I’m Just back from a stunningly beautiful and sunny St Malo in France for the start of the Route du Rhum, solo trans Atlantic race, it was certainly a weekend I won’t forget in a hurry.
I had never been before but I had been to a Vendée Globe start so I thought it would be popular, it was huge. Over a million people came to the town of St Malo to see the 85 sailors and their boats, France 2 TV showed the start live for 2 and half hours! Thousands of boats braved the autumnal weather to accompany the fleet from the start to the turning mark some 20 miles down the coast, and many more spectators lined the cliffs to watch them leave on their voyage.
CNN Mainsail, November show will feature the ultimate class, the anything goes giant multihull. We are reporting on the fortunes of three sailors, fastest man around the planet Franck Cammas, fastest man in 24 hours Thomas Coville and fellow Frenchman Sidney Gavignet and his boat Oman Air Majan. Sidney is new to the event and solo sailing but a veteran of ocean racing and has been preparing for this all summer. I left the lock in St Malo onboard his boat with his family and was taken aback by the thousands who lined the shore, like a theatre; but no applause or cheering, just a respectful silence, an admiration for what the sailors were about to take on.
Minutes before the start the last of the support crew jumped off and the sailors were alone. We were on the support rib with Sidney’s family and this was the moment they realised, as I did too, what the man who meant so much to them was about to attempt, he talked of being a warrior, and perhaps he was right, racing a boat this powerful on your own across the Atlantic requires a level of mental toughness I could barely begin to understand.
The start itself was incredible, all the boats together on one line. The Ultimate class blazing their way through the supporters at 20 knots, Sidney in his t-shirt and shorts looking every part the Warrior he said he needed to be.
Back in Cowes I’m glued to the updates on the Internet, intrigued by the daily battles of men and women who take on such a challenge. And as I climb under my Duvet each evening I spare a thought for the 85 sailors trying to catch a few moments of rest, who are all braver than I.
This weekend we head to the finish in Guadeloupe, just now though that seems a long way off and a lot of updates to go.
About the Route du Rhum
2010 sees the 9th edition of this legendary single-handed transatlantic race from St Malo, France to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
Start date: 31st October 2010 at 1302
85 boats crossed the start line:
The first edition took place in 1978 with 38 competitors in 3 classes. The overall winner by 98 seconds was Mike Birch on his trimaran Olympus photo, the exciting finish made the race famous and enabled it to become the spectacle that it is today. This years race will also always sadly be remembered for the loss of Alan Colas and his trimaran Manureva.
The second edition took place in 1982 and saw a new era in the launch of the Argos beacon for safety, there were 52 boats on the start line with thousands of spectators turning up to line the shore on start day.
Edition three took place in 1986 this was deemed to be the most difficult edition in terms of weather and once again the loss o Loïc Caradec following the capsize of his maxi-catamaran Royale upset the race fraternity and a limit was placed ion the size of the boats for future editions.
1990 and edition four was won by Florence Arthaud onboard Groupe Pierre 1er, she battled against physical and technical difficulties to set a new course record.
Edition five took place in 1994 and saw the first time the fleet was split into separate rankings for multihulls and monohulls.
Edition six took place in 1998 and was the twentieth anniversary of the rhum, this edition revealed the talent of Ellen MacArthur the winner of the 50 foot class.
2002 was the seventh edition and the one to smash all the records with 58 competitorson the start line divided into 6 rankings. This was also the edition that saw carnage across the fleet as a record number of skippers were forced to retire with the multihull fleet suffering the greatest attrition. Finally this edition saw two 60 foot monohulls cross the finish line before the first multihull.
2006 was the eighth edition with the largest fleet to date, 74 skippers on the on the start line. However, this edition will actually remain marked by the amazing sprint by Lionel Lemonchois, winner of the much prized 60 foot multihull category aboard Gitana 11. Covering the distance between Saint Malo and Pointe à Pitre in 7 days 17 hours and 19 minutes.
For more information visit: Route du Rhum
Souce [Route du Rhum - La Banque Postale]