Eight days to go
In the glowing autumn sunshine 2010 Route du Rhum La Banque Postale took shape and form today around the historic inner harbours in the heart of Saint Malo, a remarkable fleet mustering for what promises to be a remarkable ninth edition.
There are nine days still until the start gun sounds at 1302hrs on Sunday 31 October but the record fleet of 86 boats and their solo skippers from ten different nations, set to compete in five different classes was set the deadline of being in Saint Malo by midday today.
At the early morning locking in, just as the sun was rising, sure enough there was a posse of IMOCA Open 60s arriving to take their place in the Duguay-Trouin Basin. So too Sidney Gavignet's giant Arabian 100 Oman Air Majan moored up on cue in Vauban Basin, ready to line up in a nine strong clash of the titans, the Ultimate class which will certainly by one key focal point for the huge number of visitors who are expected to make the odyssey to Saint Malo over the coming days.
The last edition of the Route du Rhum La Banque Postale, in 2006, attracted over 1.2m visitors over the ten days leading up to the start.
At rest at the quayside it will be the well-read or keen-eyed visitors who will be able to spot the differences between the five different Ultimate class multihulls which all hold records of their own. Unlike their ORMA 60 predecessors, each was designed with different dimensions, configurations and primary purpose and this will be the first time that these giants, in their current form, have finally lined up to race, no holds barred down the 3542 miles course to Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe.
The key questions are not just which one will prevail, but how low might they take the 7d 17h 19m race record, which was set last time by Gitana 11?
At the set time, midday, most of the fleet were either in the basins, with three moored off awaiting the early evening locks: Côte d'Or 2 of Bertrand Quentin, Generik-Exp'hair en Beauté of Joris de Carlan and Maire Toit – Caen La Mer of Marc Lepesqueux.
Two entries remain in the balance. A decision is expected tomorrow once a structural survey has been completed this evening on the Class 40, L'Express-Sapmer of Pierre-Yves Lautrou who was hit by a fishing boat off Cape Frehel on Wednesday night whilst on delivery passage here. The journalist-skipper's boat sustained a hole in the port side of about 1 metre across. And in the Ultimate class Philippe Monnet is still trying to secure his budget to fulfil his place as the ninth entry in this exciting class aboard Ellen MacArthur's former B&Q/Castorama trimaran.
The nine strong IMOCA Open 60 class will feature all three of the new 2010 launched boats. Vincent Riou's PRB has already finished second in the round Spain Vuelta España race this summer, but this will be the first big test for Jean Pierre Dick's Virbac Paprec 3 as well as Michel Desjoyeaux's new Foncia which was only launched last month.
The extensive Race Village opens Saturday at 1000 and offers a very comprehensive offering of displays, entertainment and exhibitions for all ages.
Among the keynote displays will be 'La Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale, A History of the Queen of Transats' which is an exhibition in the Saint Sauveur Chapel which traces the history of the race and the highlights from 1978 to the present, with many stunning black and white and colour images. The majority of these photos are by Gilles Martin Raget and the AFP agency, but supplemented by Yvann Zedda, Thierry Martinez and Jean-Marie Liot.