Since its first edition in 1978, the Route du Rhum has become one of sailing’s most coveted trophies. It is a transatlantic single-handed yacht race, which takes place every 4 years in November. The 3,542 miles (6,560 km) race starts in Saint Malo, Brittany (France) and finishes in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. The race should last approximately 7 days.
The 2014 edition will see an unprecedented 90 boats crossing the start line, including 8 ocean-going maxi multihulls in the Ultimate class. Zenith will be represented by Spindrift 2, the largest trimaran on the start line.
Spindrift 2 has been specially adapted for the 2014 Route du Rhum. Designed to be manned by a crew of 14, she has been carefully adapted for this race by Spindrift racing’s design team. The mast has been shortened by 6 metres, reducing the sail area by a fifth to make it more manoeuvrable. The cockpit, meanwhile, has been condensed so it can be used by a single-handed sailor. A bicycle has also been attached to the deck so that Yann can operate the winches with either his arms or his legs. Finally, an autopilot system – an essential feature for single-handed ocean racing – was both designed and fine-tuned.
The technical changes to Spindrift 2 have required significant tests out at sea. For Yann, it has been particularly important to ensure that the boat strikes the right balance between speed and reliability, performance and safety.
Skipper Yann Guichard is only too aware of the difficulties that lie ahead: ‘On a boat the size of Spindrift 2, the slightest manoeuvre requires an hour’s work’, he explains. ’You can’t simply make one move after another, or waste all of your energy at once, because you have to remain clearheaded, and ready for the next challenge that awaits.’
Timing is one of the keys to performance during a yacht race. Indeed, the timing of every manoeuvre is crucial for the final result of the race.
Yann knows that the weather will be a key factor, as depressions are notorious for giving competitors a rough ride during these autumnal transatlantic crossings. He knows that with a boat this size, he must get his tactics right and anticipate the conditions to avoid performing manoeuvres that will slow him down and get him caught in unstable winds.
The single-handed sailors also need to sleep – however rarely for longer than twenty minutes in a row. They also need to know how long they’ve slept for in order to manage sleep deprivation. One more reason to have a reliable and sturdy watch on the wrist, and to keep a good eye on it at all times!