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Blasting Across the Atlantic

Route du Rhum


The Route du Rhum — now more than three weeks old — is entering its closing stages, though many boats remain on the more than 3,500-mile course. Finishing Sunday afternoon to massive applause was 58-year-old sailing legend Loïck Peyron onboard his little yellow trimaran Happy, a sistership to the boat that Canadian Mike Birch sailed to a narrow, 98-second line-honors victory in the inaugural Route du Rhum. Peyron sailed the race in honor of ocean racing pioneers such as Birch and Frenchman Eric Tabarly. Foregoing GPS, modern routing software, and furling or composite sails, Peyron sailed decidedly old-school in solidarity with the founders of the sport. He had a sextant to navigate, an aluminum mast, a stock boat and Dacron sails.

Happy approaches the finish
Loïck Peyron approaches the finish of his eighth Route du Rhum with a massive spectator fleet in tow. His star power in the sailing world is almost unrivaled.
© 2018 Alexis Courcoux

“My story over the last four years is to try to give a tribute to those guys like Mike Birch and Tabarly, the pioneers — Tabarly in the OSTAR and Mike Birch here in the Rhum. So I feel I have done that,” said a smiling Peyron once dockside. “I went out too early; it was super-bad weather. I was seeing a good 50 knots and a big sea state because Finisterre is not the right place to be,” Peyron added, when recalling the brutal conditions of the initial days of the race, and the multiple boat-breaking gales that he and Happy weathered. He admitted to pushing the boat very hard and the old-school trimaran being “very bouncy all the time.”

Loick Peyron aboard Happy
Many Bay Area sailors got to know the affable Loïck during his tenure at Artemis Racing’s America’s Cup team compound in Alameda.
© 2018 Alexis Courcoux

Push the boat hard he did. Loïck sailed Happy into Guadeloupe more than two days inside of Birch’s race-winning effort from 1978, and a few hours ahead of competitor Jean-François Corre, who was sailing a nearly identical sistership to Happy.


Also finishing the Route du Rhum on Sunday was American Michael Hennessy, who steered his Owen-Clarke design Class 40 Dragon to a very impressive 12th place finish in the stacked 53-boat field. A 52-year-old businessman from New York, Hennessy and his Dragon proved to be formidable when the going got rough. A 10-year-old boat and an equally long journey to get to the Route du Rhum, Dragon surely benefited from a high level of preparedness when compared with some of the newer, more fragile boats. Michael spent a lot of time at the nav table writing captivating blog entries about the race and heavy-weather sailing in a Class 40.

Michael Hennessy onboard the Class 40 Dragon finished 12th in the massive Class 40 division. He is the only American to finish the Route du Rhum this year.
© 2018 Route du Rhum

Banque Populaire IX

As some of the more modest 40-footers have begun to pour into Guadeloupe, many of the race’s fastest maxi-trimarans and IMOCAs have begun to make their way back to Europe. Around the time that race-winner IDEC Sport was ripping past the Azores archipelago, Armel le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire IX arrived in the port of Vigo, Spain, in pieces. After two capsizes in one year and experiencing some heavy weather while upside down, the brand-new 100-ft foiling monster has now been reduced to little more than carbon-fiber wreckage. The team has announced that there will be no third attempt to get the boat sailing again.

Banque Populaire
After two capsizes in one year, the maxi-trimaran Banque Populaire IX has arrived into the port of Vigo, Spain, as a heap of wreckage. The boat will not be rebuilt. One can only hope that ‘the People’s Bank’ does not leave the sport.
© 2018 Javi Montenegro

RORC Transatlantic Race

The RORC Transatlantic Race started on Sunday; a fleet of 10 yachts headed for a trade-wind jaunt from Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, to Grenada in the Caribbean. At the head of the fleet, the MOD 70s Maserati and Powerplay are duking it out in a close match race while Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s 130-ft Italian super-maxi My Song leads the monohulls. Franco Niggeler’s Swiss-flagged Cookson 50 Kuka 3 holds the position of second monohull on line honors, and currently leads overall on IRC.

Powerplay flies a hull
Former Bay Area sailor Peter Cunningham’s new-to-him MOD70 Powerplay. Currently, he is locked into a close battle with Giovanni Soldini’s MOD70 Maserati. Due to very recent damage to the starboard side T-foil rudder that helps stabilize the boat when in foiling configuration, Maserati is effectively stuck on a port tack and modified to foil on a starboard tack.
© 2018 RORC Transatlantic Race

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All You Need to Know
On Friday, a ferry crashed into the dock at the San Francisco Ferry Building. There were 53 passengers onboard at the time, but no injuries were reported.
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A former CNN producer and self described cruising novice recently asked an interesting question in an online article: “We are two years and 4,000 nautical miles into our dream of sailing around the world.