As the bulk of the Class 40 fleet in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe file in to the finish in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe Friday with their stories to tell, the fight for the remaining places in the Rhum Class of the 3,542 miles solo Transatlantic Race from Saint-Malo is intensifying with every mile. British ocean sailing pioneer Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is firmly in the middle of a white hot three cornered sea battle for second and third places.
This Friday afternoon with 184 miles to the finish , Knox-Johnston who has marked his return to ocean racing at the age of 75, after a seven year absence, with a dogged, determined race has highlighted his sheer competitiveness which has seemingly spiked even more as the race to the finish intensifies.
He has been working hard to maintain the consistently high average speeds. This afternoon he had reduced his deficit to Andrea Mura on the Open50 Vento di Sardegna to just 38 miles. Since he was north of the Cape Verde Islands nine days ago Sir Robin has reeled in 200 miles on Mura. The experienced solo skipper from Cagliari, Sardinia won the class at a canter in 2010 and is building a brand new boat for the next Vendée Globe race around the world, but he and all the other top contenders have this time been outgunned and outclassed by Anne Caseneuve on a Multi50 trimaran, who finished two days ago.
In turn Sir Robin has Wilfred Clerton on the famous former Kriter VII – a 70 foot cigar slim ULDB – chasing him about 37 miles behind. The key to the remaining podium places will almost certainly be the final 45 miles around the west of the island, fighting through the calms which are created by the high land blanketing the prevailing E'ly trade winds. Although they are lining up like ducks this evening, further compression does seem inevitable. Mura should be the first into the light and more random breezes while Sir Robin should hold the breeze longer and close miles. By day a battle between the synoptic gradient breeze and the thermal breezes is expected – in short the winds will be confused and messy close to the land.
Predicting what time these three finishers arrive at the line Saturday, and in what order, is a moveable feast. Sir Robin on the vintage Open 60 Grey Power has sail power and waterline length advantage on both his rivals and has been consistently quicker through Friday. And a clear indication that he is giving his all is that he has requested radio silence through Friday as he summons his energy and focus for the final miles.
Italian Giancarlo Pedote racing on Class40 Fantastica crossed the finish line in 10th place last night.