While plenty of American families spent their weekends patching together Halloween costumes and dealing with latent sugar hangovers, sailors and spectators alike had their hands full in France this weekend as 85 boats set off for the 2010 Route du Rhum.
This iconic transatlantic sprint, from Saint Malo, France to Pointe à Pitre (in the Lesser Antilles), has long served as a proving ground for the world's best solo sailors, and this year's fleet looks to be no exception. Here's a breakdown of the fleet: 24 multi-hulls and 60 monohulls, of which nine are giant multi-hulls, nine are IMOCA Open 60s (including several brand-new boats that are using this event as their shakedown stroll), 12 Multi 50's, 44 Class 40 monos, and 11 Rhum monos and multis.
La Route du Rhum - La Banque Postale 2010 start Route du Rhum
The 85 skippers set out on their ocean adventure in 8-11 knots of SE'ly wind, flying gennakers and enjoying postcard-perfect sailing conditions. But, a look at the weather forecast reveals that sailors won't be reveling in the glories of dry, flat, fast sailing for long, as the fleet should encounter their first challenging weather as early as today.
Meanwhile, for the five sailors in the Velux 5 Oceans Race, a significant spread is developing on the leaderboard, with Brad Van Liew dominating his 'rivals' (with the maybe exception of Polish skipper Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski, Van Liew doesn't seem to be any). 'I am trucking along in the southeast trades off the coast of Brazil making some miles, but it is not comfortable sailing as it is almost upwind and very wet on deck,' reported Van Liew on his blog over the weekend. While the ride might not be particularly comfortable, Van Liew's lead over the fleet certainly must help him better enjoy his catnaps.
And finally, the 2010 Luderitz Speed Challenge wrapped up over the weekend, with Martha's Vineyard's own Robert Douglas emerging the winner.
Douglas not only won the event but also established a new outright speed record of 55.56 knots (not yet ratified by the WSSRC) and ended his long-standing battle with French rider Alex Caizergues, at least until next year. Hats off to Douglas for sailing so fast and for helping to redefine the limits of the word 'possible' when it comes to wind-driven adrenaline rushes and on-the-water excellence.
May the four winds blow you safely home,
David Schmidt,Sail-World USA Editor
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