© Alexis Courcoux / RDR 2022
Rhum Multi and Rhum Mono Classes decided
Friday night into Saturday's early hours The Memorial ACTe, Pointe-à-Pitre's proud, giant structure which is dedicated to the history, heritage and memories of the Caribbean slave trade, saw the busiest spell yet of finishers completing the 12th edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.
Thirteen boats - from the eighth and final Ultim32/23 Use It Again powered by Extia (Romain Pilliard), to four IMOCAs, two Rhum Multi class boats, one Rhum Mono and five Class40s - each received a big, passionate welcome on Friday (25/11/2022) afternoon and evening between 1240hrs UTC and 0630hrs UTC Saturday (26/11/2022) morning.
Saint-Malo's Loic Escoffier (Lodigroup) may have crossed the finish line some 46 minutes and 23 seconds after Roland Jourdain (We explore) but it was Escoffier who won the Rhum Multi class after a broken engine seal was found on Jourdain's boat and he received the statutory 90 minutes penalty for the class.
Former IMOCA Vendée Globe racer Jean-Pierre Dick (Notre Mediterranné-Ville de Nice) – a four times winner of the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race – finally won a major solo Transatlantic race when he triumphed in the Rhum Mono class, finishing on his JP54 Verdier designed monohull with a lead of over 300 miles on second placed Catherine Chabaud (Fomatives ESJ Business School pour un ocean in common).
And China's remarkable Jingkun Xu (China Dream-Haikou), the 33-year-old IMOCA rookie who has only one arm received a huge welcome from the Guadeloupe Chinese community when he docked in 29th place, one place behind Briton Sam Davies, whose race was hampered with technical issues.
Escoffier keeps it in the family
The storyline had the charismatic, famous French Vendée Globe and multihull racer Roland Jourdain returning to the Route du Rhum-Destination in the Multi Rhum class and winning his third class title.
Victory at the age of 58 in the Rhum Multi class on his 60 foot VPLP designed We Explore - an initiative to further sustainable boatbuilding materials - would complement the back to back IMOCA class wins in 2006 and 2010.
And when he crossed the finish line off Pointe-à-Pitre at 19:06:00hrs UTC on Friday evening, concluding a drawn-out tussle with rival Loic Escoffier (Logigroup), it looked like for 'Bilou' – as he is universally known – the script was written. Jourdain's hat trick would join him with Escoffier's father Franck-Yves as the only skippers with three Route du Rhum class titles.
Escoffier, brother of IMOCA racer Kevin, crossed the line second on Lodigroup at 19:52:23hrs. Having had to be rescued by helicopter from his upturned catamaran in the Irish Sea 70 miles off the Fastnet Rock four months ago during the Drheam Cup Route du Rhum qualifier, then facing a battle against the clock to be ready on time for the mythical race which starts from his home town, Escoffier was delighted to have finished so close behind Bilou.
But minutes after crossing the line Escoffier got a call from Race Director Francis Le Goff to tell him that Roland Jourdain had been penalised the statutory 90 minutes for a broken engine seal and he was therefore winner of the Rhum Multi class.
Jourdain's penalty leaves Escoffier as winner by 43 minutes and 37 seconds.
"This is just the beginning." China's Jingkun Xu becomes first Chinese skipper to finish the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe
Chinese solo skipper Jingkun Xu (China Dream-HAIKOU) crossed the finish line of the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe at 21:49:00hrs on Friday evening (25/11/22) in 29th position in the IMOCA class. His elapsed time of 16d 8h 34m 0s is 4d 14h 57m 35s behind the class winner Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut).
For the 33-year-old sailor from Qingdao who lost part of his left arm in a fireworks accident when he was 12 his is a truly remarkable achievement. He becomes the first Chinese sailor to finish the race and qualifies himself for the Vendée Globe. Before and during the race he sought to carry the worries and problems of his countrypeople with him and disperse them on the oceans, thereby relieving them of their concerns and stresses. Along the way 'Jackie' has gathered 160 million followers.
Upon finishing, he told the crowd, "We finish our Route du Rhum at the first time. We said we would, and we did it. I knew I had to take care of the boat. We did not damage anything, we keep the boat in good shape for the future, for the Vendée Globe. This is a big moment for me.
"The most difficult thing for me is that on the IMOCA everything is very heavy. I used all the sails and changed them and it is very difficult as I have only one hand. And so everything is very heavy. Everyday I was wet through, sometimes with sweat because you work so hard all the time. But it is worth it. The Vendée Globe is my dream. I wanted the Route du Rhum to be a good training for the Vendée Globe."
Reflecting on his race and the impact in China, Xu continued, "The first week was so hard, always low pressures, big winds, upwind. The second week was so good. I really enjoyed it in the trade winds. I shared a lot of videos about life on the boat for Chinese children. Now they are learning about the Atlantic and sailing. I very much enjoy that. I am so excited there are so many people following us in China. They did not know about the Route du Rhum before, nobody knew what an IMOCA is, nobody knew sailing, and so now we are trying to change that. We hope that they will see sailing and it will make the children strong."
Amongst last night's finishers was also British skipper Sam Davies, who finished in 28th place in the IMOCA Class, after 16d 6hrs 35m. Upon relfection, Sam said, "I could have done things differently and I should have done things differently."
And at just after midnight local time, the USA's Alex Mehran (Polka Dot) finished 14th in Class40
To date 62 skippers have crossed the finish line in Pointe-à-Pitre, 48 are still racing and 28 have abonded the race