Con­fi­dent com­peti­tor

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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.”

De­sign evo­lu­tion

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.

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