Conditions could not have been better for spectators and sailors alike at the 11th edition and 40th anniversary staging of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.
The fleet revelled in 20 knots of breeze coming off the land on a beautiful Autumn afternoon as the solo transatlantic race got underway in spectacular style today off the Brittany port of Saint Malo, as a record entry of 123 skippers set sail for Guadeloupe.
At the front of the fleet the awesome ULTIME trimarans, led by Seb Josse on Maxi Solo Edmond de Rothschild, were hitting 30 knots of boatspeed.
Among those in their wake were the leading IMOCA monohulls showing their paces with foils lifting the boats from the water as they sped westwards led by France’s Vincent Riou on PRB.
But before they can enjoy a fast ride to the Caribbean in the trade winds, all the sailors will have to face some very rough weather that is coming their way on Tuesday.
The predictions are for big seas, 35-knot winds gusting to 55 knots and a weather picture showing very unstable conditions for most of the rest of the week.
It is thought that some of the skippers in the slower classes will decide to head for refuge in ports west and south of Saint Malo – like Roscoff or La Rochelle – and prefer to wait for the weather to ease, rather than risk damaging their boats early in the piece.
Race rules permit them to make a stop of this kind without penalty.
At the gate at Cap Fréhel the fleet leader was Seb Josse who is awarded the Trophée du Cap Fréhel Banque Populaire Grand Ouest.
But he had François Gabart in MACIF on his tail with Armel le Cleac’h in third place not far behind on Maxi Solo Banque Populaire.
The next group to pass the gate were the Multi50s where the trophy went to Armel Tripon on Réauté Chocolat followed by Thibaut Vauchel Camus on Solidaires en Peloton Arsep and then Erwan Le Roux on FenêtreA–Mix Buffet.
In the 20-strong IMOCA class Riou was still setting the pace on his orange PRB, now fitted with foils, with his fellow countryman Jérémie Beyou second on the brand new Charaland then Boris Herrmann’s Malizia II – Yacht Club de Monaco in third place.
In Class40s, meanwhile, the race to Cap Fréhel was led by Antoine Carpentier on Beyond the Seas with Nicolas Troussel on his tail on Corum followed by Kito de Pavant on Made in Midi.