For the 40th anniversary, the famous solo transatlantic race has a whopping 125 boats preparing for their departure from Saint-Malo. A special edition that reminds us of many others…
In 1978, after 23 days, 6 hours and 56 minutes of racing and 3,542 miles in his wake, Mike Birch passed Michel Malinovsky over the finish line. Winning by 98 seconds, the Canadian’s victory was inscribed in the history of the race. Because of the extremely close finish, it was also thanks to Mike Birch that the Route du Rhum race became a well-known transatlantic race from then on. This first edition was exactly how the creator, Michel Etevenon, had imagined the race would be. He created the event in partnership with sugar producers and distilleries so that professionals and amateurs in monohulls and multihulls, with no size limit, could compete against each other on the route between Saint-Malo and Point-à-Pitre. It was a way of encouraging creativity and innovation, to let each sailor decide on their own approach to the race. It was also a response to the restrictions that were imposed for the Ostar, the English transatlantic race that only allowed vessels up to 60 feet.
Since 1978, the Route du Rhum has blessed the destinies of many sailors and has truly made its mark thanks to the great sailors who have braved the elements each fall, on this solitary expedition. Philippe Poupon on his 22.80 meter hydrofoil trimaran reigned supreme in the 1986 edition, winning by two days. In 1990, Florence Arthaud proved everyone wrong who thought that a woman had no place on the podium. In spite of electronic problems and a hemorrhage, she arrived triumphant on her golden trimaran, Pierre I, at sunset in Pointe-à-Pitre. In 1994, there was one single race but two podiums, one for multihulls and the other for monohulls. Laurent Bourgnon, with the face of an angel, arrived first over the finish line with Primagaz, his 18-meter trimaran.
Every year, great skippers go head-to-head in the Atlantic waters. In 1998, there was a tense showdown between Laurent Bourgnon, Loïck Peyron, Alain Gautier, Francis Joyon and Catherine Chabaud. This edition will honor Laurent Bourgnon once again, but the public will also remember the face of Ellen MacArthur, a 22 year old English woman who arrived first in her category on a 50-foot monohull… As the years go by, there are more and more classes (Class 40, IMOCA, Ultimate, Multi 50…), but the Rhum class remains, faithful as ever to the original spirit, with the participation each year of enlightened enthusiasts who wish to fare out into the Atlantic waters.
125 boats gathered on the starting line on November 4th in Saint-Malo to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this race. And seeing the famous names of the competitors, we are sure it would have been difficult to bet on the winners!
GITANA, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, Setting sail, July 31st, 2018.