Today marks one month to go until the start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. On November 4, 124 skippers will be leaving St Malo in Brittany to take on the 3,542-nautical mile course to Point-à-Pitre on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.
With an incredible turn-out across the six classes, it is time to introduce each class so fans know who and what to look out for, starting with the Rhum Mono:
The starting point
For the first time since the creation of the Route du Rhum, all the monohulls that are not in the IMOCA or Class40 divisions are grouped together: the Rhum Mono class consists of 17 solo skippers who come to St Malo to sail in the footsteps of Kriter V, the famous “black cigar” of Michel Malinovski who came so cloe to winning the first edition of the race in 1978…
However, it should not be believed that these 17 contenders are only there to dream. Some proudly carry the branding of a charity, others the ambitions of a company while others sail to honour the sport’s history. Among these monohulls, are three celebrity boats that have made their mark: Kriter V which was beaten by 98 seconds at the finish in Guadeloupe in 1978 after 23 days, 7 hours and 1 minute; Kriter VIII sailed for a second time this year by Wilfrid Clerton and on which Malinovski surrendered again against an armada of multihulls in 1982 after 19 days, 16 hours and 15 minutes; and the “red cigar,” the ex-Helvim sailed by Jean-Luc van den Heede in the 1992 Vendée Globe, skippered this time by Jean-Marie Patier.
And this category also includes legendary sailors like Luc Coquelin (Rotary-Sea for All) who will line up for the sixth time on the same boat – a yacht with a fastest time of 20 days, 3 hours and 59 minutes in 2002 . Or the Italian Andrea Mura (Vento di Sardegna), winner in 2010 and second in 2014 aboard the same Open 50. There are also three other 50-footers raced by Eric Jail (The Voice of the Ocean), Nils Boyer and the West Indian regular competitor Willy Bissainte (C ‘La Guadeloupe).
All these skipper-boat partnerships have chances to aim for the podium, but the faourites for the top step are two experienced pairings: Sebastien Destremeau (Alcatraz IT FaceOcean), a veteran of the Vendée Globe aboard his 60ft IMOCA and Sidney Gavignet (Happy Coffee) on a particularly quick 52-footer. But let’s see what happens because this challenge is often very tough for sailing boats of up to 40 years of age.
Dominique Dubois (Ghéo):
“The Route du Rhum is not only a dream come true, it’s also a breath of fresh air! Like other businessmen in the fleet (Jean-Marie Patier, Christian Guyader, Yann Marilley), I have had to skip work to sail but I am doing it because it’s not just a race, it’s a whole challenge and being able to start with professionals is magical. Let’s keep this class – the Rhum Mono. I will probably come back in four years’ time … always as amateur. Because it will be a great pleasure. I wish I had done it sooner!”