© Alexis Courcoux / #RDR2022
RDR, sunshine stories prevail with the odd dark cloud
On the 16th day of the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe there are still seven IMOCA solo skippers to finish, whilst by midday today, Thursday 24 November, there were seven Class40s finished with 30 still on the race course and 18 abandoned. The Rhum Multi class leader should finish tomorrow and the Rhum Mono winner the day after. There is just one Ultim 32/23 still at sea, Romain Pilliard's Use It Again by Extia.
Through most days and nights now there are flurries of activity at Pointe-à-Pitre Memorial ACTe, and it seems skippers now talk of their satisfaction or their disappointments in almost equal measures.
The Class40 podium was completed late yesterday when French former Figaro ace and solo offshore elite champion Corentin Douguet (Quéguiner-Innoveo) took third. In his case his result is tinged with an air of what might have been. He suffered engine charging problems which meant he could not keep pace with the flying Italian Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grande-Pirelli) who finished runner up.
Douguet, who trained extensively with runaway class winner Yoann Richomme, said in the end the abiding smell of his race was "not rum but diesel," whilst describing Richomme as "the Djokovich of offshore racing." Swiss-German Simon Koster (Banque de Léman) came in to take fourth early this morning, followed by a French trio made of Antoine Carpentier (Redman), Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) and Luke Berry (Lamotte - Module Creation). Next in should be Alberto Bona (IBSA) in eighth, scoring another great result for his native Italy, despite several technical issues over the past week.
In the IMOCA class, Germany's Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) was disappointed not to be able to push his new boat to a competitive level and spent the second half of the race in 'delivery mode' after bolts failed in his foil bearings. He finished 24th, arriving at midnight last night.
"We found two or three technical issues," said Herrmann. "One is the foil bearings which is relatively easy to fix on land now with proper tools. At sea it would have been hard to do, maybe not impossible. But it is great to find it all now and not on the long leg of The Ocean Race."
He concluded, "For me to get closer to the front of the fleet there will be a long process. We did not have time this summer for training, it was more like commissioning and getting to know this boat. To have done this race and found the problems is a big bonus rather than find it on The Ocean Race. It is all good as it is."
And while Herrmann was not exactly upbeat and had not enjoyed the long 'delivery', Hungary's Szabolc Weöres 'Szabi' was positively ecstatic when his Szabi Racing glided into the dock in 26th. Desperately short on preparation time before the spring-summer's solo races, the Bermudes 1000 and the Vendée Arctique, the rookie - who had never sailed an IMOCA until he took delivery of the former Stark IMOCA in January - only got hours into both of them before having to abandon.
The pain of pulling out of the race to Iceland was so much the greater, as a result was necessary for Vendée Globe qualification. But a tiny fault in his keel sensor meant controlling the keel was not possible and he cut a forlorn, lonely figure in Les Sables d'Olonne, left high and dry as the fleet sailed off into the night. But he got a late entry to this race and was literally dancing when he sank his 'P'tit Punch' at the finish line this afternoon.
The former rigger for Team Shosholoza in the 32nd America's Cup grinned, "It is a great feeling to be here. It is such an achievement for me to finish my first ever solo Transat race. It is special race, too, this Route du Rhum. It was hard for everyone and I found it hard. Now I have achieved my goal which was to qualify but I learned so much, boat handling, working the instruments and steering is all new to me in the IMOCA class. When I think that I just got the boat in January and I am here now, that is a fantastic feeling. There is so much to do, so much to learn. But this was a big step."
Next in in Class40 will be Italy's Alberto Bona (IBSA) who is heading for eighth with a cushion of 160 miles to the ninth boat. The Californian Alex Mehran on Polka Dot is lying 13th and should finish Friday afternoon local time. In the IMOCA Class, Briton Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) should be in Friday morning. Around the same time China's Jackie (Jingkun Xu) is due to finish his first ever IMOCA race.
Records all round
All four classes so far have seen new records set on this edition. Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) set a new Ultim 32/23 record at 6days 19hours 47minutes 25 secs compared with 7days 14hours 21seconds set in 2018 by Francis Joyon.
In the OCEAN FIFTY class, the win by Erwan Le Roux set a new marque for the class previously known as the Multi 50s. Le Roux's time of 10days 21hours 35mintes betters his previous best time in 2014 of 11 days 5 hours, 13 minutes.
In the IMOCA Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) beat the François Gabart (2014) mark of 12 days 4 hours and 38 minutes with his winning elapsed time of 11days 17hours 36mins 25 secs
In Class40 another skipper to best his own record is Yoann Richomme, who took 14d 03h 08m 40s to better his 2018 time of 16 days, 03 hours, 22 minutes and 44 seconds