Daily Yacht Boat News

Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe

Team Arkema gives first details of Roucayrol’s capsize

The ninth day at sea in the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race saw the second capsize in this 11th edition of the four-yearly classic when a 50ft trimaran flipped over about 1,000 nautical miles east of Guadeloupe.

The first capsize came at the end of day two of the 3,452-nautical mile race a week ago when one of the biggest yachts in the 123-strong fleet, Banque Populaire IX, turned over after a major structural failure in a gale midway between the coast of Spain and the Azores. The boat’s skipper, Frenchman Armel Le Cleac’h, was quickly rescued by a Spanish fishing boat.

This time the yacht going upside down is the Multi50 class trimaran Arkema skippered by Lalou Roucayrol, another French sailor who is based near Bordeaux. Roucayrol is one of the most experienced solo offshore racers in big multihulls and was competing in his fourth Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.

In an initial message to his shore team he said the boat became over-powered by a sudden and violent spike in the easterly trade wind as he ran downwind towards the finish at Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe. He did not have time to stop his yacht tipping over but was able to keep safe within the main hull.

Giving further details today, the Team Arkema spokeswoman, Marie–Astrid Parendeau, said Roucayrol spent about four hours cutting the rig away from the boat and had spent time in the water doing this. The hull has not been damaged by the mast and Roucayrol has managed to salvage one of his sails. He is now safely back on board and has enough food for three or four days and water supplies for 10 days.

Route-du-Rhum-Destination-Guadeloupe4a

Route-du-Rhum-Destination-Guadeloupe4a

Ms Parendeau said a cargo ship has been diverted to his position but Roucayrol has made it clear he does not want to be rescued and is staying with his boat until a tug chartered by the team from Martinque reaches him in four days time.

Roucayrol was racing in fourth place at the time of the capsize and was about 400 miles behind the class leader, Armel Tripon on Réauté Chocolat. Tripon on his brown trimaran is now just over 500 miles from the finish and is expected at the line at around mid-day Universal Time tomorrow.

He has also been experiencing alarming variations in windspeed and has elected to take it easy to avoid suffering a similar fate as Roucayrol. “It could be better,” said a tired Tripon this morning. “That has been the most complicated, difficult night I’ve had since the start with gusts of 33-34 knots under gennaker. The sea got big quickly; it was really hard, so a tense night. So this morning, I rolled away the gennaker and it is away until the seas subside – it is a really difficult end to the race.”

About 12 hours after Tripon is expected to reach the line, the next finisher is expected to be Britain’s Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss who has led the 20-strong IMOCA monohull class almost continually from the start on November 4th. Thomson is just over 700 miles from the finish and about 160 miles ahead of his nearest pursuer (Paul Meilhat of France on SMA) and can’t wait to complete what will be his first victory in an IMOCA race.

“I am on my final gybe,” he said in a radio call this morning as Hugo Boss surfed at up to 20 knots in the boisterous trade winds. “I managed to get a bit of sleep over the night, not that much but I am really looking forward to getting in. There is not long now, less than a couple of days. That’s one Fastnet, one Fastnet race, that is all that is left. I should get in in daylight which is good timing really.

“I am a little nervous, yes, but the gap should be big enough,” added Thomson who has a group of four boats chasing him. “I am just trying to sail my normal race really, trying not do anything differently and keep things in the best shape I can. I don’t need to push; on the other hand these boats do go fast. It is quite hard to make them go slow. I am not going to go super-slow; I will sail my normal race and I look forward to getting round the island and in.”

A long way behind him the only Finnish sailor in the IMOCA fleet and indeed in this 40th anniversary edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, Ari Huusella on Ariel II, has provided more detail about the brief and glancing crash between his boat and the monohull of French sailor Sébastien Destremeau who is lying in second place in the Rhum Mono fleet.

The incident happened in the early hours of yesterday in darkness as Huusella was heading west and Destremeau on board Alcatraz It FaceOcean was crossing his path while heading south at a position about 400 miles west-southwest of the Canary Island.

The Finn admitted today that he could see Destremeau approaching using the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that all boats in the race carry, but he had his screen on the wrong setting and did not realise how close the Frenchman – who was asleep and under auto-pilot – would be until it was too late.

“I was inside the boat and saw on the AIS that there was some traffic coming,” said Huusela who, like Destremeau, has been able to continue racing. “I saw the name of the boat and I knew who it was. I called him three times on the VHF but there was no reply. I checked that we were not going to hit on the AIS but our speeds were varying a lot because of the gusts. Sometimes we were going 10 and sometimes 17 knots – it was the same for both boats.

