The Route du Rhum expresses elements of stress, hardship, tension and pure pleasure. In this exceptional solo race the skippers experience moments of intensity that are difficult to explain to those who have not been there.
Seven boats have finished in Guadeloupe, but there are still 23 skippers who continue to experience these moments. Currently their reward is surfing in the warm winds of the trades, but there is still a struggle with difficult squalls. For some like the newly arrived Roland Jourdain it's all over...
Roland Jourdain missed out on the battle for first, when he had to carry out a pit stop in Madeira to repair a tear in the mainsail, but stormed the rankings after leaving Madeira in eighth position. The popular top French skipper finished fourth at 17:59:04 GMT yesterday after 16 days 5 hours 14 minutes and 4 seconds and an average of 11.22 knots across the water. With this position Jourdain secures victory in the annual IMOCA 60 Championship, after a successful year 2002, winning every entered race before the Route du Rhum (1st Grand Prix de Larmor Plage, 1st Regata Rubicon, 1st Grand Prix Crudeli de Marseille).
Miranda Merron from Hamble, UK, is putting on an impressive performance in her first solo race. She has been keeping up with the pace of the monohull 60' pack on her older generation 60-foot monohull UUDS, launched in 1992. The British skipper has encountered a few nasty clouds, slowing her down in the anticyclone zone and later on forcing her to reduce sails in the vicious squalls of the trade winds. Life is not always that easy sailing solo across the Atlantic: "Yesterday, was a super day for the small gennaker with the type of wind I had...I got out the small gennaker, and there I discovered that one part hadn't been sewn back together during a repair some months ago. As a result I spent a good part of the afternoon sewing! Finally everything was ready, I hoisted it... and the wind dropped. At sunset, I gybed, and the gennaker, furled for the gybe, began to balloon out at the top so I had to dump it quickly. And just to round off the 'entertainment' for the day, the gennaker halyard got stuck towards the top. I'm now keeping an eye out for squalls. There is one sole cumulus monster here, and it has us in its sights. I have just emptied the swimming pool at the stern of the boat again - the water is coming in through one of the rudders. Other than that, we have less than 1000 nautical miles to the finish, good news, even if at this speed it may well take a bit of time."
Nick Moloney, leading the class 2 monohulls on Ashfield Healthcare (50-foot) had 549.2 miles to go at 1900 GMT and is ahead of six bigger 60-foot monohulls! He is expected to finish late Wednesday or Thursday. "Last night was my worst night so far. It was all going so well. We were sailing along with the gennaker up and full main at about nine knots, pretty relaxed...then suddenly we were hit by a big squall... BANG, I ran on deck oilskin trousers half way on....I grabbed the helm, smoked the gennaker sheet, but it was too late, we literally flew into a too HUGE wipeout, mainsail in the water....then BANG again and the tack line broke leaving the gennaker free flying! BIG BIG wipeout. I really thought it was all over. I don't know how the mast is still up, the mainsail was totally inverted and full of water at the foot. I managed to get control of Ashfield Healthcare eventually and we bore away and took off again at I've no idea what speed..."
He couldn't see anything and admits to having been more than a bit nervous! "....Then to really finish it off, 20 minutes later I'm sat in the middle of this cloud with absolutely no wind at all, sails flapping, wind going around 360 degrees, total despair. What a night....I've kept the genoa up this morning and not yet changed back to the gennaker..."
And finally good news for Loïck Peyron. Despite losing Fujifilm in the storms he is Orma Champion 2002 whilst Michel Desjoyeaux takes second and Marc Guillemot completes the podium.
Overall rankings Basse-Terre- finish line
Since the first edition, this race within the race, initiated by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Guadeloupe which has funded a total of 20 000 Euros, is very highly valued by the skippers. Here is the ranking, albeit it temporary, after the arrival of the first six. The distance of this course is 25.4 nautical miles and two rankings exist: monohulls and multihulls (without distinction of class).
Multihull rankings :
1 Géant in 2hr 19' 21''
2 La Trinitaine-Ethypharm in 2hr 22' 54''
3 Banque Populaire in 2hrs
Monohull rankings :
1 Kingfisher in 4hr 02' 00''
2 Ecover en 4hr 16'24''
3 Arcelor Dunkerque in 4hr 08' 24''