Route du Rhum. An Update from Donald Alexander & Armel Le Cléac’h Capsizes

Power of One being sailed by Donald Alexander.

by Richard Crockett

Donald Alexander has been in my thoughts a lot during the past two days as I have wondered how he is faring and adjusting to life on the big bad sea!

I was therefore delighted to have received a message from him – and it’s anything but easy out there.

“I’ve slowly been adjusting to the boat after not sailing it since August and having a lot of new equipment on board. The first 24 hours were pleasant low wind sailing allowing me to familiarise myself with the boat. That was until I noticed the gennicker furling line had come out of the furler. So that was the end of the honeymoon!

“I managed to bear off and get the tack onboard and reseat the line, but the gennicker got into magnificent wrap and then wound itself around the forestay. Fortunately after many gybes I managed to get it unwrapped and off the forestay, but the gennicker wrap was unplayable so dropped it.

“Then it was time to prepare for the low pressure system which hit harder than expected. I changed to a staysail and put in a reef. It was dark and gusting 35 – 40 knots when the staysail tack lashing snapped, so the staysail was flying wildly around. I bore away again to de-power so I could furl the sail, drop it, re-lash the tack on foredeck so that I could hoist it, reset it and put in another reef. And obviously stay aboard!

Donald Alexander.

“That was a 90 minute exercise. Unfortunately it lost me 20 miles downwind and a lot of physical resources, but it’s still early days”.

Today I’m on two reefs and the staysail, a little bit under-gunned, but fine while I build my resources, catch up on some sleep and prepare some food. Not that easy in this stuff”.

I’ll be on port for another about 70nm before tacking, but just more of the same for next 5 – 6 days. Woohoo! Just low after low after low. Hopefully the patterns will change a bit and toss us a bone?”

Currently Alexander is in 26th place in the Class 40 fleet, a very respectable place in this highly competitive fleet of over 50 boats.

Sailors amongst us will know just how tough those conditions are in a fully crewed boat, but when on one’s own it’s a whole different story. Knowing Alexander as I do, he’s a tough nut who will be revelling in the conditions and taking on each challenge with gusto, all the while cursing every single lost metre during the down times.

The French superstar sailor Armel Le Cléac’h has capsized in his maxi trimaran, ‘Banque Populaire IX’, in the most serious incident yet to hit the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe fleet as the skippers contend with a major storm in the Atlantic.

Armel Le Cléac’h has capsized in his maxi trimaran, ‘Banque Populaire IX’.
pic by Yvan Zedda