The art of choosing the right route
As hours go by, the Route du Rhum final podium is getting clearer, and it looks as though no one will steal Steve Ravussin's first place (if no technical incident occurs). Lalou Roucayrol, aboard Banque Populaire, is becalmed in the north of the Azores high pressure zone since Saturday, while Michel Desjoyeaux, sailing south of the leader, is still doing 20 knots and takes a serious option on the second place in the final rankings. Three boats, three different route choices : a situation that Marc Guessard, co-router* and responsible for strategy for the Gitana Team, analyses for us.

Frustrated, disappointed and aware of the fact that he had presumably lost his second place, Lalou Roucayrol said yesterday during the daily audio session : "it's a drag, I can't seem to get out of this". Banque Populiare is having trouble exceeding 5 knots of speed, while down below, Michel Desjoyeaux is on the southern expressway. What separates the two skippers ? The Azores high and related light airs, which each of the two men have chosen to avoid in different ways. "I still do not understand why Lalou Roucayrol went up north, wonders Marc Guessard, and most of all why he kept on persisting in that option. Maybe he wanted to try something different from the leader's route, in order to avoid being on the same trajectory. If he had gone right behind Ravussin, he would have encountered the same conditions, obtained the same boat speed, which would not have allowed him to close the gap. Maybe he tried to pull a trick ? We must not forget that Lalou might have some technical problems we're not informed of, and which may have forced him to chose this option".

Anticipation and reactivity

"As far as Ravussin is concerned (the Swiss skipper was leading by more than 500 miles this morning, and should cross the finish line late Thursday night - editor's note), he has always had wind. It's a situation we had seen evolving since the start of the race : it was clear that the trade winds would be settled in the south of the Azores high, and that this situation would be steady. Michel Desjoyeaux played it safe by choosing to stop in Madera and not in the Azores archipelago, which has allowed him to keep some wind all the way, to fight back as soon as possible : as a result, he's about to take the second place from Lalou Roucayrol thanks to his southern route... It's the same option we had decided upon for Lionel Lemonchois, and it's all the more frustrating to have broken the mast... Especially since our strategy was destined to spare the gear ! Because a route is plotted according to what we know of the boat's settings and strong or weak points, and according to the skipper as well. Our task is also to anticipate. Then, of course, Lionel remains the ship's master, and he decides if he has to tack or not... Anyway, he's not the kind of guy who accepts to be remote-controlled".

*with Sylvain Mondon, from the French Weather Bureau (Météo France)

About the Route du Rhum

The content that appears on this website is protected by copyright.
Any reproduction or representation is strictly forbidden.

For further information, please refer to the legal notice section.
Enter at least 4 characters...