Although not racing a latest generation boat, Thomas Coville could also put in a good result on his four-year-old – he knows exactly how to get the best out of this yacht. “I’m in the ideal position in that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he commented before the race.
“I have a very reliable boat, which I love and understand completely,” he says.
At the other end of the scale, the Class 40 fleet presents another huge challenge. With 53 boats in their start, skippers have to prepare for big fleet tactics while contending with a demanding transatlantic course.
“I think it will be like an ocean Figaro leg,” described Britain’s Phil Sharp. “It will be pretty wide open for the first half of the race, with a close pack at the front. It’s going to be seriously intense. I think we’ll be the most interesting class to watch.
“There is a really strong level at the front of this class, with 10 boats that could definitely be battling for the lead. It should be really exciting.”
Sharp won the division in the 2006 Route du Rhum, but says the class is very different these days with a lot of design evolution. “They are proper, relentless, hardcore ocean racing machines now.”
The newest Lombard-designed Class 40s are particularly quick in some conditions but Sharp says the Route du Rhum course won’t make it a pure arms race for the Class 40. “It’s a really tactical race, with a real mix of bashing upwind against cold fronts to gybing downwind in tropical conditions.”
For Alex Thomson, who has a new IMOCA 60 currently in build, this year’s Route du Rhum will be an opportunity to watch the current newest boat in the fleet.
“I’ll be keeping an eye on Jérémie Beyou and It will be interesting to see how the boat performs, as the first next generation boat to be launched. I also have great respect for Vincent Riou [on who I think brings a lot of technical expertise to the race.”
We’ll have a feature on this incredible race in the January 2019 issue.