilot as I know I can react better in the gusts. But in, like, three seconds the boat was tipped totally upright, lifted from the back. I saw this precipice in front of me. In two seconds, I dumped mainsail car. I realized it was screwed up. I fell into the water from about 10 meters high, flat on my back. I sank down to about 1.5m and when I came back up the boat was flat, upside down.

Gilles Buekenhout’s Jess – Antoine Dujonquoy pic

“I got back on the boat and then the adventures of this capsize followed: the call for rescue, setting up the beacon. I called my router and above all thing, very important, I closed myself into the boat. I did what I could. I really could not believe what had happened. The sea was not very big. But then such are the risks with multihulls. I thank the people on the cargo ship (Interunity) which got diverted.

“I managed to save my TPS (survival suit), my phone and the flashlight, thanks to which I could be spotted in the night. I had some good reflexes. You might think I had dark thoughts, but no! I think it’s the survival instinct. I tried to react as best I could.

“But here I am, and I am very happy to be here among you! For me it was just a formality to get to the finish. I was not pushing the boat at all. It was bad luck, or the sea wanted to keep me. You can imagine anything, but you have to stay positive in life.”

Two Americans are left in the fleet. Alex Mehran (Polka Dot) is in 14th but may yet get the opportunity to take places on the final circuit of Basse Terre tonight and into the finish line. And Greg Leonard is in 26th, with 540 miles to go on his Kite, both sailors racing into their Thanksgiving Weekend.

Alex Mehran’s Polka Dot – DR pic

Mehran is expected at the Tete-à-l’Anglais at the north of the island at around 20-21hrs UTC this evening and from there is 53 nautical miles to the finish line. How long that will take is, as usual, down to the capricious overnight winds around the island. But Mehran should be in for Saturday morning.

Mehran said: “I think Thanksgiving was yesterday. I didn’t even have freeze dried turkey. I talk to my family every day and my son’s birthday was the day before Thanksgiving, so I had a little video chat with him, which was nice. I talked to my wife and my three other kids and other family and friends. I have a lot calling me and e-mailing me too which has been nice.

“I have not checked, but my wife told me I’m nearly there! Life has been quite mellow the last day and a half, but I had a two-hour rain squall, which was intense. I ended up socking the spinnaker and going on the J1, because I was really headed.

“Now I think I have lost Edenred and Credit Mutuel, but I have a pretty good angle coming in and they are in the north a bit, so I hopefully can catch them a little bit. They are not bad guys to be in company with. I am also just trying to preserve my gear. The sea state is turning the boat into a submarine all the time.

“When you are doing 20 plus knots and you go into the back of a big wave, I did not know how much longer my mast could take this so. I am happy with my decision but I think the others might have stayed on kites a little bit longer to be fair. And now we are just cruising down. It is time to finish this race. I am seven hours to the Tete-à-l’Anglais probably.”

Greg Leonard (Kite): “Thanksgiving was a bit lonely. I talked to my family. I have so much to be thankful for this weekend I am so lucky and privileged to be here it is really special, a really special thanksgiving that way. That is my first by myself on a boat. My ETA is looking like Sunday night, but that very much depends if my spinnaker holds together or not.

“The wind is down to 12kts, but on the good news front, I spent the last three days un-knotting and fixing my fractional spinnaker and as soon as the wind gets up it will go back up in the air and it will hold to the finish. I lost my other spinnaker a few days before that, so I have not had a spinnaker.

“I am really excited to get it back up into the air. It has been a lot of work to do and there is a lot of little white bits of spinnaker fibres and cloth everywhere. It is good to see it back in one piece. I think I might get a little bit more wind, but not a lot, but I am hoping for more.”

Martin Le Pape – Alexis Courcoux pic

Elsewhere in Class40, Martin Le Pape (Fondation Stargadt) finished ninth earlier today, while tenth position will be decided in a tussle between Kito de Pavant (HBF-Reforest’Action) and Axel Tréhin (Project Ocean Rescue).

Among the IMOCAs, Britain’s Sam Davies (Initiatives-Coeur), Chinese rookie Jingkun ‘Jackie’ Xu (China Dream-Haikou) and Manu Cousin (Sétin Group) should also finish, respectively in 28th, 29th and 30th during the early hours of Saturday morning.

Read the words of Jingkun Xu (Jackie), who now has 160 million followers in his native China and is casting their despair and problems onto the ocean as he races to become the first ever Chinese skipper to complete the Route du Rhum at:

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Race Yachts