Route du Rhum update

Late entries and late qualifications among impressive transat fleet

Tuesday October 22nd 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
The Route du Rhum is lining up to be an ocean race with one of the most impressive fleets ever assembled.

Currently 60 singlehanded competitors are entered - including a formidable 18 60ft tris, starting on Sunday 10 November, and an equally impressive line-up of Open 60s and smaller multis and monos, taking the first start, the day before.

The latest entry, is a man without whom this race would not be complete. At the grand old age of 72, Mike Birch will be taking part in his seventh Route du Rhum. Birch is very much the legendary face of this event since pipping Michel Malinovsky's larger monohull Kriter to the finish line of the first Route du Rhum in 1978 to take first place aboard his tiny trimaran Olympus Photo.

This time Birch is back in an Open 60, the former UUNet which Philippe Monnet set the present singlehanded record for sailing around the world non-stop westabout against the prevailing winds. This boat was originally Philippe Poupon's Fleury Michon and since Monnet's circumnavigation has been raced by Italian competitor Simone Bianchetti in the Vendee Globe.

Birch will be sailing his qualifying passage in mid-October and he is still looking for funds to complete his budget.

Pierre Yves Guennec on Lehning-Lapeyre-Région Guadeloupe and 21 year old Mini sailor Yannick Bestaven have also signed up at the last minute. Guennec, will be sailing a Marc Lombard Formula 40 tri and Bestaven has rented the hot Berret/Racoupeau-designed Open 50 Saving from Renaud le Youdec. The very last change concerns Frédéric Lescot who is entered on an Open 60.

At the age of 21, Pierre Yves Guennec was a competitor in an early Mini Transat in which he sailed his Muscadet (the original Mini one design) to sixth place.

For his first participation in the Route du Rhum, Guennec is competing on board the smallest multihull in the fleet. He has recently acquired a 40-foot foiler trimaran, sistership to Alain Comyn's Formula 40 Region Nord Pas de Calais. The boat was built in 1986 for businessman and sailor Jacky Setton. Built in Kevlar/carbon the boat displaces just 1.6 tons and is in excellent condition. Originally designed for round the cans sailing in mind, she has had extra equipment fitted in order to go transatlantic including a new doghouse.

After winning the last Mini-Transat on board Aquarelle, Yannick Bestaven will be on the start line of the Route du Rhum on a boat that will be give Aussie skipper Nick Moloney some serious competition. Aged 29, Bestaven, a civil engineer, has twice taken part in the Mini-Transat as well as two transatlantic deliveries, a Course de l'Europe and a Fastnet race aboard Yves Parlier's Aquitaine Innovations.

Late qualifications

Despite the start being imminent, at the time of writing nine of the 60 competitors had still not qualified - including the 60ft trimarans Foncia 2 and Geant, both of whom have been undergoing major repairwork following dismastings.

See page two for the latest list of competitors

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