The Ultim 32/23 podium for the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe was completed yesterday (Wednesday) when Thomas Coville brought the Sodebo Ultim 3 through the finish line off Pointe-a-Pitre at 1952hrs UTC (1542hrs local time) 10 hours and fifty minutes after winner Charles Caudrelier.
The performance extends Coville’s remarkable history with the solo Transatlantic race. He has now finished on the podium five times in his seven ‘Rhums.’ He won in the IMOCA class in 1998 when he deputised for Yves Parlier who was injured pre-start in a hang gliding accident, and then has been third in the multihull or Ultim divisions in 2006, 2010 and 2018.
Coville followed François Gabart (SVR Lazartigue) through the line seven hours and 34 minutes after the runner up after spending time caught in fishing nets on the west of the island. Although both Gabart and Coville finished in the same positions as last edition four years ago, for both it was a very different, better race and indeed Coville also bettered the 2018 course record.
Gabart’s elapsed time on his first ever race for his new SVR Lazartigue was 6 days, 23 hours, 3 minutes and 15 seconds, 3 hours 15 minutes and 50 seconds after class winner Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild).
On the dock Gabart looked relaxed, knowing he had been beaten by the benchmark team which have been optimising and updating their Ultim since the last race in 2018. “This time finishing second is different as this is a new boat, whereas last time it was the final race with the old boat,” Gabart said. “This looks promising for the future. I’m disappointed not to win, but happy to finish second. The boat has made progress since last year. Charles deserved to win. Theirs is the boat and the team. We’re getting close to Gitana in terms of performance and maybe in some weather we’re better. Congratulations to Charles, a great solo sailor. He’s made a lot of progress with Franck Cammas. He was the favourite before the start and he lived up to that.”
Coville added, “It was a fantastic battle, so well done to Charles and François. I think we had the contest we were expecting between the Ultim boats. Everyone attempted something and dared make their own move. It involved a lot of hard physical work. I gave it my all. In the end, I am pleased to have sailed a good race, a good Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. This may not have been my objective, as I was hoping to win, but battles like this are rare, so I’m happy.”
Meanwhile in the Ultim class this Thursday afternoon on their final approaches to Guadeloupe, Francis Joyon (IDEC Sport) is fourth and just under 80 miles ahead of Yves Le Blevec (ACTUAL Ultim 3), as wily veteran Joyon this time prepares to try and contain the boat which he pipped to the 2018 race victory.
Joyon, aboard his faithful IDEC SPORT built in 2006, is this time well positioned to begin the race around the island ahead of his rival. The boats have been neck and neck averaging 27 knots, but Joyon with his traditional boat, has warded off the attacks of the flying trimaran. “With Bernard (Stamm) and Christian (Dumard), we focused on two gybes which allowed me to pass along to leeward of Actual. We have been battling it out with Yves since the start. It would be pleasing to finish ahead of him. I think I have always rounded Guadeloupe by night.”
Dalin goes south
In the IMOCA Class Charlie Dalin (APIVIA), the long-time leader, has 24 miles in hand and is putting his faith in heading directly south while the close battle of Figaro-style intensity behind him is taking second placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and this closest rivals to the west.
Ruyant said this morning, “For the moment, it’s fairly settled, but a lot of clouds pop up later in the day with big squalls. That changes the angle and speed of the wind and at night, we can’t see anything. You need luck to be on your side. There is a global strategy to get around the high, but we need to tackle these squalls and there are a lot of them. It’s hard to find any time to sleep. I have more sail changes coming up, as the wind is set to strengthen. Charlie (Dalin) is very fast. His foils are more powerful than those in the rest of the fleet. However, that difference is less noticeable downwind. It’s all very close with Jérémie (Beyou) close to us, Maxime (Sorel) is now pressing towards us and there is also Paul (Meilhat), Kevin (Escoffier) and Justine (Mettraux). We’re in a small group that is working flat out. We knew from the start that with 38 IMOCAs, it was going to be close.”
The super consistent Swiss Mettraux
Sailing an incredible solo debut IMOCA race, Swiss skipper Justine Mettraux (Teamwork.net) is on great form in seventh. Today she reported, “I’m trying to find the right pace and the right course. I lost a bit of ground during the night. At the moment, there is some wind and the seas are fine. At night, we can’t see anything, so it’s a bit random with the squalls. It takes me some time to gybe. I’m pleased to be in this pack. Further back, it looks harder. We are now set to head downwind towards Guadeloupe. I’m in a good group and learning from them. Conditions are pleasant and it’s hot, so you sweat a lot when you carry out manoeuvres. I know my boat well and never get any surprises. In twenty knots of wind, it feels like I’m in control.”
Mettraux is over 270 miles ahead of Franco-German Isabelle Joshcke (MACSF) who is eighth. Briton Pip Hare (Medallia) remains resolute after tearing her mainsail going through front but is up to 12th after placing her faith in the west, close to the rhumb line. New Zealander Conrad Colman (Imagine) is 17th having a solid race on his non-foiling boat. Seb Marsset (Mon Courtier Energie-Cap Agir Ensemble) is top daggerboad boat in ninth, he, too, like Hare is far to the west of Colman.
Rookies revelling with the big gear up
Hungary’s rookie Szabi Weeores is having a good race with young Brit James Harayada (Gentoo Racing) both progressively finding their feet, going fast and enjoying sailing in sunshine with the ‘big gear’ up for the first time. Szabi is 20th and Harayda 21st.
Harayda, 24, enthused, “We are on a bit of a scorcher right now, going fast in the right direction. It is a good sign on any yacht race. It feels good to be going fast forwards. I do feel a bit like I deserve it. It has been a tricky first week. Now this is my longest time solo at sea. I didn’t think I would get this feeling because I am usually quite a relaxed, calm person, but when you are out here and hear of boats having incidents it is like, I am a little bit on my own out here. It is not a lonely feeling, but you feel isolated, not in a bad way, but I have not really felt it before.”
China’s ‘Jackie’, Jingkun Xu is making great progress too on his first ever IMOCA race. He was delighted today to get photos from Fabrice Amedeo, of a painting in the Azores that the skipper from Qingdao had done at the end of his circumnavigation two years ago. Amedeo had to abandon his IMOCA when it caught fire and sank earlier in the race. Rescued by a cargo ship he was dropped in the Azores
Jackie wrote today, “Today seems my lucky day. I received a wonderful gift from Breton kids, they send me a wonderful video full of blessings in French and Chinese, so lovely, and at the same time, I received a lot of wonderful blessing from different country, even an 80-year-old poet write some poems for me, so so touching. And so the gate to the trade wind is nearly open in front of me, the temperature is getting higher and it seems the Caribbean sunshine is already coming.”
Class 40 Richomme getting richer
In the Class 40, leader and defending Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe champion Yoann Richomme (Paprec-Arkema) has doubled his lead over second placed Corentin Douguet (Quéguiner Innoveo) to over 40 miles. Swiss racer Simon Koster (Banque de Leman) in fourth is racing less than two miles from Italy’s Ambrogio Beccharia (Allagrande-Pirelli) who is fifth.
When asked if he would be happy to finish in the 12th position he holds now, American solo racer Alex Mehran (Polka Dot) laughed, “I would be happy to finish 55th, I never imagined being in the top half of this race. I am enjoying it and if there is a result in there, anything better than 55th I will be happy. I have a family and a job back at home and have not been able to sail so much and so I did not have a lot of expectations, I really didn’t.”
Read more from the skippers on the website here.
The live tracker to follow the fleet’s progress at this link: