Dominant Richomme does the double, winning the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe Class40 for the second time
French skipper Yoann Richomme joined the very elite group of solo ocean racers to have twice won their class on the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe today, when he brought the new build Lombard Lift 40 V2 Paprec-Arkea through the finish line of the 12th edition this Wednesday afternoon at 16:23:40 UTC to win in the Class40 from a record entry of 55 boats.
Richomme repeats his 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe title success in the class with a facsimile programme, launching his latest new boat in the same season as the race, optimising and making the boat reliable over a compressed period before going on to win comfortably.
Key differences this year are that the 39-year-old Southampton (UK) trained naval architect was called over the start line early off Saint-Malo on Sunday November 9th and had to take a four-hour mandatory penalty. Although he cleverly took it while the fleet were negotiating a spell of light airs and strong tides at Cape Fréhel – he later estimates his net loss was more like two and a half hours – he immediately dropped to 50th with a deficit of 19 miles on the leaders. But with his characteristic drive and smart, immaculate strategies, he pulled through the fleet and took the lead just before the Azores.
Richomme’s lead was up to 120 miles in the fast trade winds sailing which allowed him the luxury of a relatively serene passage around the west of the island of Basse Terre today.
With an elapsed time of 14d 03hrs 08mins 40s, Richomme breaks his own course record for the class by two days. His winning time in 2018 was 16 days, 03 hours, 22 minutes and 44 seconds. He also becomes the first skipper to win Class40 in successive years.
Richomme’s celebrations on the dock were also a repeat of last time, savouring the simultaneous moments of pleasure and relief with his arms aloft and his eyes lifted to the heavens. A true perfectionist in every sense and a master meteo strategist, even his arrival at the dock was – by chance – perfectly timed for the media deadlines at home in France.
“I’m really proud,” Richomme enthused, “There are so many ingredients necessary to win this race. I spent my time analysing the weather and we had some violent systems. I was afraid all the time that I would suffer a breakage. Even rounding Guadeloupe, I was afraid of that. It was a real challenge.”
“Of course I could have stayed home preparing my Imoca, but this was a challenge for me and the team. So I’m really pleased. It was hard to manage the race. I had to slow down the boat for the first time. It’s really hard and you have to give it all. Corentin with his electrical problems and Ambrogio at his age… Congratulations. I’m proud of this result.”
His approach, as is usually the case, is self contained, “I did my thing and at each front, I gained. I never studied what was happening. I was in my race and didn’t study the rest. The start was fantastic under gennaker for two days like in the manuals. It was wild after that with huge waves. Baghdad! I was forced to slow the boat down when she reached 25 knots. For the last two days, I went into my world to do my race.”
He recalls he was up close behind the IMOCAs at times, “The fourth front, I said I would change my strategy and head south, rather than go with the others. The others made mistakes. That’s when I was enjoying myself. I hadn’t raced like that for a while so I was pleased that it worked out. The IMOCAs? I followed Justine and Isabelle. It was fantastic to be able to follow them.”
Richomme reflected, “I am nevertheless exhausted. I was at the end of my tether a few times but aboard all went well. I managed my sleep differently from in the past. It was hard to try to get any sleep. We have managed to deal with two projects at the same time. My sponsors followed me. Initially, it wasn’t planned like that, but now I’m ready to tackle the Imoca project. You can’t compare this with the Vendée Globe.”
The Route du Rhum club of double winners includes Laurent Bourgnon (1994 and 1998 line honours Multi); Erwan Le Roux (winner in the Multi50/OCEAN 50 in 2014 and 2022); Roland Jourdain (IMOCA winner 2006 and 2010); Thomas Ruyant (Class40 2010 and IMOCA 2022) and the only three-times winner, Franck-Yves Escoffier (1998, 2002 and 2006 Muti 50).
Backed by French recycling group Paprec and banking group Credit Mutuel Arkea -who have united to form a sustainable, top-level long-term project – the team management hand-picked the outstanding Richomme to skipper their new IMOCA which is in build for the 2024 Vendée Globe and which will be launched early next year.
