Route De Rhum 2018
History of the race
The Route du Rhum is a transatlantic single-handed yacht race, which takes place every 4 years. The race is between Saint Malo, France and Guadeloupe. The first competition was won by Canadian Michael Birch by a margin of 1 minute and 38 seconds in 1978, and was marked in tragedy by the disappearance of sailor Alain Colas during the crossing.
Why we went
We are always up for an adventure and due to family connections (Phil and Richard are cousins), we had Route du Rhum in the pipeline since the last race in 2014. This year with a bigger fleet we had the availability to offer Phil Sharp Racing a guard and hospitality vessel for race preparation and start.
Getting to Saint Malo
Our initial plan had been to head to Saint Malo on race day (Sunday November 4th). Due to forecast southerly force 6 winds with a rather rough sea state overnight, we decided to head south, daytime, on Saturday November 3rd. Conditions weren’t particularly favourable for our crossing with our average speed of around 14 knots taking us roughly 2.5 hours. We decided to take advantage of the high tide and transit through the Minquiers shortening our journey.
On arrival in Saint Malo at around 1730 local time it was quickly clear how big this event was. We sat outside the harbour waiting for Phil and the team to dock-out. The atmosphere was incredible, all of the harbour walls lined with hundreds of people, smaller boats all congregating to watch the action and ferries trying not to run anyone over. Once we had found Phil’s outer mooring for his boat Imerys Clean Energy we left his colleague on board to ensure nothing happened in the night. After a quick interview with ITV Channel News we then moored up Seafari Eagle for the night.
After dropping Phil at Imerys Clean Energy earlier in the morning, we took to the water again around midday to make sure that they had proceeded to the start area successfully. Once we ascertained everything was running smoothly we had a quick blast around the fleet to check on the competitors. After hearing that the trimarans can reach speeds of 45 knots it was great to see Banque Populaire skippered by Frenchman Armel Le Cléac'h steaming along before race start.
The start line
One of the best ways to describe race start is that it’s basically organised chaos. Hundreds of different vessels ranging from small ribs to 14m+ motor cruisers all in a confined space travelling around 10-12 knots. The combined wash from these boats made navigating difficult enough, combine this with the boat to boat proximity made it very challenging indeed. Phil got off to a good start, we were able to follow him for over an hour giving him the best send off possible.
Phil managed a brilliant Class 40 3rd place aboard Imerys Clean Energy and at no easy feat, altogether the boat chinese gybed twice and broached at least 30 times during the race, not a nice experience at day or night. He held 2nd place for 70% of the race, an outstanding performance on an old boat with a faulty autopilot.