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Route du Rhum: Goodchild and Joschke dismasted as gale hits

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The storm in the Bay of Biscay has now hit the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe fleet and two skippers have seen their race come to the end
The storm in the Bay of Biscay has now hit the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe fleet

The much-anticipated storm in the Bay of Biscay has now hit the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe fleet and two skippers have seen their race come to an abrupt end with the loss of their rigs, while others are heading for shelter of French and Spanish ports.

The second night of racing proved brutal for British skipper Sam Goodchild who was dismasted while lying in third place in Class40 on Narcos Mexico and Franco-German racer Isabelle Joschke whose mast also broke on her IMOCA, MONIN. Both skippers are safe and are heading for port. 

“Sam was in third place and going well in 30 knots of south-southwesterly wind,” Goodchild’s team manager Marcus Hutchinson commented this morning. “He has no idea as yet why the rig failed. He has cut the mast and rigging free but has saved the boom and so will try to set a jury rig.”

Route du Rhum Race Director Jacques Caraes summarised: “It has been a difficult night with 40-45 knots of wind for the main part of the fleet and cross seas of five to six metres. The problems we have heard of from skippers have been with their autopilots. But it has been very difficult to make manoeuvres in the seas and wind. Changing sails has been very hard work. But thankfully there were no big problems last night.”  

The strong winds of 40-45 knots are associated with the passage of a front during the night. So far it is the light, powerful Multi50s that have felt the worst of the cold front. Class leader Lalou Roucayrol has chosen to be prudent with his Arkema and was heading for shelter in Porto. During the night Roucayol reported winds of 55 knots, gusting to 60, off the Portuguese coast and seas of five metres.

Meanwhile the two leading boats of Francois Gabart (MACIF) and Francis Joyon (IDEC Sport) in the ULTIME class, have managed to outsprint the worst of the weather and are averaging 20 knots as they pass the latitude of Cape St Vincent, the most southwesterly point of Portugal this morning.

Gabart has lighter winds ahead of him but has been unable to shake off second-placed Joyon, the tenacious 62-year-old legend of modern solo ocean racing who is just 35 nautical miles behind MACIF.

Reporting this morning that seas have flattened out, Gabart said: "IDEC is still close to me. We need to keep pushing south to avoid the worst of this weather. There is a little anticyclone which is moving under us and that will be a problem. And the first one of us who can get out of that will have done the job. After that it will be all good.”

Alex Thomson has had a tough night on HUGO BOSS. His lead in the IMOCA division has shrunk to just eight miles, down from over 20. He is still battling to get west on a very different course to that of his French rivals further south and he will have had bigger seas to contend with than his rivals. Second-placed Vincent Riou on PRB and Paul Meilhat, third on SMA are now 135 miles to the southeast of the British skipper.

During the small hours of the morning Jérémie Beyou met with a tug chartered by his team and he is making for Lorient on board Charal which has technical problems with its steering gear.

In the Class40 fleet, the leader is Yoann Richomme who is 15 miles ahead of his nearest pursuer and is able to ease back to preserve his new, relatively untested Class40 through the nasty depression which is forecast to last through the next 24 hours.

In fourth place this morning Phil Sharp, the British skipper on IMERYS CLEAN ENERGY, is well positioned within a group of strong French skippers.

Three of the smallest Multi Rhum entries, including Charlie Capella’s famous Acapella are scurrying for safety on the French coast. “There is no possibility for them to keep racing just now,” Caraes commented. Loick Peyron on Happy still had 60 miles to make it to the Spanish port of Gijon or a bay nearby where he hopes to take shelter.