There were a huge amount of people on the water to follow the start of the ninth edition of the Route du Rhum! Added to that, the support ribs tailed the boats until just after Cap Fréhel to ensure there were no collisions in this initial stage of the race, something which is always a cause for concern for the solo sailors and their teams. At 1302 hours, the start gun echoed across the water for the 85 competitors, of which the nine ‘ultimate’ multihulls set off furthest offshore of the line. Franck Cammas was the most prompt under mainsail and small jib, followed by Yann Guichard under mainsail and genoa, whilst Sidney Gavignet was hot on his heels under mainsail and gennaker.
Conditions were perfect then with smooth seas and a departure on an ebbing tide, the whole scenario coloured by overcast skies with the odd break in the clouds. Most importantly, there was a SE’ly breeze of around twelve knots to accompany the fleet. Quarter of an hour later, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild took the head of the race and the separation between the top three and the rest of the fleet was increasing inexorably! With the wind tending to ease as it shifted slightly round to the East, all the solo sailors hoisted their large gennaker, surrounded by a horde of motor boats.
Two hours prior to the start, Yann Guichard shared with us his final impressions and notably his views on the first few miles of the race which promised to be lively given the huge crowds on the water: “We’re going to leave our mooring in a few minutes and it’s a bit stressful as there will be huge amounts of people on the water! I can’t wait for it to be the evening so that I’m free of the coast and the spectators, but I’ll still try to make the most of these first few miles along the coast, as it’s likely to be superb… The former promises to be studious with a fair number of manœuvres to make, but there aren’t many options to be had: you simply have to go fast from the start, because the leaders will enjoy greater rewards in the upcoming weather conditions.”
Entering into solitude
The first justice of the peace was the mark moored off Cap Fréhel, where an incredible crowd were massed beneath the overcast skies, albeit free of rain. Gitana 11 managed to slide to windward of Franck Cammas, but on approaching Cap Fréhel, the breeze ran out of puff and a new series of toings and froings took place just prior to the course mark. Five hundred metres behind the leader, Yann Guichard was forced to link together a set of gybes to free himself of the coast and avoid one of the numerous spectator boats massed around the foot of Cap Fréhel. However, after two good manœuvres to get offshore, the skipper of Gitana 11 regained his smile and the concentration necessary to confidently begin his Atlantic crossing spanning some 3,500 miles!
Second at the 1600 hour position report, the maxi-trimaran in the colours of the Edmond de Rothschild Group was in a good position to exit the English Channel. The first major option will take shape from Monday morning, once the first ‘ultimate’ multihulls have rounded the island of Ushant: will it be a dive down to the SW to pass under the zone of high pressure, or will it be westbound on a direct course? We’ll have to wait a few hours yet before we find out which options they all take.
Ranking for the Ultimate Category on 31st October at 1600 hours
1. Groupama 3 (Franck Cammas) - 15.4 knots
2. Gitana 11 (Yann Guichard) - 1.3 miles / 14.2 knots
3. Oman Air Majan (Sidney Gavignet) - 1.7 miles / 14.6 knots
4. Sodeb’O (Thomas Coville) - 2.9 miles / 14.9 knots
5. Idec (Francis Joyon) - 3.1 mlles / 13.4 knots
6. La Boite à Pizza (Philippe Monnet) - 8.3 miles / 12.0 knots
7. Défi Cancale (Gilles Lamiré) - 10.7 miles / 10.2 knots
8. Saint-Malo 2015 (Servane Escoffier) - 12.3 miles / 7.1 knots
9. Côte d'Or II (Bertrand Quentin) - 16.2 miles / 2.8 knots