Route du Rhum: Less than 1,000 miles to go for Thomson and Tripon

Route du Rhum: Less than 1,000 miles to go for Thomson and Tripon

Race update 13/11 - 08:11

After their epic duel to the finish line, pure simple head-to-head sport, Francis Joyon and François Gabart are front page news and in high demand in their native France.

Having had some unbroken sleep and nutritious food, both the winner and runner-up in the ULTIME division fulfilled their media obligations yesterday before being able to relax and enjoy the sunshine island.

Armel Tripon and Alex Thomson should be the next to finish. The leaders of the Multi50 and IMOCA fleets are only 115 nautical miles apart this morning. Tripon on Réauté Chocolat leading the 2014 division winner Erwan Le Roux's FenêtréA-Mix Buffet by a comfortable 420 miles and Thomson on Hugo Boss ahead of Paul Meilhat’s SMA by 175 miles.

The British skipper, who has not yet won a major IMOCA race, has been quicker than his pursuers all night but was having a slow spell around 0600hrs CET when his IMOCA dropped to 11 knots. He should see his distance to finish drop below the magical 1,000 miles to go today.

A first-timer on the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, Thomson has yet to experience the final 55-mile passage around the island of Basse Terre which can be painfully slow and sticky all the way to the finish, but he does know that no lead can be too big to be secure.

In Class40 Phil Sharp, the British skipper on IMERYS CLEAN ENERGY who has been second for five of the eight days of racing so far, has paid a price for being the first of the leading group to gybe yesterday evening. His early push to the south has seen him drop to third but he may find more breeze and recoup some of that loss.

Forty-six of the 53 Class40 starters are on the race track this morning. Of the international skippers who started only Briton Sam Goodchild has abandoned due to his broken mast. In a division which is the competitive pinnacle for good amateur racers, there are now over 1,600 miles between race leader Yoann Richomme on his cutting edge Veedol-AIC, launched in June this year, and Nicolas Jossier (Manorga), just one of many who stopped for safety reasons or with technical issues.

Britain’s Jack Trigger on Concise 8 remains solid in eighth place on his Route du Rhum debut. American banker Michael Hennessy on Dragon is an excellent 10th, just ahead of Briton Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) who is on her third Route du Rhum, her second in Class40.

Recently retired pilot John Niewenhous (Loose Fish) from the USA is also having a good race in 16th, Belgium’s Jonas Gerckens (Volvo) and Sweden’s Mikael Ryking (Talanta) are 21st and 22nd around 25 miles apart. After having to make structural repairs to his boat in La Coruna, South Africa’s Donald Alexander (Power of One) is 27th in strong upwind conditions 120 miles northwest of Cape Finisterre. And Japan’s Hiroshai Kitada (KIHO) is 47th, still battling the Bay of Biscay after sheltering in Lorient until two days ago.

François Gabart is not used to being second. The Vendée Globe, Transat Jacques Vabre, Transat bakerly and 2014 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe winner in the IMOCA class was pipped to the line by Joyon on Sunday night. Gabart usually talks about how he wins races, but yesterday explained his thoughts and feelings on being second.

"In the end was the competition unfair? Yes, but life is unjust,” he said. “There is no point in getting upset, it's the game we play. You can remain frustrated but you need to accept that it is like this and move on. There are some things you cannot control, that you don't control and they beat us all. That is just part of the process of success. I have been learning that since I was seven in my Optimist. You need to try and manage everything without making any mistakes but there are times when there will be upsets. 

"I also try to take a step back from the principle of competition. I grew up in competition. I built myself around competition at the highest level. Now I see its limitations. It has to feed your life but not so it eats you up. In the end it is just a result, a number. I accept that. I say what's it all about? At the end it is about my pride and my aim was to be in Guadeloupe first with a boat that was damaged. I really pushed, I fought with everything and that is what I remember now and always will. And I am so sorry if it sounds pretentious but I don't need to prove to myself or to others that I can win a race. I am comfortable in my shoes.

“If you are to talk about it being unfair,” continued Gabart, “well, it was unfair before the start because not all boats go at the same speed, some are faster than others. After that it is about how you play your cards. And Francis did a great race. He played his cards well. He has a great boat which is perfectly reliable. And he still had to push that boat hard to win. And that he did.”


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