Created in 1978 by Michel Etevenon, the Route du Rhum is today one of the most famous and publicly followed races in sailing. With each increasingly captivating edition—as well as the technological advance of the boats—sail racing is allowed to register among major sports.
A new organising body, the Pen Duick company (created by Eric Tabarly and Gerard Petipas) has put in place all its knowledge to perpetuate the legend. On Sunday, October 29, 2006, the 8th edition of the race will kick off with the departure from La Rochelle, France en route to Guadeloupe (3,510 miles).
This sporting event is sailed solo, taking place every four years. In order to qualify, each boat and skipper must complete a 1,000-mile passage which is coordinated with the Racing Committee. This observation passage must be completed before the 1st of October on the registered boat, in the same conditions as those for the Route du Rhum, followed on Immarsat.
This trial welcomes different classes. The multihull class counts the Orma Class (60 foot), Class 2 (45 to 60 feet) and Class 3 (between 40 and 45 feet). The monohull series breaks down as follows: the IMOCA class (over 60 feet), Class 1 (between 50 and 60 feet), Class 2 (between 45 and 50 feet), Class 3 (between 40 and 45 feet) and a new class this year—a forty foot monohull class which has assembled 28 entries for its inception.
The arrival of this last class is in no small way linked to the record participation for this 8th edition at the close of inscriptions on July 1. Without forgetting the number of entries from the French islands…Not all budgets have been met, but on the entry list are Luc Coquelin (monohull 50 foot, Top 50), Claude Thelier (multihull 60 foot: ex Primagaz) and Philippe Fiston (monohull 60 foot: ex UUDS. From Martinique is Gilles Lamire (mulithull 60 foot: ex Gitana, ex Elf-Aquitaine). In a more amateur category, the Harbour Master of the Marina Bas-du-Fort will realise a dream when he crosses the Atlantic solo, on a Cigale 16 from the Alubat boatyard.
Each sailor has his own preparation, each his own priorities; and competitors haven’t gone for the same choices at the start even if they will regroup at the finish. Luc Coquelin and Claude Thelier have chosen ‘Guadeloupean know-how’ in preparing their boats locally. Luc will use Top 50, on which he had already participated in two Route du Rhums (2nd in 1998 and 2002). Claude replaced Vincent Beauvarlet at the last minute in 2002 on Region Guadeloupe (4th). The others who are on their first attempts have the same ambition: pass the finish line and if possible, do it first.