Dismasted Groupe Dubreuil after finishing photo by Pierre Bouras / Retour à La Base)

Dismasted Groupe Dubreuil after finishing photo by Pierre Bouras / Retour à La Base)

Retour à La Base: perseverance and resilience rewarded in Lorient


12/12/2023 - 20:59

The shock of the day was the news at just after 0600hrs this morning that the Vendée based skipper Sébastien Simon (Groupe Dubreuil) had lost his mast at ten miles from the finish. After having to stop and repair in remote Flores in the Azores because of a complete failure, and after having had to put stitches in his own head wound just before he stopped, Simon had been pushing quite hard since he left the Azores. But his resilience was tested to the full. But after setting up a makeshift jury rig he drifted across the finish line some four hours later to secure 19th place. More importantly for the skipper who has a new sponsor and a new boat in The Ocean Race winning former 11th Hour Racing, the Vendée skipper ensured he has his qualification process well under way now.

No less tenacious is Tanguy Le Turquais who completed a magnificent comeback to 20th place on his Lazare. Because Le Turquais had a protracted five day pitstop in Lorient early in the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Lorient skipper – partner of Clarisse Crémer – arrived 23 hours after the start in Fort de France. After five hours respite – spending time with his a Crémer's one year old daughter Mathilda, enjoying a swim in the sea, a shower and a fish dinner, Le Turquais was on his way. He had the benefit of favourable conditions to start with but once he was in contact with the back of the fleet he lost no time picking off places.

Meanwhile Clarisse Crémer (L'Occitane en Provence, 12th) arrived during Monday night, physically exhausted by this first solo race since her Vendée Globe in 2020. "I have the impression of having done 12 transatlantic races in one!.

Record breaking Ruyant sprints in for 17th with no mainsail

Deprived of his mainsail which tore in half when his steering system failed, the 'king of the Transats' Thomas Ruyant (FOR PEOPLE) did not so much limp as sprint across the finish line of the Retour à La Base to finish in 17th place. He crossed the finish line at 7:59:46 a.m UTC for an elapsed time of  11 days, 15 hours, 59 minutes and 46 seconds.

His chances of winning and extending his remarkable record of triumphs on the Atlantic may have gone when his mainsail ripped in two, but Ruyant returned today to Lorient La Base with a new 24 hours distance record in his pocket.

Ruyant won the Route du Rhum and the last two editions of the Transat Jacques Vabre (2021, 2023) but the Retour à La Base eluded him. Nonetheless Ruyant pressed hard all the way, trying different headsail combinations, often keeping up speeds of more than 20kts.

And while he was not so good on the close fetch to the north once Ruyant had For People charging he was back among the top group. And so between Sunday December 3 and Monday December 4, he covered 539.94 nautical miles at 22.49 knots, beating Alex Thomson's previous record (536.81 miles).

But he didn't really have time to savour the moment, In the process. He suffered a problem with his rudder system which in turn tore his mainsail in half. And with that his chances of winning were gone.  

"I secured the mast hard with the runners because it is no longer supported by the mainsail, all the power comes from the foresails," he explains. "I sail flat with both foils in the water to avoid heeling too much."  He continues to race with the mainsail completely lowered on the boom.

Conrad Colman (Mail Boxes Etc.), 14th overall and 2nd daggerboard boat.

Kiwi Conrad Colman crossed the finish line of the first edition of Retour à La Base in 14th  position this Tuesday, December 12, at 0130hrs UTC. The skipper of Mail Boxes Etc. completed the theoretical 3,500 miles course in an elapsed time of 11 days 9 hours 30 minutes 42 seconds,

Once again Colman has shown he is able to deliver an impressive result on a shoestring budget, finishing ahead of a few IMOCAs with foils and just a matter of 1hr 56min behind Bejamin Ferré who sailed Monnoyeur Duo For A Job, the former Vendée Globe winning MACIF, to 13th as first daggerboard boat. With three racing circumnavigations of the planet under his belt Colman shows he is well capable of being skipper of the first daggerboard boat on the upcoming 2024-2025 Vendée Globe.  

Colman, who celebrated his 40th birthday on the race course makes a virtue of dealing with his problems efficiently and does not make a drama of them. And on this solo race back from Martinique he found solutions to his issues and sailed his boat, which started life as Groupe Bel, faster and faster and ticked off more and more positions.

Japan's Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI Global One), 19th in the Retour à La Base

Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi crossed the finish line of the inaugural Retour à La Base in 19th position this Tuesday, December 12, at 08:11:55hrs, squeezing inside the top 20 at the end of a race on which he sailed conservatively and had several technical and health issues to deal with. Because he had to retire from the Route du Rhum after only a few hours just over one year ago, the Retour à La Base was a race that 'Koji' had to start and to finish to get his Vendée Globe qualification back on  track. An attack of gastric flu left him very low on energy through the second half of the race. And an ingress of water into the electrical system which drives the keel canting system meant he did most of the race with the keel centred.

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