Richomme is one of the outstanding sailors and technicians of his generation. He is a double winner of La Solitaire du Figaro, winning in 2016 and again in 2019, the first year the Beneteau Figaro 3 was introduced to the race – when he left all of the French legends – like Jérémie Beyou, Michel Desjoyeaux, Yann Eliès, Armel Le Cléach and Loick Peyron – in his wake.
IMOCA skipper Giancarlo Pedote interview
Indeed, faced with the loss of his J2 – a large and important headsail – just two days into the race, as he was making headway in some trying conditions around 140 miles to the north-west of Cape Finisterre, slugging it out for a place in the top ten, Giancarlo Pedote’s performance was immediately handicapped. This damage naturally changed the face of the race for him, but as per usual, the skipper of Prysmian Group produced an admirable display of dogged determination and self-sacrifice to complete his transatlantic passage.
And he did so in style this Wednesday at 05:47 UTC, picking off his rivals one by one to secure 16th place in the IMOCA fleet.
Deprived of his J2, a valuable headsail attached to the mainstay and mounted on a furler, from day two of the race, Giancarlo Pedote inevitably staggered under the blow initially.
“Overnight, the sail blew clean apart, split in two. I was down below and we had twenty knots or so of breeze. We were really slamming, but it wasn’t the first time I’d sailed in such conditions. At that point I ended up with a section of sail stuck up on the mast and another sail in the sea.
“I pulled on the helm and gathered everything up. The whole operation required a phenomenal amount of energy. My arms felt like they were at breaking point, causing me to cry out in pain,” recalls the Florentine, who ultimately battled through it and managed to make his boat safe so he could continue on his way as best he could despite this handicap.
“I was forced to continue making headway under J3 (a jib that is half the size of the J2 – editor’s note). It wasn’t easy because essentially the upwind conditions required the J2 until the last front rolled through. I did think twice about shifting across to the west of the Azores to make up for this shortfall, but ultimately that’s where I played the card that would enable me to cut through to the south of the ridge of high pressure, but it wasn’t the right option,” explained the Italian sailor, who regularly strove to sail his own race, resolved not to suffer the situation, but rather remain on the offensive, as he does when everything’s in tip-top condition aboard.
“I’m happy with how the second half of the race played out downwind. I made good speed and, despite being quite a long way back, I managed to make up considerable ground on the group ahead, finding some interesting sail configurations in the process,” commented the skipper of Prysmian Group, who slowly but surely managed to claw back a number of places over the final third of the course before rounding the Tête à l’Anglais in 16th position and holding onto this same place on the finish line this morning at 05:47 UTC, after 13 days, 16 hours and 32 minutes of racing (1 day and 22 hours after the IMOCA winner, Thomas Ruyant).
“Obviously, I’d have liked to have done better, but sailing is a mechanical sport and you have to accept that,” conceded Giancarlo, despite sparing no effort out on the racetrack.
“I put in a lot of manoeuvres going around Guadeloupe. I’m very pleased with my trajectory. As I made landfall at Grande-Terre, Benjamin Ferré was positioned further offshore and that enabled me to get a clear approach on the island.
“After that, I fell into a light patch, like everyone else, I think. The passage around the Basse-Terre mark was tough, as it was necessary to put in some tacks in the other direction in a small space. I thought I would have more breeze at the Canal de Saintes, but that didn’t prove to be the case and then I was caught up in a fair few squalls right the way to the finish,” explained the sailor, who has completed the event safe in the knowledge that he gave his all with the weapons at his disposal.
“When you’re competing, it’s tough-going for the majority of the time. On a personal level, I don’t think about enjoying myself, rather I think about doing things right and sticking with my rivals. Of course, there are moments where the boat is making fantastic headway and that’s spectacular, but above all you have to constantly pay attention to what you’re doing and that takes precedence over everything else.
“This Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe has had mixed results for me. The lack of J2 certainly compromised my race. Once I’m rested, I need to think over the different options I could have taken,” concludes Giancarlo Pedote, his sights already on what comes next and notably the 2023 season.
Indeed, it’s a season that promises to be a turning point in his project in terms of performance as he is having some brand new foils fitted!