With just 48 hours days to go until the start of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, it only takes a few minutes with Yann Guichard to see the extent of his determination. The incredible attention to detail in the preparations by Spindrift 2 speaks volumes about the work accomplished by the team since the single-handed race was inserted into Spindrift racing’s programme almost a year ago. The weather was the last piece in the puzzle. This centrepiece is finally taking shape and the situation is becoming more certain. On Sunday, November 2nd, the forecast for Saint-Malo is for very difficult conditions. A weather front is due to pass over just when the race begins, with strong winds which could make it difficult for all participants, alongside the hundreds of spectator boats. Safety is at the heart of Spindrift racing’s preparations, and the team has been anticipating those tricky final few hours for several months.
Route du Rhum 2014
With Saint-Malo still basking in summer temperatures, Yann Guichard gives us an update:
The grand départ: “The departure is going to be very difficult, with the front expected to pass by at around 2pm. If the front does pass at that time, we will face headwinds with gusts of 20-25 knots, so we will perhaps have to change tack twice to reach the Cap Fréhel buoy. There will be an offshore wind so there will not be much of a tide, but with so many boats on the water it will be choppy. We hope the front will pass later, as then the wind will come from one of the sides.”
Safety measures: “Spindrift 2 will be surrounded by six tenders (semi-rigid boats) to ensure its safety and that of the surrounding boats, as we expect to set off from an area where there will be many spectator boats.”
Eight on board: “During the pre-departure phase I will have eight trusted team-mates on board with me. The aim is to relieve me of as much pressure as possible. I know it will be difficult to achieve this, but the aim is for me to expend as few nervous impulses as possible. Xavier Revil will be responsible for the boat as we approach the departure time, until I am alone. That way I can focus on my strategy and communicate with my team, especially the routers.”
The English Channel and beyond?: “Once the weather front has passed, the wind will calm down slightly, before picking up to a speed of around 30 knots as I leave the English Channel, with the swell reaching 3-4 metres. The aim is to sail into the Atlantic at 100% of the boat’s capacity. I’m mentally prepared for this type of start to the Route du Rhum, and I’m ready. At least we know the southern route is not closed. At the moment it looks like it will be the quickest route, but the conditions are still changing fast. The speed will remain high, ideal for the large boats. We will be able to accelerate with Spindrift 2. The cold wind will bring unstable conditions, but we should still sail quickly, with winds of 30 knots until we reach Madeira. After that, current forecasts suggest the trade wind will not be strong, which could throw the race wide open.”
Mental imagery:”I do not have a ritual. A good pasta meal before I set off is enough. But I do a lot of mental imagery, especially for phases such as the race start. I picture all possible scenarios, good and bad, to make sure I am ready for any problems. I calm myself down, and in my head I perform a tack, a gybe, and I picture where I need to place my hands and my feet and what I should not do.”
Emotion: “For sure, the pressure is starting to mount, but I am not too stressed. I am sleeping well and enjoying the moment. Many people believe in this project, but many do not, so I really want to prove them wrong.”
The relationship with Spindrift 2: “I have always felt close to my boats, but even more so with this one, because the challenge is so immense that I have to trust her even more. I do not talk to her, but I take care of her. We are taking on this challenge together, so taking good care of her helps me to trust her.”
Departure schedule for Spindrift racing:
Saturday, November 1st:
3pm: the maxi-trimaran Spindrift 2 will leave her dock at the Gare Maritime in Saint-Malo.
5.30pm approx.: she will be moored at the mooring buoy by the town of Dinard, ready to enter the race area the next day.
Members of the technical team will take turns on board to guard the boat.
Sunday, November 2nd:
7am: technical team briefing
10am approx.: departure from the mooring buoy to reach the start area by Pointe du Grouin.
Boat configuration and preparation for departure on the water.
Team members must abandon boats at least 4 minutes before the race start at 2pm.
Spindrift racing routers:
Yann will be alone aboard Spindrift 2, but will work with two onshore routers responsible for keeping an eye on him and the boat. More importantly, they will process all the weather data to help Yann with his strategy. Navigating the boat is so demanding that Yann will not have time to spend sat at the card table. The analysis will be done back on dry land by the routers, who will offer different route recommendations, from which Yann will select the option he believes is best. The skipper will work with meteorologist Richard Silvani of Météo France, who has been a professional router for about fifteen years. Silvani’s achievements include guiding Laurent Bourgnon to two Route du Rhum victories. Yann is also supported by the sailor Erwan Israël, who brings not only his weather knowledge but also his experience as a sailor. Erwan won the Volvo Ocean Race with Franck Cammas in 2012 and broke the record for the Discovery Route with the Spindrift 2 crew in 2013.