The love story between the public and the Route du Rhum is more topical than ever. Indeed, for ten days, over two million people have flocked to the ramparts of the corsair city to come and admire the boats and bid fair winds to the solo sailors. Yesterday, during the exit from the lock, the crowds were out in force once again, forming a very impressive guard of honour with the hundreds of craft at the exit from the locks. This Sunday, despite the complicated weather conditions on the race zone off Saint Malo, fans flocked to the start zone offshore of Pointe du Grouin without a moment’s hesitation, others heading for Cap Fréhel to bid the sailors a final farewell before they headed offshore.
18 high-risk miles
Ninety-one competitors on the same start line, hundreds of ribs containing a mixture of enthusiasts and shore crews, dozens of passenger launches, not to mention a good fifteen or so media helicopters filling the skies… the race zone off Saint Malo was certainly hectic this Sunday afternoon. Though the weather conditions were quite manageable, with a south-westerly breeze of fifteen knots or so, the squalls which the solo sailors encountered on the way to Fréhel did spice things up a bit at the start of the 10th edition of the Route du Rhum. “The start was lively, but no more than usual… the Rhum living up to its reputation,” smiled Cyril Dardashti, the team manager of the racing stable with depicted by its five arrows, on his return to the dock. “The 18 miles to Fréhel are always a stressful moment for the team. For Sébastien first of all, but also for the shore crew, as you can never be protected from a collision. In fact we had a real fright just before rounding the Fréhel mark with a broken-down rib sitting across Sébastien’s path. He got off to a careful start as he wanted, in the knowledge that the goal was to pass Fréhel in the leading group, in contact with the front runners and without any hitches.”
1hr12 after the start, the Maxi80 Prince de Bretagne was leading the way as they rounded Fréhel. A few minutes later, at 1520 hours to be precise, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild was forging along in fifth position.
A boisterous beat in the English Channel
The first night at sea promises to be a long one for the fleet participating in the Route du Rhum -Destination Guadeloupe. Leading the way, the Ultimes are tacking their way along to escape the Channel as quickly as possible. However, over the coming hours, they will have to negotiate the passage of a new front. Before the arrival of the latter, the wind is set to pick up as Sébastien Josse explained this morning: “In the evening, the wind is set to gradually increase, reaching 20 knots offshore of Perros-Guirec, 30 knots off Aber Wrac’h then 35 knots as the front rolls through tonight on the approach to Ushant. It will be a boisterous introduction with a first sleepless night, where it will be difficult to let go of the helm. Tomorrow afternoon, we should get a moment’s respite before the wind picks up again early on the second night.”