This morning, Alberto Bona and the Class40 IBSA left the Saint-Malo lock to enter the English Channel. Unlike previous exits and entries, this was a symbolic passage: this time they are starting for real!
The big day of the start of the Route du Rhum 2022 has arrived: at 2:15 pm the first start signal will be sounded and the 138 competing skippers will set off on this almost 3,500-mile transatlantic race that promises to be epic.
The difference of today’s departure compared to the original one of 6 November is that strategic decisions can be made to manage the frontal depression that the skippers will find almost immediately on their route. A key difference between a start in “regatta” mode, with more or less risky and advantageous tactical choices, and a start in “survival” mode (as it would have been on November 6), with no options other than to suffer the bad weather. The wind will still be very strong from the southwest, with a minimum base of 30 knots; stronger towards the north, with gusts estimated at 50-60 knots, more manageable to the south.
And forecasts say that – from a tactical point of view – it will be a very interesting Route du Rhum, with strong wind at the start, and a lot of variety of weather conditions along the way. Last checks for sails – which in the end remained unchanged, therefore a sail plan that also takes into account the strong winds, leaving home the largest and “fattest” sail, suitable for a very low wind – boats and men. Osteopathy has finished its job: to loosen Alberto in anticipation of the stiffness caused by the cold of the first days and by the little movement that the boat involves.
Last night Alberto was euphoric and ready to leave, “weather-addicted”, as befits the solitary navigator who is about to abandon the convenience of home wi-fi in favor of the satellite connection on board a sailing boat.
Instructions for use: starting from 1:15 pm, the live broadcast dedicated to the departure begins on the Route du Rhum website and on the Facebook and Twitter pages, with an impressive television production and live commentary until 4:00 pm. Again until 4:00 pm, the regatta tracker – the tool that, by selecting live TV or the navigator, will allow us to keep in touch with the fleet underway – will be updated every five minutes, then until tonight every 15 minutes and subsequently every hour, until the arrival in Guadeloupe (so, if you look at it this night, don’t worry if you see the same situation for 55 minutes, it’s part of the game!)
Let’s go back to start. The starting line is 3 miles long: plenty of space to accommodate all the participants, and the small Class40s have a segment dedicated to them towards the Pointe du Groin, therefore in the area closest to the coast. From the start at Cape Frehel, they will sail upwind, then – beyond the obligatory gate – the goal for everyone will be to exit the Channel in maximum safety, avoiding all areas off-limits to navigation, starting from the large marine area used for the production of electricity, that navigators will encounter proceeding west. And, as they sail along Brittany towards the end of the Channel, the waves will become higher, up to 4 meters, a remnant of the storm that passed on Monday. If the big trimarans already tonight are likely to reach the Atlantic, where more adequate breezes are expected, the Class40s will need more time to enter the Bay of Biscay.
Navigators do not need recommendations or encouragement: Alberto Bona has been sailing since last night, maneuver by maneuver. We just have to wish him good wind!