“The thing I did not realise was the scale on my AIS was only at 0.75 miles so the full screen was at less than a mile when he came into my screen. Normally I use the 15-mile scale. I was a bit tired and a bit disorientated and did not realise he was so close. When I realised he was so close, I went outside and I saw the nose of his boat coming at me at 17 knots. I thought ‘oh god, this is going to be the end.’ But luckily I managed to get under him so he hit the back corner of my stern, his bowsprit came into my pushpit, and it came off.”

Huusela said he initially thought the damage to his rigging might bring his mast down but he released the mainsail to ease the load and managed to save it. The sailors then spoke on VHF and Destremeau told him he had been asleep at the time of the crash and that he had some damage to his bowsprit. “We exchanged some emails last night and we are both happy,” added Huusela. “We are lucky because it could have been so much worse.”

In the Class40 fleet the lead remains firmly in the hands of Frenchman Yoann Richomme on Veedol-AIC who has a margin of around 100 miles over second-placed Aymeric Chapellier on Aina Enfance Et Avenir. Chapellier reported today that he blew-up his spinnaker in a squall and has had to spend hours repairing it, turning the inside of his boat into a sewing workshop.

The 38-year-old sailor from La Rochelle was asleep when the boat broached in about 18 knots of breeze. “The sail literally exploded. I had to transform the interior of the boat into a sailmaker’s workshop and I worked on it all day, from sunrise to sunset. It was not easy because I had to leave the boat under the autopilot, with the big spinnaker,” he said.

“But I managed to repair my spinnaker and it held this morning when I used it. That being said, I walk a little on eggs now. I am trying to preserve all my spis, especially in this strange seaway. At times, it is really very short and it requires a lot of manoeuvres, which tires a little man.,” Chappellier added.

Damage for Phil Sharp to repair mid-race in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe - photo © Phil Sharp

Damage for Phil Sharp to repair mid-race in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe – photo © Phil Sharp

Today’s IMOCA analysis by Alain Gautier

It will soon be coming to an end for the leading IMOCA. Ruling supreme, Alex Thomson has kept a good lead over his closest rivals. Paul Meilhat, Vincent Riou and Yann Eliès are fighting it out to make it to the podium, while aiming to be ready to pounce should the British leader show the slightest weakness. On the tenth day of the Route du Rhum, sixteen IMOCAs out of the twenty that set sail are still at sea, although Jérémie Beyou is heading back to Lorient after his electrical power system failed aboard Charal. Today, a previous winner of the Vendée Globe, Alain Gautier, gives us his expert view of the race.

“It’s fascinating to watch the battle that is raging between the first four boats. There are two IMOCAs from the 2016 Vendée Globe generation with foils that cannot be adjusted (Hugo Boss and Ucar-StMichel), one equipped with the new generation of adjustable foils (PRB) and one with straight daggerboards (SMA). Quite naturally, we are wondering about the condition of each of these boats. Who is at 100 %? Who is not? We can see that Hugo Boss in general appears to be showing her full potential. On the other hand, there are a lot of questions still about PRB. We’re wondering too which sails each skipper is using. Alex Thomson is still very fast with angles that are not that much worse than his rivals. That raises some questions. What sail configuration is he using to get such a good VMG (compromise between bearing and speed)?

“It’s amazing that Alex managed to make his getaway like that”

Alex Thomson’s option to the north of the Ushant TSS early in the race gave him a small advantage, but not that much in the end. This year, the gateway to the trade winds was a long way south. Alex nevertheless managed to get back in contact with Paul Meilhat and Vincent Riou and pass in front of them at the latitude of the Canaries. He then got away from them very quickly and has continued to increase his lead. It’s amazing that Alex managed to make his getaway like that. His trajectory has been straighter than his rivals, who have had to carry out more gybes. But above all, it is how he is sailing his boat that has made all the difference. We know that Alex’s foils are especially designed for downwind sailing, but his performance remains remarkable.

“SMA will almost certainly be the fastest of the four around Guadeloupe”

As we saw with the Ultimes, and more recently with the capsize of the Multi 50, Arkema, you need to remain very vigilant, as there are some violent squalls. As for the race around Guadeloupe, we may be in for some surprises and it is going to be interesting to watch the IMOCAs. Hugo Boss clearly does not appreciate light conditions. Alex Thomson needs therefore to reach the top of the island with as strong a lead as possible. If he manages to keep his current lead (160 miles ahead of Paul Meilhat at noon today), he will be able to relax. Aboard an IMOCA, the gaps do not shrink as fast as with the Ultimes, quite simply because the boats are not as fast and there is a less of a speed difference. The fight for the podium is going to be riveting. SMA will almost certainly be the fastest of the four around Guadeloupe, as straight daggerboards are an advantage in light airs.

