With just over 200 nautical miles to go the leaders in the IMOCA fleet of the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe are in the closing stages of their race. The top three have everything to play for with Thomas Ruyant now leading the group. Charlie Dalin is chasing hard and it might be those final few miles around the island early tomorrow morning that decide the final podium order. Currently in third place, Jérémie Beyou, Charal on his new ‘Bull’ had a tough 24 hours – he sounds like he’s balancing pushing his new boat hard and staying in a podium position.
As I know the hard way… ‘it’s not over until it’s over’ and there is no room for complacency during any part of a race. In the 2018 Route du Rhum, I was leading the race with an almost 200 mile lead, I had set a record pace over the 3,500 mile course battling some ferocious weather on the way and hitting a top speed of 38.5 knots. The night before the finish, my plan was to get some sleep before negotiating the last few miles around the island of Guadeloupe to the line off Pointe-à-Pitre.
As I am sure you will remember, I did sleep… I was exhausted and it was only the boat coming to a quick stop, as I hit the cliffs that I woke up. It transpired that I had not charged the electric shock wrist band that was the last resort to wake me up. It’s hard not to think about the finish line when your are so close to finishing – but your job is to keep the boat going fast, keep yourself safe and to never be complacent. I definitely wasn’t being complacent, but exhaustion won on that occasion. Single handed racing across an ocean or around the world is still one of the toughest events a man or woman can take on and although the end of my Route du Rhum is not one I enjoy thinking about – as a team we learned valuable lessons. You can have the best prepared boat, be in top physical and mental shape but you are taking on yourself and Mother Nature and sometimes she will win and you will lose, but that’s the allure of ocean racing – one man or woman in their boat taking on the elements.
I was very, very lucky not to be seriously injured or to have lost the boat.. It’s not a memory I relish and as the Skipper’s race to the line after an intense two weeks the memories come flooding back. I wish them all a safe passage to the finish line and I will be glued to the tracker tomorrow morning. Alex.