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Route du Rhum:Extraordinary finish to the Gabart-Joyon match race

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Gabart's Macif at Basse Terre
Gabart's Macif at Basse Terre

Ultime12/11 - 00:11
Francois Gabart on MACIF has seen his lead over Francis Joyon disappear completely as the two French skippers have crept around the west side of Basse-Terre island in windless conditions in the final miles of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.

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At one point in the mid-Atlantic Gabart was 160 miles in front of his fellow countryman on IDEC Sport, but Joyon has whittled his lead down and taken full advantage of the damage to MACIF which has lost one rudder and one foil.

But it has been the lack of wind that has dogged Gabart more than Joyon in the run-in. When Gabart reached the Tête à l'Anglais mark north of Basse Terre he was 20 miles ahead but as he drifted around the western side – the leeward coast - of the island Joyon has been able to come up from behind. Now the two boats are almost level with 28 miles still to sail in darkness to the finish line.

In an earlier message today Gabart said that he was concerned about the finish and how it would play out, but this is turning into a real battle for him as he tries to follow his victory in the IMOCA class in this race four years ago with a similar feat in the ULTIME division.

Among the thousands of sailors and fans around the world watching the drama unfold online is the Spanish sailor Alex Pella, the 2014 Class40 Route du Rhum winner. Pella says he is glued to the Tracker at his home in Barcelona and he is backing Joyon to pull off a late win.

"I have my money on Francis, not because I have sailed with him, but because his boat is super-simple and it has the canting mast. And he has sailed everywhere in the Caribbean. He has a cruising boat which he sails from Martinique and has sailed these islands for so many years. He knows this situation.

“The thing about these big boats at slow speeds is, when you lose control of them, they start to turn and it takes so long to get them going again. Francis’s boat is very simple and he can deal with that easier, and he has the strength in his head to win this," added Pella. 

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