Route du Rhum. Donald Alexander on the Enormity of this Race

pic by Alexis Courcoux

by Donald Alexander

Debra and I are in St Malo, and suddenly it’s the night before my departure on the Route du Rhum, the solo sailing race from St Malo, France to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.

Donald Alexander.

I cannot begin to describe what a spectacle this event is and the reverence it has amongst the French. To get the best impression its definitely worth checking out the website ( which also enables you to follow the race.

I must confess to being a little worn out by it all, not to mention the stringency of the French scrutineering of safety equipment , a good thing obviously, but also frustrating dealing with their exactitude. But I also love them!

So it was a bit of a relief today that we finally moved out of the locks and put our boats on mooring buoys. And all the more special with the send-off that the French spectators give. It’s incredible, with tens of thousands of them cheering all the competitors on as they leave their pontoons and make their way to the lock (which is a necessity here with a tidal range of 10m, yes metres, not feet).

Its been an amazing experience, and now its time to face the reality of the Atlantic at this time of year. We have some nasty lows heading our way, all very much part of the character of the Route du Rhum.

I could meander on forever about this event which has caught me by surprise by its sheer scale and the level of the competition. It’s the veritable who’s who of solo sailors world wide, especially the French who dominate the sport. But its late and I must get some sleep before getting a lift out to the boat with our RIB support vessel tomorrow morning. I think watching the live stream off the website of the start tomorrow afternoon will be quite something.

Debra and my old mate Ian will be out there in the RIB offering support while Pip Hare helps me prepare with final strategy based on the latest weather maps.

I will be communicating with Debra and Bruce who will direct things into a blog ( which Bruce very kindly set up. Commentary may also be given by Paul Peggs, a veteran of solo sailor and world class ‘preparateur’ who helped prepare the boat, and Pip Hare another well known and respected solo sailor who will be doing the next the Vendee Globe and has provided invaluable help to me as a coach.

I think you will find the race fascinating as it has the maxi trimarans (some on foils) who will probably do the race in less than 7 days, the IMOCA 60’s (the Vendee Globe boats) and then 53 Class 40s.

I have no illusions about this race which is populated by hardened and mostly sponsored professionals, so if I get into the top 30 I’ll be ecstatic. I’m going to sail as fast as my abilities and safety will allow and, above all, revel in the adventure.

Thanks for all the support and hope you enjoy the ride too.