“Victory by a foreign skipper would benefit the IMOCA class”

Alex Thomson may repeat Ellen MacArthur’s achievement of finishing second in the Vendée Globe and winning the following Route du Rhum. Victory by a foreign skipper would benefit the IMOCA class, even if that might not go down as well in Port-la-Forêt! I can see that this year the Figaro racers haven’t been lucky. François Gabart was beaten by Francis Joyon in the Ultime category and for the moment, it is not a Figaro racer that is best placed in the IMOCA class. That is sufficiently rare to be noted.

“Seguin, Roura, Le Diraison: a great pack of solid sailors”

Boris Herrmann is also having a good race, and is not far behind the leaders. He stuck with his option which allowed him to overtake and then leave the group of Finot-Conq designed boats skippered by Damien Seguin, Alan Roura and Stéphane Le Diraison way behind. These solid sailors form a great pack. They knew they could not aim to win with their older IMOCAs. But in the fight for sixth place, they can push hard aboard their boats which are very similar. Life is good for them. I can’t see Arnaud Boissières catching them, so the three of them will be battling it out to the end.

Well done to Erik Nigon and the Finnish sailor, Ari Huusela, who are sailing well. Completing a Route du Rhum is an achievement, as this is a difficult race. That must be what those sailors who carried out pit stops and set off again must be telling themselves. When you take part in a race like the Route du Rhum, you really have to do your utmost to finish, even if you are way down in the rankings. Clocking up the miles sailing solo is always useful.

I’m deeply disappointed for the two female skippers who were forced to retire, Isabelle Joschke and Sam Davies, as both of them have had a good season and were unable to show what they can do in the most important race of the year. They miss out on a great experience. But they need to look forward now. They are both strong and talented, so I’m not that worried about them.”

Unrelenting conditions for Phil Sharp

Damage has hit wide-spread across all six fleets, including Phil Sharp racing aboard Imerys Clean Energy. Since his first 24 hours of racing where he was forced to climb the mast after halyard failure, repair a significant ballast leak and electronics issues, he has since been tormented with several other problems. On Friday the mainsheet track sheared off and has since been repaired with rope, this then followed by another ballast leak. On Monday the boat’s main intelligent autopilot {self-steering} system failed, causing a crash gybe, from which Phil was able to recover with no sail damage. This has reduced him to the spare, less effective pilot system, forcing Phil to spend an unusual amount of time on the helm, which he is “finding super addictive”. After 20,000 nm of racing signs of mainsail fatigue are beginning to show with the opening of a hole in the lower section, which, ironically occurred today when Phil achieved the best Class40 performance over 24 hours covering 251.5 nm at an average speed of 10.5 kts. Phil reports:

“The conditions are really taking their toll on the boat. Today a hole appeared in the mainsail, fortunately this is currently not too much of a concern, though it does need to be repaired. The trick is trying to make a repair without slowing the boat too much. I will have to climb and repair the sail from the boom whilst the boat is surfing at 15 kts – not easy. For now I have reduced the load going through the corner by tensioning the reefing line above.

“I have repaired the ballast with the great combination of Sikaflex and duct tape – you can fix anything in the world with those two items… Now the valve doesn’t leak even a drop.

“The second half of the race is turning out to be a lot harder than expected. I had the impression that trade wind sailing would be relatively calm and straight forward – sun hat sailing, pilot on, steady conditions. How wrong I was… The place is riddled with squalls and heavy gusts ready to catch you off guard, and the wind strength is right on the transition between big and small spinnaker, in semi-planing conditions, so it is always a tricky choice. However, sometimes when the wind is stronger it is incredible sailing, sitting on a constant plane and accelerating often to 18-20 knts surfing the waves.

“It’s going to be tricky catching Veedol as that boat seems to be able to sail very high VMG the whole time. The trick will be to find an alternative fast strategy if one opens up. It looks like we will have wind all the way to Guadeloupe, but there is no obvious favourable routing, which could be a good opportunity. Then there is the light wind rounding of Guadeloupe which is always tricky…

“This end I am exhausted just keeping up with the weather changes but I’ve adapted quite well to life on board and am in good spirits. The temperature has jumped up big time and there are quite a few flying fish launching from the water when I sail past which I honestly still find incredible to watch.

“Earlier today I crossed tracks with Sidney Gavignet aboard Café Joyeux racing in the Monohull Rhum Class. He is also having big problems with his pilot and like me did a Chinese gybe this morning… It’s nice to have a chat out on the ocean and exchange a few stories.”

by IMOCA Globe Series

About YachtBoatNews