Thirty two years after the first of his seven attempts, French ocean racing star Loick Peyron won the mythical Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe this Monday morning (TU) when he crossed the finish line of the solo race from Saint-Malo France to Pointe-a-Pitre in a time of 7d 15h 8m 32s aboard the 31.5m (103ft) Ultime trimaran Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII.
His elapsed time is a new outright record for the course passage, which was first raced in 1982, breaking the 2006 reference time set by Lionel Lemonchois (7 days 17 hours and 9 minutes) by 2hrs 10mins 34secs.
Peyron sailed the 3,524 nautical miles theoretical course at an average of 19.34kts. In reality he sailed 4,199nm at an average of 22.93kts.
Skipper of the 14 man 2011-2012 Banque Populaire crew which holds the outright Jules Verne Trophy sailing non-stop around the world record, Peyron has a longstanding special affection for La Route du Rhum as it is the Transatlantic race which launched his solo ocean racing career as a 22 year old. Until today he had finished fifth twice and was forced to abandon three times in the ORMA 60 trimarans in 1990, 1994 and 2002.
At the age of 54, his Route du Rhum triumph is another new summit for the sailor from La Baule, Brittany who turns his hand with equal skill to all disciplines of sailing from foiling Moth dinghies to the giant multihulls as well as the America’s Cup.
Ironically he was only enlisted two months ago to replace skipper Armel Le Cléach’h who injured his hand.
Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII’s win was built from the first night at sea. After negotiating a difficult upwind section Peyron was the first to turn off Ushant, perfectly timing his key passage through the front. He opened his lead in almost all sections of the course, except momentarily when he lead into a bubble of light winds under the Azores high-pressure system. But his approach to Guadeloupe regained distance and when he crossed the finish line second placed Yann Guichard on the 40m Spindrift was 180 miles astern.
It is the second time in a row that the race has been won by the same trimaran, which was designed by VPLP. In 2010 Franck Cammas won on the same boat when it was Groupama, in a time of 9 days 3 hours.
His win is all the more remarkable for the fact that Peyron stepped in for the injured Le Cléac’h only two months ago and many times pre-start in Saint-Malo he voiced his concerns about the magnitude of the physical challenge he faced, playing down any suggestions or expectations.
In fact Peyron had originally planned to sail this Rhum in a tiny 11.5m trimaran called Happy. But his vast experience and technical skills on multihulls filled the gap, complemented by the accomplished skills of his routers ashore – who plot his course for him – Marcel van Triest and Armel Le Cléac’h. His two ‘guardian angels’ kept his course fast, simple, smooth and safe.
First words from Loick upon arrival: “It is a very nice victory but a team victory. I was not supposed to be on this boat two months ago. I was supposed to do the Rhum race on a very small yellow trimaran, which will be the case in four years time, I will be back. But it is not a surprise because I knew that the boat was able to do it. I knew that the team was able to help me a lot.
Armel is here but he does not want to be here on the pontoon. But he is here and in fact we spent the week together. We were talking all the time, before and during the race, and he gave me so much help.
It was really tough, but I am really impressed by the job that Yann Guichard has done since the start. His boat is bigger, this boat is big but it is nice.
The last day was difficult, from the early hours off the Désirade, there was a lot of maneuvering to be done. It’s been seven editions for me! This is an exceptional situation, to stand in for Armel and to be able to skipper such a beautiful boat. This victory is thanks to Team Banque Populaire, as whole team we did this.
I never imagined that I would win a Route du Rhum on a boat like this. A race like this is never simple and that is what is so exciting and incredible about it. It is also very stressful for the boat to withstand such high speeds in bad seas. I was able to sail the boat well but was scared. This is what the multihull game is all about. You have to constantly manage the boat. One night I fell asleep at the helm and nearly capsized the boat. This is a great victory; possibly one of the nicest and breaking the record is the cherry on top of the cake.”