Off and away
When the eighth Route du Rhum got underway at 13:02 on Sunday, the 74 solo sailors set off in a light westerly headwind blowing 5-8 knots. For these first miles in the Channel, the two Gitanas erred on the side of caution by choosing to take up a position windward of the fleet. Gitana 11 was 3rd past the Cape Frehel mark, the first reference point on the race's route.

It's not easy to pull right away from that starting line and finding a fresh breeze to leave that cathartic cannon sound far behind! Thierry Duprey du Vorsent and Lionel Lemonchois succeeded in ensconcing themselves in the middle of the fleet of competitors, not to mention the numerous spectator boats, to depart in the face of a light west to north-westerly towards the Cape Frehel mark. While Michel Desjoyeaux, winner of the last Route du Rhum, took up pole position by slipping to the bottom of the line, the two Gitanas opted for a more cautious route to the north of the fleet in order to pick up on clearer wind for this first part of the course. For although the ranking at the first and last-but-one mark before arriving in Guadeloupe was far from crucial, it at least allowed a good number of launches and dinghies to be left behind, lowering stress levels heightened by the chance of a collision.

Amidst a light wind that was quite unstable in terms of direction, the primary aim was to find the balance between high performance and safety: by avoiding having to make too many manoeuvres, Lionel Lemonchois (Gitana 11) was able to swiftly find his rhythm, as was Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (Gitana 12). Consequently, by the fateful passage before emerging from the Channel, the two Gitana Team skippers had managed to strike the right balance between a good position and a gradual build-up. As the first night tends to be decisive as regards the correct handling of a light and highly unstable wind so as to exit the Channel at the head of the pack… According to the weather info, the trimarans that arrive first off Ushant will find it easier to take advantage of a stern breeze to accelerate towards the Azores, the first really severe test of this Route du Rhum. But the particular situation which reigns over the Atlantic, with a large low-pressure front to negotiate to the north, suggests the race will be extremely tight right up to the finish at Pointe à Pitre, and particularly fast too… The two Gitanas have already waved goodbye to the first obstacle (the start): now they need to find a safe way out of the first trap, the Channel!

Passing of the Cape Frehel mark: 

    1st : Groupama at 02h56'35''

    2nd : Géant at 03h01'11"

    3rd : Gitana 11 at 03h02'08"

    4th : Sodebo at 03h02'23"

    5th :: Banque Populaire at 03h02'30"

    6th : Sopra Group at 03h04'30"

    7th : Brossard at 03h04'58"

    8th : Foncia at 03h07'21"

    9th : Gitana 12 at 03h09'22"

    10th : Orange Project at 03h16'50"

Next ranking : 08:00 pm
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