As the 40th edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe passes into its third week at sea at 1400hrs CET this Sunday afternoon, just under half of the 123 solo skippers who started from Saint Malo on Sunday 4th November are still racing.
Tail enders like Eric Bellion, who is currently tenth in the Rhum Mono class, still have just under 2,000 miles still to complete of the 3,542 nautical mile course. At a pace which is altogether more comfortable than his ninth place in the 2016-17 Vendée Globe solo round the world race, Bellion is soon set to pass the latitude of the Azores and Lisbon.
Meanwhile the Class 40 leaders maintain their frenetic tempo in the trade winds, secure in the knowledge that with just 600 miles to sail their race should be over early on Tuesday morning.
A steady margin of 97 miles this morning means long-time leader Yoann Richomme (Veedol AIC) should have enough time in hand to survive a potentially slow and sticky passage around Basse Terre in the usually capricious night time winds. But as has been seen on this dramatic edition of the four yearly race across the Atlantic, anything can happen during the final miles.
Richomme will have one eye on the course record for Class 40 which was set in 2014 by Spain’s Alex Pella at 16 days 17 hours 47 minutes and 8 seconds. Current routing predictions have him finishing inside that mark.
One of the most engaging duels of this race has been the head to head match race between Britain’s Phil Sharp and his long-time rival Aymeric Chappelier. They have been locked in a private battle for second and third since the Bay of Biscay and their duel will almost certainly be decided over those final miles in to Pointe-à-Pitre.
As they trade gybes downwind like prize fighters this morning, Sharp will cross less than one mile ahead of his nemesis, the duo still racing in sight of each other.
In turn this podium scrap is playing out nearly 100 miles ahead of French veteran Kito de Pavant. Third in 2014, de Pavant, describes the downwind ‘zig zags’ this morning:
“A hitch to the west, a hitch to the south. As the wind direction changes all the time we are gybing all the time to make sure we are on the fastest and most direct course towards the finish. This is our game. For the two weeks we have been at sea, Joyon and Gabart (ULTIME racer winners) could have made a round trip, there and back. But these are rather nice conditions. There are no squall clouds now the wind is sustained and regular, as is the sea and so we are charging on at a gallop. When the front of the boat pitches into the back of the next wave we surge to 18 knots and the whole boat is under water, the hull, the deck the cockpit.”
“Our group of seven cowboys has extended away. Yohan is a long way ahead, Phil and Aymeric are going at it for second and third and we are left fighting for the chocolate medal. Arthur (Le Vaillant) gets closer with each ranking, Luke (Berry) is fast and shadows him. It is easy to forget where and when we started. And there will be stress to the finish.”
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