Whilst virtually the whole Calais Round Britain Race has been coloured by breezes of less than 18 knots and a good dose of fog over the past 1,815 miles, the last few tacks were devoured at high speed in a westerly air flow, building dramatically over the course of the afternoon to reach in excess of 25 knots on the approach to Pas de Calais! Accompanied by Sébastien JOSSE (FRA), Hugues DESTREMAU (FRA), Eric CARRET (FRA) and Jean-Marc FAILLER (FRA), RIOU has taken 9 days, 7 hours, 7 minutes and 36 seconds at an average speed of 8.13 knots to circumnavigate the British Isles, racking up his second victory in this event after that of 2003 (in 9 days, 9 hours, 48 minutes and 51 seconds).
The winner of the last Vendée Globe has perfectly controlled his ten competitors, only leaving Jean LE CAM (FRA) and VM Matériaux the lead for a day and a half as the fleet hot-footed it out of the Channel. Though the two crews shadowed each other around the coast of Ireland, it was during the tacking frenzy offshore of the Hebrides that PRB really managed to break away, whilst LE CAM persevered right the way along the coastline of the Isle of Lewis.
RIOU broke the tactical control to concentrate on strategy, by making as much northing as possible so as to be the first to reap the benefits of a wind shift expected over Shetland. And with a 10 mile lead at Saint Kilda (8 June at 12:00), they stretched their lead to 20 miles as they passed Muckle Flugga at the northern tip of the archipelago, at 61° North (9 June 20:00).
Whilst his competitors were still sailing upwind in a bid to round Shetland, PRB was able to sprint off downwind and increase their lead to 30 miles (10 June at 06:00), then 55 miles (11 June at 04:00) off Newcastle. The lead gradually extended during the descent of the North Sea and despite the windless zones forecast before the finish, the distance between them and the chasing pack barely fluctuated. All that changed was that LE CAM left second place to Jérémie BEYOU's (FRA) Delta Dore, 40 miles astern of RIOU (12 June at 04:00).
After being unfortunate during the last Route du Rhum following a dismasting the day after the start, RIOU can be satisfied with his effective winter programme of work in Port la Forêt, NW France, where his latest generation Farr design was built. An excellent taster of the kind of performance that is in view for the Fastnet Race (August) and the double-handed circumnavigation with JOSSE in the Barcelona World Race (starting November).
Behind this unrivalled winner, BEYOU is likely to finish in the early hours of Wednesday after a pretty little easterly offshore option in the North Sea, closely followed by LE CAM and a little further back, Dominique WAVRE (SUI) on Temenos.
Behind, the battle for fifth place is still very much on. Four monohulls are still very bunched with a last stretch of tacking still ahead for Generali, Artemis Ocean Racing, Roxy and Akena Vérandas. Dee CAFFARI's (GBR) Aviva is bringing up the rear, with a finish expected on Wednesday night.
All of these crew will be keen to beat the record for the Dover-Calais crossing, held by Charles HEIDRICH in 2003, in a time of 1 hour, 18 minutes and 50 seconds. A time which RIOU and his four crew have just beaten in a time of 1 hour, 8 minutes and 57 seconds at an average speed of 7.35 knots.