Route du Rhum: nightmarish weather at the start, Italians ready to do battle

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route du rhum
St. Malo docks in quiver for Route du Rhum

Packed docks and electric atmosphere, the wait for the start of the Route du Rhum, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 6, is coming to an end. A total of 120 skippers are ready to set out on the queen of solo transatlantics to tackle the 3,540 miles from St. Malo to Guadeloupe. Looming over the start is the possibility of the arrival of a strong depression with westerly winds even over 40 hours immediately after the start, a situation that obviously deserves the utmost attention of organizers and sailors. Racing will include the Imoca 60s, Class 40s, Ultime trimarans, Multi 50 trimarans and the two Rhum classes open to monohulls and multihulls with compensated time ranking.

Imoca 60s deployed in St. Malo

As many as four Italians are competing in the race; among the Class 40s Ambrogio Beccaria on Allagrande Pirelli, Alberto Bona on IBSA and Andrea Fornaro with Influence will compete. Among the Imoca 60s, Giancarlo Pedote with Prysmian is ready to have his say. Let’s go and see what their chances are in what promises to be a really tough regatta in the competitive aspect.

Route du Rhum – The Imoca 60 and Pedote

Giancarlo Pedote’s Imoca 60 Prysmian

Giancarlo Pedote shows up at the starting line with his partly revised Prysmian. The new bow, designed to lessen wave impacts, is just the first step in a series of changes that will be made to the boat, including foils, before Vendée Globe 2024. Pedote, needless to turn around, does not set out to win because the vehicle he has at his disposal now has a significant performance gap with the latest generation of Imoca.

The Tuscan’s truly attainable sporting goal is to improve his performance and prove that he is capable of staying steadily in the top 10 of a fleet that is simply sidereal in level. On the water will be some of the very latest Imoca boats, such as Jérémie Beyou’s new Charal, although the eve’s favorite is Charlie Dalin, a true matador of Imoca 60 regattas for the past two years. We shall see who will try to interrupt his hegemony.

Route du Rhum – Class 40 and the three Italians

The technical growth of the Class 40 fleet in recent years has been exponential, so much so that it often happens to see skippers who have already gained experience on the Imoca 60 racing on the 40. For the three Italians, the task will be quite arduous, but they all 3 show up on the start with brand new means capable of being at the level of those of their opponents.

At Grande Pirelli, Class 40 by Ambrogio Beccaria

The most “extreme” boat is perhaps that of Ambrogio Beccaria, who explored innovative solutions (such as a steerable bowsprit, a very pronounced mast rake, and a drift blade angle that is rather inclined toward the stern) but had very little time to be able to test the craft. Difficult to be able to see an attacking Beccaria as we were used to admiring among the Mini 650s: physiologically he will need to take measures with the boat in the Ocean before he can go on the offensive. If Allagrande limits the gap in the first phase of the race, the toughest, then interesting scenarios could open up.

route du rhum
IBSA, Class 40 by Alberto Bona

Alberto Bona arrives at the start a bit more “relaxed,” having had a few more weeks than Beccaria to test the boat. From the eve’s statements (“in the first phase it will be necessary to be sailors rather than racers”) his caution and sense of responsibility toward an important sporting project that came into being with the support of a company like IBSA shines through.

Video – Alberto Bona greets the readers of the Sailing Newspaper

We expect a Bona that will gradually turn up the “engine” revs as the race goes on, with the main goal of finishing the race without damage to the boat and trying to stay in the top 10-15 positions.

Influence, Andrea Fornaro’s Class 40.

Andrea Fornaro, on the other hand, is the Italian who has had the most time to sail on his Class 40 having been the first to launch it. The Tuscan, however, divides his time between inshore and ocean sailing, so the Class 40 program is not his only sporting focus. He has shown in his Mini 650 days that he is a skipper who can make his boats keep a good pace, and if there is a need for close duels with opponents he has his cards to play. He does not leave with the pressure to perform, hard to see him in the top 10 but not impossible.

Sidereal challenge among the Ultim

route du rhum
SVR-LAZARTIGUE by François Gabart

Ultim maxi trimarans are one of the great attractions of the Route du Rhum, and the skippers entered promise a simply sidereal level. François Gabart on Lazartigue, Armel Le Cleac’h on Banque Populaire, and Thomas Coville on Sodebo are the three special observers in a fleet of 7 Latest who will be chasing the course record. The time to beat is 7 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes and 47 seconds set by Francis Joyon in the 2018 edition.

A weather nightmare

The weather situation predicted a few hours after departure is not one that will make skippers sleep soundly. A major depression front will affect northern France already in these hours and will also affect the departure. The worst is expected on Sunday and Monday, with winds that will have a base of 20-25 knots from the west-southwest but with reinforcements announced as major, even over 40 knots and waves over 5 meters. There are whispers in St. Malo about the possibility of a postponement, only a hypothesis at the moment that the organizers would strongly like to avoid. Probably Saturday will be the decisive day for a final evaluation.

The skippers are not pressing to start at all costs, in fact they would welcome a 24-hour postponement; Race Management is taking time to assess the situation. In regattas such as this, all competitors are aware that they must be able to cope with winds even well above the forecast, but no one is happy to have to do so immediately after the start, with the risk of a technical problem immediately compromising the race. It will be hours of reflection for everyone; if they leave, the first 24 hours could be immediately decisive in figuring out who will have the courage to dare and push west, meet and beyond the front, and then go for the highway south.

In any case, we will see some good things. Il Giornale della Vela is ready to tell you from the docks of Saint Malo about the atmosphere of the eve and the impressions of the Italians.

Mauro Giuffrè

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