Where the Orma trimarans are concerned, the eighth edition of the Route du Rhum / La Banque Postale promises to be particularly open, courtesy of the highly motivated skippers and, for the early days of the race at least, quite favourable weather conditions. Basically, the start and the exit from the Channel will be manageable or even calm, judging by the five-day forecasts, with a small, unsevere low-pressure front generating a westerly wind of less than ten knots, then a rising easterly tide also less than ten knots for the first night at sea! For late October, it ranks as a major surprise… And for as long as the first 48 hours, the sea should be noticeably calmer than over the last few days, when we have seen the Gulf of Gascony swept by a very strong storm. It's good news for the dozen solo sailors, who will need to keep their eyes peeled for maritime traffic (cargo ships, fishing boats, ferries, etc.) on this first section of the route, as well as remaining alert to the dangers of the Brittany coast. From then on, the remainder of the 3,500-mile route from Saint-Malo to Pointe à Pitre is not quite so predictable…
Before the race gets underway it is always perilous making predictions given the crucial importance of the boat-skipper pairing on this event. The reigning Multi Cup 2006 champion, Franck Cammas, who won all the meetings from London-Nice to the Grand Prix de Fécamp, is certainly among the favourites, as is the winner of the last Route du Rhum, Michel Desjoyeaux. That said, the two Gitana Team skippers are not here merely to make up the numbers, for Lionel Lemonchois impressive track record spans the solo, double-handed and crew disciplines, while Thierry Duprey du Vorsent has grown stronger all season with his youthful crew. Nevertheless, going solo on a trimaran is a world away from crewed sailing and what's more, this type of course between Brittany and the Caribbean does not offer the same strategic dimensions in terms of trajectory and onboard routine.
Elsewhere, Yvan Bourgnon and Thomas Coville have opted to focus on solo sailing all summer by attacking the ocean-going records. Also deserving of a mention are recognised sailing talents such as Alain Gautier, taking part in his third Rhum, plus Steve Ravussin and Pascal Bidégorry, along with the Guadelupian Claude Thélier, who's competing on the ex-Primagaz, the trimaran that holds the record time for the event: 12 days, 8 hours, 41 minutes and 6 seconds.
Given the weather conditions for the first few days and the fact that the trimarans are clearly faster than eight years ago, it's a time that should logically be bettered! Despite this imposing field, Lionel Lemonchois and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent are both calm and collected, primarily due to the tremendous efforts made by the entire Gitana Team to ensure that they depart under optimum conditions. And while Lionel Lemonchois boasts a lot more experience of the specialist format of solo ocean racing than Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, both are equally determined to cross the Atlantic cleanly and as rapidly as possible in order to do justice to the sterling efforts of their shore teams.