Rhum within the reach

A new 100 percent amateur transatlantic race has set sail from La Trinité-sur-Mer (Morbihan, Brittany) with 40 yachts.

Photography by D. Ravon - Ready Prod - A. Dujoncquoi - CMT Martinique

02 May 2022


The first edition of the Cap-Martinique set sail on Sunday 1 May from La Trinité-sur-Mer (Brittany, France).

This 3,800-mile race is a unique new transatlantic race connecting the Morbihan region and Fort-de-France in Martinique (West Indies). For the first time in France, a non-stop transatlantic race open solely to amateurs will set sail as a fleet of 40 boats this Sunday.

“We don’t often realise what a challenge it is to race across the Atlantic. It’s a small Route du Rhum for the competitors,” explains Jean-Philippe Cau, co-organiser alongside Thibaut Derville.

Indeed, it’s the first time that non-professional sailors have been offered the chance to compete in such a long and demanding race all of their own. The legendary Transquadra race allows for a stopover in Madeira (Portugal) for instance.


The ‘Springboks’ in it to win it

Tailor-made for experienced sailors, the appeal of this race extends far beyond French shores, boasting competitors from the UK, Holland and even a crew from Cape Town in South Africa.

With three days to go until the start, Adrian Kuttel and Gerry Hegie apologise for the mess aboard their brand new JPK 10.30. There are lines all over the cockpit, but the boat may well be the most prepared of the fleet.

“As we aren’t familiar with La Trinité-sur-Mer, we wanted to do as much as possible in Cape Town,” explains Adrian, who’s entrusted the meticulous preparation to Gerry.

False modesty aside, the two friends are in it to win it, though they realise that there are still a great many unknowns to contend with, starting with this course in the northern hemisphere, a real Terra Incognita for them.

“When you set sail from Cape Town, you have your bearings, but here, you have no idea what awaits you. There may be a lot of breeze or none at all. Equally, we don’t know how the finish will play out in Martinique. We’ll have to wait and see!”

The two ‘Springboks’ don’t yet have a grasp of the subtleties of IRC, which enables different boats to compete against one another.

Some competitors are making a science of it, an art even, but the South African crew have opted for a more pragmatic approach: “We’re taking everything we can get. We know we’ll have a poor rating, but we hope to make faster headway,” smiles Adrian, from behind his Father Christmas beard.

He welcomes the millimetre precision of the Race Organisation, which is leaving nothing to chance. “It’s very professional. We’re getting a lot of assistance and every detail is checked before the start,” enthuses the sailor, who’s already participated in some of the world’s major races.

Setting the bar high

“We’ve set the bar high in terms of competitive standard required with compulsory qualifications, scrutineering of the boats and a line-up that is very much up to scratch,” says Jean-Philippe Cau.

“We have some seasoned racers, who we’re very familiar with, and that’s a guarantee of confidence prior to the start.”

The race is open to double-handed as well as singlehanded crews, grouped together within the same ranking. In fact, the recent Transquadra, contested in February, showed that a solo sailor could well excel in elapsed time.

The other element that sets the fleet apart is the choice of yard. There is no ‘builder’s ranking’, but the race is also played out between different types of boat.

The firm favourites are sailing aboard JPK 10.30s (JPK) and Sun Fast 3300s (Jeanneau); two cutting-edge machines capable of some wild surfing at over 20 knots.

A Rhum within the reach of amateurs

This is a dream come true for these women and men, a little Route du Rhum of sorts within reach of amateurs. Indeed, this race is aimed at those for whom the sea is not their profession, forcing the competitors to put their jobs and careers on hold temporarily whilst they race across the Atlantic.

Hervé Chataigner, a surgeon in Besançon explains, “I’m doing it because I love singlehanded racing; it’s a remarkable race. It’s important to realise that we’re privileged to be able to do this. The most powerful moment is seeing land once you get to the other side after 20 days at sea. It’s an unforgettable moment, which you never tire of.”

Thibaut Derville, co-organiser, salutes this performance.

“These sailors have managed to reconcile what is often a hectic professional life and their passion. This requires a great deal of sacrifice. One doesn’t necessarily realise what an almighty feat it is to cross the Atlantic under sail. For a great many of them, it’s the race of a lifetime.”

See you in 2024

With 40 boats already signed up for the first edition, the Cap-Martinique has demonstrated that it has found its audience. Those sailors who haven’t been able to take this year’s start can already set a date for the upcoming editions in 2024 and 2026.



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