the splits

the splits

Some of the sexiest singlehanded boats every built set off on Sunday from St. Malo, France to Pont-A-Pietre, Gaudeloupe for the 9th Route Du Rhum, and we’re left wondering how such a massively important race in France can be so non-existent in the rest of the world.  This race is on the cover of every major French newspaper, updates run on the prime time news networks, and even the least sports-minded Frenchmen knows that it’s happening and that Groupama is sailing fast.  Part of it comes down to the organizers themselves – they’re happy that they get tons of French TV airtime (including live network TV and streaming video of the start and even infrared footage from airborne videographers on the first night), and since their sponsors don’t pay attention to overseas interest, why should they? 

At least the event website is available (with reduced content) in English, but if you want to check out the daily video updates from the singlehanded skippers or any of the hours of video footage, you’d better speak French or you’re shit-outta-luck. 

In the Ultime Class of G-Class multihulls, Franck Cammas on Groupama 3 is looking good with more breeze and a cleaner run with his brave move to the East, while the exceptional Sydney Gavignet with Oman Air heads on the great circle route to the North – a split of hundreds of miles from G3. Zero or hero; we’ll find out soon enough.  The smaller 50-foot multihull class also has a huge split, with favorite Escoffier on Crepes Whaou! leading all but a handful of the G-Class boats on his way South, with Route Du Rhum record holder Lionel Lemanchois headed way to the North on Gavignet’s tail.  The only multi that’s sailing fast and splitting the difference is Thomas Coville on Sodebo, but with high pressure in the middle, his conservativism may be the kiss of death.

The huge fleet of Class 40s is still tightly packed with few breakouts, while the Open 60s are in two main groups, with 2006 winner Jourdain (Veolia), BritAir (Le Cle’ach) and Pratt (DCNS) headed the Northern route while favorite Desjoyeaux leads a group including PRB and Akenas Verandas towards the Galician coast.

There’s still plenty of runway left for sure, and you can check the RdR thread for the latest news and analysis of what’s going on down the course of the most watched spectacle in sailing.  And check back  later this week for a full two hour show from Mr. Clean including over an hour of footage from the water as well as interviews with a number of characters from the 2010 event.  In order to replicate what the French have done to create a national passion in sailing, we must first understand it – so check it out.

Benoit Stichelbaut/Sea&Co photo.