Route du Rhum 12th edition finally underway after weather delay

Two Yacht Club of Monaco members among the 138 contestants

Originally scheduled for Sunday, November 6, 2022, but postponed due to weather conditions, the 12th Route du Rhum got underway on Wednesday, November 9, for the six classes and 138 contestants who left from Saint-Malo for Point-a-Pitre, including two Yacht Club de Monaco members,Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) and Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert).

3,542 nautical miles strewn with hazards

It was at 14:15 on the dot that the start of the 12th edition was launched. With a brisk 15-20 knot westerly set in for the duration, the 138 solo sailors left the Brittany coast on one of the most emblematic offshore races. Contestants faced a headwind to start, forcing them to tack repeatedly to get through the gate moored at Cape Fréhel, a lively few miles as they champed at the bit to get out to the open sea.

But before they sight Guadeloupe and drop anchor at Pointe-à-Pitre, they have much to do including a dose of the English Channel with its super-busy shipping lanes, the capricious nature of the Bay of Biscay, trade winds which can blow up to 25 knots, then the Sargasso Sea and its treacherous rafts of floating sargassum algae. So many obstacles to overcome before they can enjoy the Caribbean’s balmy warmth The fastest boats are expected to reach Pointe-à-Pitre in about six days, with the finish line scheduled to close 4th December.

Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert) withdraws & first options for Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Explorer)

After leaving Saint-Malo at 14:15 on Thursday, November 10, 2022 in a brisk 15-20 knot southwesterly, the 12thRoute du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe fleet faced a first strategic decision before the Bay of Biscay. Still in the race, Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) from Yacht Club de Monaco remains in the lead pack in the IMOCA group, while the other YCM member, Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert) has had to withdraw from the Rhum Multi category due to a tear in the mainsail.

Oren Nataf on board Rayon Vert

First twists in the tale

Twenty-four hours after the long-awaited start, facts have emerged: 17 contestants were penalised after a premature start, a collision, a grounding and a retirement, that of Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert) from Yacht Club de Monaco after damage suffered shortly before the start. “We gybed just before releasing the crew and the sail tore in two. We don’t really know why. It was only three years old and not in bad condition,” said Rayon Vert’s skipper who returned to Saint-Malo port late afternoon on Wednesday, just hours after the start of the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. “We looked at all possible solutions with Sidney Gavignet, who is supporting me on this race. We could have had the mainsail repaired, but as I’m not an experienced sailor it wasn’t reasonable to go back out to sea with a sail that was not 100% and could tear again. Also, the weather window is closing. I was all set to leave but that’s the way it is. It’s better that it happened now and not in the middle of the Atlantic. Sailing is a mechanical sport. I would like to thank all the team who have helped me. We will come back stronger in four years”.

While this amateur sailor may not get the opportunity to taste the “Rhum”, he has experienced the intense emotion of a solo offshore start. All the ducks were in a row for the skipper to experience his first solo raceIn the last two years, Oren has immersed himself in offshore racing on his Pulsar 50, learning all there is to know about his boat. He was on the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race then the RORC Transatlantic Race, which he won alongside Alex Pella, and was champing at the bit to tackle this solo transatlantic.

Major test for man and boat

Last night the fleet were in race mode, balancing wind shifts and currents. Boris Herrmann on the YCM Malizia-Seaexplorer is one of 38 IMOCAs competing. After a superb start on the front line, Boris sailed close-hauled on a port tack before heading for the English coast then tacking to go through the mandatory gate at Cap Fréhel which he did at 5.00pm. He spent the first night in the lead pack, heading south as he passed Ile d’Ouessant. Boris is not under pressure for this race on his brand new 60-footer that only left the yard in July. The Route du Rhum is a major test for both man and boat as it is his first solo venture since the Vendée Globe 2020 when he finished 5th.

Boris Herrmann on board Malizia-Explorer

A total of 3,543 nautical miles separate Saint-Malo from Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe with various legendary passage points ahead, such as Cap Finistère, a Bay of Biscay exit that means sailors meet fewer ships than they would in the English Channel. It is a crucial stage, a first big tactical decision: opt for the northern route (the shortest) despite its depressions or head south (and lengthen the route) along the Portuguese coast to find the trade winds.

Today’s Quote

A man is never lost at sea. Ernest Hemingway, American Writer

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