Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Route du Rhum: Monohull Safran has Sights Set on the Rhum

by Soazig Guého

The ninth edition of the Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale is the big event of the 2010 season for Marc Guillemot and the monohull Safran. The legendary transatlantic race between St. Malo and Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe will start on 31st October.

Ten single-handed sailors aboard IMOCA monohulls will be lining up at the start off St. Malo in Brittany. Three new 60’ boats (PRB, Virbac-Paprec 3 and Foncia), considered to be sister-ships to Safran, wil be setting sail. With Groupe Bel, that means that in all there will be five boats designed by the VPLP – Verdier team.

“Considering just how reliable Safran is and how well I know the boat, I think it’s only normal that I set my sights high in a race I have already experienced (this will be his fourth time, editor’s note). Without wishing to underestimate my rivals, I shall be setting out with the advantage of having covered so many miles already on this machine, with the Vendée Globe and two Transat Jacques Vabre races under my belt. Whatever people think, the best way to prepare is still to take part in races. I feel increasingly confident in what I’m doing aboard this boat and we’re now very well suited to each other”, explained Marc Guillemot.

Autopilots: “We have taken a giant leap forward”

The modifications that were made to Safran last winter (a new coach roof, new channel through which the lines are fed, a central cockpit unit) have improved the reliability of the boat and made her lighter, as Safran now weighs in measuring 60 kilos less. On top of that, Marc Guillemot took advantage of the return delivery trip from Spain to la Trinité-sur-Mer in Southern Brittany back in the middle of the summer to work on the autopilots. “With Pierre Bourcier (in charge of the autopilots and instruments, editor’s note), we made a lot of progress. Last year sailing under spinnaker above twelve knots meant we were in for some acrobatics. Now, we have been able to test Safran under autopilot with real winds above 45 knots with three reefs in and she can now sail under little spinnaker with winds above 30 knots. This means we have taken a giant leap forward.”

Intensive preparation for the big event

Since Safran was relaunched last spring, Marc Guillemot has frequently been out sailing aboard her alone or with a crew. With two months to go to the start of the Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale, the pace of the preparation is stepping up: after the get together in La Trinité with the “Happy Baie !” event (from 3rd to 5th September), the skipper will be taking part in a series of training courses in Port-la-Forêt. Three three-day sessions are planned (mid and late September, and early October) on short race courses requiring a quick succession of manoeuvres. A way to revise the basics, but also a way to judge how the rivals are doing… After that, there will be the final service and check-up for the boat. “These training sessions save us time in our preparation, as we face real battles, not just against the other competitors, but above all it’s a fight from within to achieve our best and feel more and more confident. It’s also an opportunity to do some close contact sailing, and to observe our rivals doing manoeuvres, which is something that almost never happens during a transatlantic race.”

The monohull Safran will be moored up in the harbour in St. Malo from the 22nd October.

Route du Rhum