Nov 6, 2014

Route du Rhum 2014: Guichard reports from Spindrft 2

Onboard report by Yann Guichard, holding 2nd place behind Peyron. Follow tracking at

Press release sent by Spindrift Racing:

Spindrift still lying in 2nd position to the west of the Canary Islands
"After the stormy weather experienced during the first couple of days, the atmosphere has somewhat changed for the Ultimes on day 3 of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. Having passed Madeira, the fleet are now approaching the latitude of the Canary Islands. Unfortunately the trade winds are calm, too calm it would seem – since around lunchtime, Spindrift 2 and her closest rivals have been struggling through an area of high pressure. Loïck Peyron made it past just in time and has disappeared into the distance, increasing his lead over Yann Guichard to 145 nautical miles. Yann currently lies in 2nd position.

Like the size of these multihulls, the difference in the speeds which they can reach is huge, and depends greatly on the conditions. After sprinting south-southwest at 25/30 knots, six of the seven trimarans still in the race have slowed down over the past few hours, while the leader has further increased the gap.

Hoisting a 200 kilo sail alone
In addition to reefing the mainsail in and out regularly since the start of the race, Yann has

also used the ORC (in the strongest wind), the staysail yesterday and the gennaker this morning. Given the size of Spindrift 2, these manoeuvres are a real test of steel for the skipper. It comes as no suprise, however, as Yann knew what to expect when he entered the race. Thanks to his relentless preparations, he has so far passed with distinction. “I spent four hours setting up the sails last night,” he explained on Wednesday at 2pm CET. “Obviously the gennaker was drenched with water after three days of bad weather, so it weighed at least 200 kilos.” I had to place it out on the tramp, pull it over the forward beam, hoist and unfurl. I checked everything twice to make sure I’d not made any mistakes, and the manoeuvre went well. The sail is up now and should stay there for a while!”

I had no inkling of just how true that is
Once the boat had the right set-up for the calmer, drier conditions, the skipper was finally able to recover. “I slept well last night, with several 30-minute naps, and I feel a lot better as a result. From the outset I’ve been forcing myself to eat to store some energy, but I haven’t slept much. If the adrenaline was not sufficient to keep me going, I’d be setting my alarm every 5 to 10 minutes to keep me awake.” The average speeds maintained by the skippers, despite the weather, have pushed their bodies beyond the limit like never before. “Given the steady pace we have been doing, we were expecting the speed to go up another notch. It’s less stressful on Spindrift 2 than on other, less reliable boats, but I’ve never been as sleep deprived and physically exhausted as I am now. It’s not over yet, we’re only half way there, and because the trade winds are not stable, I’ll have to do many more manoeuvres to stay in the wind corridor.”

A high-pressure lull
The Caribbean highway is a little way off yet. An outgrowth of the Azores High has formed about 300 miles north-west of the Canary Islands, holding back Yann, as well as Francis Joyon, Sébastien Josse and Lionel Lemonchois. All four are gybing in north-northeast winds of about 12 knots. It is difficult to predict how long it will take to escape the clutches of the anticyclone and how much of a gap the race leader will build. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing Loick anytime soon,” said Yann. “He got away just in time.”

The race is still wide open
As predicted by pre-race forecasts, there will be continuous disruptions to the trade winds on the way to Guadeloupe. It’s the end of the blast reaching, and back now into the groove of VMG sailing with lots of gybes, where the right decisions are going to allow big gains. “I trust my routers to limit the number of manoeuvres,” explained Yann. “I try to manage my own race without too much concern for what the others are doing. There are many things I have to do on board when racing Spindrift 2. It’s the first time we’ve done so much close-hauled sailing in such choppy conditions, because it never happens during record attempts when you’re always travelling downwind. When you’re racing as a crew, there’s always somebody to do look at this and that and the other or to pull out a screwdriver.This morning I inspected the whole boat. It’s huge, so it takes quite a while!”