- Maxi Spindrift 2
The rain poured down and tension was in the air as Saint-Malo awoke this morning. Perhaps to be expected on the departure day of this 10th edition of the Route du Rhum, the most famous single-handed transatlantic sailing race. Yann Guichard, at the helm of Spindrift 2, the largest boat in the race's history, woke fully prepared for a tough race start and was already in his racing mindset. Understandable, before taking on such an immense challenge alone on a 40m trimaran! It has since been an action-packed and exciting day, as portrayed below.
8:15am: After a good night's sleep, Yann enjoyed a hearty, balanced breakfast, including a bowl of pasta to fill up with carbohydrates. During this marathon day, the only other thing he will have time to eat will be an energy cake, specially prepared by his loyal teammate, Xavier Revil, who is in charge of nutrition aboard Spindrift 2 for the Route du Rhum.
8:30am: Yann gets together with his key people, including router Richard Silvani of Météo France, who provides an update on the departure conditions and his first night at sea. According to the update, a front will pass across Saint-Malo when the race begins at 2pm, with 15 knot south-southwest winds forcing competitors to tack to reach the course marker at Cape Freels, located 18 nautical miles (about 30 km) into the race.
9:00am: The skipper arrives at the Gare Maritime in Saint-Malo, where a semi-rigid boat is waiting to take him to his trimaran. Spindrift 2 spent the night moored by the town of Dinard along with the other seven multihulls in the Ultimate class. It is an emotional moment for Yann and the entire team.
9:10am: Yann has a certain look in his eyes, that of a man whose mind is already on the race, a man who wants to demonstrate the full power of his boat, without neglecting his safety. "I slept well, and the pressure is gradually building," explains the skipper. "As already forecast three days ago, the weather conditions will be difficult in the first few hours of the race. We know that the southern route will be the fastest way across the Atlantic, which is good for us. I will have to struggle through the start of the race before accelerating down the Portuguese coast. The most difficult thing today will be reaching Fréhel with so many spectator and support boats out on the water. Then I need to make preparations for the night, as we are expecting winds of 30-40 knots. Currently, I just can’t wait for 2pm to come round!"
10:30am: The crew hoist the sails and get the boat into race trim. During the standby phase, there will be two reefs in the mainsail so that the trimaran is as manoeuvrable as possible. Yann runs through the start procedure one last time before taking a short rest for a few minutes, a last chance to relax and visualise the various phases of the race start.
12:30pm: The skipper tweets a message saying "Merci à tous ! Maintenant c'est a moi de jouer. Thank you for all the support !" (Thank you everyone! Now it’s my turn. Thank you for all the support!)
1:00pm: The one o'clock news on French TV channel station TF1 begins with the channel's weatherman, Louis Bodin, reporting live alongside Yann aboard Spindrift 2. The journalist is wearing a waterproof survival suit so that he can jump into the water just a few minutes later, to be joined later by the eight team members also still aboard, before being picked up by the team's semi-rigid support boats. With an hour to go before the race begins, and hundreds of spectator boats out at sea, Yann is calm and focused. "This day is the culmination of a year's work by the entire Spindrift racing team," he explains. "The conditions look like they will be less inclement than forecast. There is absolutely no room for error before I reach Cape Fréhel, because my boat is more difficult to manoeuvre than the others in certain conditions. I will sail at my own pace and manage the start as best I can. Then it is full speed ahead towards the Azores."
1:50pm: The sailors hoist some canvas before leaving the boat. Yann will depart with one reefs in the mainsail and the J2, which together measure 500 square metres.
1:56pm: With just four minutes to go, the crew jump into the choppy sea. Meanwhile, there is a 20 knot headwind. Yann is finally alone on Spindrift 2.
2:00pm: A good start! All of the competing boats timed the start perfectly and succesffully commence the 3,542 nautical mile voyage to Pointe-à-Pitre, on the island of Guadeloupe.
2:15pm: The wind increases to 25 knots as the weather front draws closer. A huge blanket of cloud looms ahead in the distance, to the bow of the competitors. The skippers frantically haul in the sails and the boats accelerate.
2:45-3:15pm: As forecast, the wind direction makes it impossible to reach Fréhel in a single tack. Yann changes tack twice, a physical, tricky manoeuvre in such a short distance. For the second manoeuvre he even has to sail through the area with the spectator boats. Having practised the manoeuvres hundreds of times, Yann's accurate handling allows him to handle the situation effectively.
3:30pm: Lionel Lemonchois leads the fleet past Cape Fréhel, followed by Sidney Gavignet and Thomas Coville. True to his word, Yann sails prudently and passes Cape Fréhel safely in seventh place.
3:45pm: Yann communicates by VHF radio for the final time with the team members on board the semi-rigid escort boats. The skipper is happy to have safely negotiated the start of the race. It is now time for him to go into single-handed mode and prepare for the next few hours.
Tonight: The competitors will sail along the English Channel into a headwind, with a swell of 3-4 metres. A low front extending from England to Cape Finisterre will pass over the boats between midnight and 3:00am, bringing 30 knot winds. After passing Pointe du Raz, in Brittany, Yann must time his turn correctly so he can sail quickly down the Atlantic coast, driven by unstable westerlies and gusts that could reach 40 knots. The aim is to move as far south as possible to pick up the Azores High and sail downwind.
>> FOLLOW YANN GUICHARD AND SPINDRIFT 2 DURING THE RACE:
- -See a map showing the position of Spindrift 2 on the Spindrift racing website. The map is updated every hour and the website is adapted to tablets and smartphones.
- -Find out the latest weather forecasts and the latest news on Yann's race every morning.
- -Read the latest press release every day at around 5pm CET (UCT+1), with everything you need to know about Yann Guichard and Spindrift 2, including the gap between him and his rivals, the events of the past few hours and the challenges that lie ahead.