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Route du Rhum Sets Sail From Brittany to Guadeloupe

As this edition of ‘Lectronic Latitude posts, the record-breaking fleet of 138 solo sailors have now been at sea for about 48 hours in the 12th edition of the Route du Rhum. After a three-day delay — to allow a powerful storm front with supersized waves to pass — the race got underway in champagne conditions. Two days into the race, there has been no shortage of action and drama among the fleet. Meanwhile, the racing at the front remains red-hot in almost every division. While the delayed start allowed for the worst of the conditions to pass, some competitors have still had to contend with up to 45 knots of breeze as they sail through a cold front.

Armel Le Cléac'h addresses the press
Armel Le Cléac’h answers media questions on the docks in Lorient. While sailing at 20 knots, the main foil (on the main hull) of his trimaran Banque Populaire XI broke off. There was no obvious cause for the failure, and no impact was noted. Armel sailed the boat back to La Base in Lorient. His team is evaluating their options to get the boat back onto the race course or to retire.
© 2022 Voile Banque Populaire

Maxi Trimarans

The most highly anticipated battle in this Route du Rhum is undoubtedly that of the Ultim 32/23 class trimarans. Charles Caudrelier and his trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (aka Gitana 17) has proven to be the class benchmark for years, and he has led this edition of the Route du Rhum since the start. Originally penalized four hours for crossing the starting line early, his team  successfully challenged the race committee, leaving Caudrelier well and truly in the lead. Hot on his heels, however, is François Gabart on his new trimaran SVR Lazartigue, which has now pulled alongside Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Thomas Coville on Sodebo Ultim 3 is not far behind in third place.

maxi trimarans
Charles Caudrelier’s Maxi Edmond de Rothschild leads Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire XI at the start of the race. Le Cléac’h showed impressive speed and was fighting for the lead when his main foil broke and he had to head back to port.
© 2022 Route du Rhum

IMOCA 60 Fleet

The second-most high-profile battle in the fleet is that of the massive 37-boat IMOCA 60 fleet. Charlie Dalin and Apivia have unsurprisingly shown a definite boat-speed advantage over the rest of the fleet. Dalin has led since the start, though the tracker has at times shown other boats in first due to their being more northerly in their position and on a shorter theoretical route. Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut has consistently been the second-quickest boat in the fleet. Kevin Escoffier’s newly launched Holcim PRB has proven to be the quickest of the new builds and has generally been in third place. English sailor Pip Hare, sponsored by the San Francisco-based company Medallia, has been hovering around 30th place.

Repairing damaged bow sprit
Japanese IMOCA sailor Kojiro Shiraishi did not notice when English sailor Oliver Heer tacked back over to starboard to get closer to shore and gain more current relief as the fleet neared the first turning mark at Cape Frehel. The two IMOCAs collided, with the Japanese sailor at fault and subsequently retiring. Back at the docks in Saint-Malo, Shiraishi’s DMG Mori team has been all-hands-on-deck to help repair Oliver Heer’s boat Oliver Heer Ocean Racing, and to help him get back into the race. Here, the team works on the main damage, which is to the bowsprit and pulpit area.
© 2022 DMG Mori Sailing Team

Class 40 Fleet

The largest fleet in the race is that of the Class 40s, with an incredible 55 starters. Bay Area native Alex Mehran, one of two Americans in the fleet, is sailing the race of his life right now and is currently in fifth place. Ahead of Mehran is a trio of Figaro hotshots and Ian Lipinski on Credit Mutuel, which has more or less been the benchmark for the Class 40 fleet for the past three years. Former Mini Transat winner Coretin Douguet is currently leading on Queguiner-Innoveo, though the fleet is extremely close. Likewise, the Ocean Fifty trimaran fleet is also extremely close and competitive, with Quentin Vlamynck on Arkema currently in the lead.

This race is still in its infancy, with a ton of racing left to go! The weather synopsis again looks complicated, with the passage of a front and multiple routing options to get to the trade winds. Stay tuned for more updates.

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