21 November 2018
Two days into the third week of the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, Pointe-à-Pitre was able to celebrate two great winners in the Rhum Multi class and in the hotly-fought Class40 division of the 3,542-nautical mile solo transatlantic race.
In the amateur Rhum Multi class the outright leader since the start off Saint Malo in Brittany on November 4 and the convincing winner 16 days later was the veteran French sailor Pierre Antoine on his trusty wooden trimaran, Olmix.
In Class40s the victor, who was again the dominant competitor but this time in a field of 53 boats, is Antoine’s fellow French skipper Yoann Richomme on board Veedol-AIC. Richomme got in today well ahead of Aymeric Chapellier on Aina Enfance et Avenir and Britain’s Phil Sharp on Imerys Clean Energy still locked in their private battle for second place.
Hailing from landlocked Amiens, Antoine is a remarkable sailor who at the age of 56 was taking on his fourth Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. He won his class in 2006 but had to abandon the race four years ago when his yacht was hit by a violent lightening bolt, requiring an extensive programme of repairs and re-building.
This time Olmix, which was built back in 1991 and is a boat that Antoine knows inside out, had no such dramas as her skipper sailed a textbook race through early storms and then into the trade winds. He stopped only briefly to pick up the Multi50 skipper Lalou Roucayrol from his upturned trimaran, Arkema, about 1,000 miles east of Guadeloupe.
Antoine’s time was 15 days, 21 hours and 15 minutes which sets a new record for the Rhum Multi class. “It is always special to be at the start of this race, fantastic – it is a step out of the comfort zone to do things that we don’t usually do, and so to win it is great, and a conclusive win is so much the better,” said Antoine as the celebrations began ashore.
“I was lucky with the tough conditions at the start because that really favoured my good, solid Olmix, which has already started the Route du Rhum five times, so it feels so good to finish with such a win.
“It was never going to be easy because in this division there were several boats with the same potential and skippers with the experience required. But the bad weather really sorted things out. When I saw a little opening in the weather I really pushed to get clear and that was what allowed me to build this margin, getting into easier weather quickly. I owe my weather router, Dominic Vittet, a big thanks. We worked well together and that let us get away.
“There was no respite, no let-up,” he added. “I just pushed and went fast. It was like a non-stop rodeo.
There was no route for us to the north and west and so we had to work the best of the southerly routing. And of course I did not have to stop (for repairs). Then the trade winds were strong, more than 20kts. When it is blowing more than 25 knots it is like being on a flying carpet.
“I had dreamed of winning this time,” he continued. “My first win was a bit hollow because it was a war of attrition and most of my rivals had to abandon or capsized. This time there were 21 starters in our class and several of them were potential winners.”
When Richomme arrived after 16 days, three hours and 22 minutes at sea on board his Class40 yacht, Veedol-AIC, at 16:22.45UTC he had taken more than half a day off the previous best time for these exciting monohulls. The Frenchman who trained as a naval architect in Southampton and is based in Lorient was overjoyed to have won so convincingly in a competitive fleet.
This had been a textbook race for Richomme and indeed a textbook campaign as he built a new boat, put it through its paces – including dealing with a dismasting early on – and then produced it on the racecourse to devastating effect. Veedol-AIC was faster than the others and its skipper sailed an almost perfect race.
Richomme led the Class40 fleet from day two onwards, having initially sailed a conservative line close to the most direct route – the rhumb line. But he then made a move to the west which allowed him to sail a faster angle earlier than his rivals. He demonstrated great confidence in his boat but showed too a Figaro sailor’s feel for high tempo without going into the red.