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12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, the Village is open and the big Multis are in place

The record sized 12th edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe took real shape and form today in Saint-Malo as the race village – the biggest ever – opened officially and the solo Transatlantic race’s fastest and biggest Multihulls, the giant Ultim 32/23s and the Multi50s took part in a parade for the thousands of early visitors and spectators who lined the docks and the shoresides to welcome the first of the record 138 boat fleet in through the Corsair City’s locks and into the huge basins.

With 12 days to go before the start on Sunday 6th November, on beautifully sunny afternoon the gates were opened at 1400hrs allowing thousands of eager visitors a first glimpse of the big multihulls as well as the huge exhibition space.

12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe – photo © Alexis Courcoux

The impressive village, the biggest in the history of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe (70,000 m2) is officially open and there is free access right up until the fleet have left for Guadeloupe. Sailors have been arriving for several days now and more and more will be coming in the next few days. The arrival of the Ultim 32/23 and the Ocean Fifty boats appeared to Saint-Malo was truly majestic, evoking memories of previous editions of the race when the giant boats were skippered by Caradec, Arthaud, Poupon, Bourgnon, whilst today’s top skippers like Charles Caudrelier, Francois Gabart, Armel Le Cléac’h and defending champion Francis Joyon received a big welcome. The multihulls were the first to take part in these parades, which will be among the highlights for the pre-star celebrations.

There were many vantage points, the ramparts, the beach, and the two stands that have been set up for the event, one near the ferry terminal and the other near the control room.

These parades are a new initiative to allow everyone to view the whole of the fleet. Joseph Bizard, managing director of OC Sport Pen Duick, explained that “visitors had previously been a bit frustrated not being able to see the boats sailing when they visited.”

For the Ultim 32/23s it was a tight fit to bring them in through the locks before they took up station on the docksides around Saint-Malo’s famous basins which will welcome hundreds of thousands of passionate fans over the coming days.

Race Director, Francis Le Goff was on hand to reassure everyone. “This is not the first time we have done these manoeuvres, as we tested it during the summer with the Ultim, Actual. However, this operation involved a lot of people, including the Race Directors, the harbourmaster, the French lifeboat service, the St Malo sailing club and a lot of volunteers. However, the weather was favourable and it was a fantastic sight.”

And so first to take their parade and be officially berthed are the two classes which should be first to Guadeloupe, the Ultime 32/23 and the Ocean Fiftys. In the Ultim 32/23, eight solo skippers are out to win and have a tilt at the record set in 2018 by Francis Joyon (IDEC Sport, 7 days, 14 hours, 21 min). Among the favourites are Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild), Armel Le Cléac’h (Maxi Banque Populaire XI), François Gabart (SVR Lazartigue) and Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3).

12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe – photo © Alexis Courcoux

The Ocean Fifty class is very open. “There are eight favourites” smiles Gilles Lamiré (Groupe GCA-1001 Sourires). “We sail on boats where the constant level of danger is one of the highest and that means the overall performance of the fleet is more even as no one can push to the limit all the time, it is about high average speeds in relative safety”, highlights Briton Sam Goodchild who sails the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe for the first time on a multihull having had to abandon the last edition when the mast failed on his Class40. Four years ago the first three Multi50s (Armel Tripon, (Reaute Chocolat), Erwan Le Roux, (FenetreA Mix Buffet) and Thibaut Vauchel-Camus, (Solidaires En Peloton – ARSEP) all finished within 24 hours, Tripon winning.

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