We thought we had seen everything in the offshore race! It was without counting on the fabulous mano a mano that was offered Francis Joyon, finally winner of the 11th Route du Rhum, and François Gabart. The tour of Guadeloupe has been epic, the last miles completely crazy.
Gabart still in front of the Head to the Englishman. Friday, Macif skipper was 170 miles ahead and it's a boulevard that was open to him. But Saturday, and especially Sunday, his lead melted like snow in the sun. On Sunday, at 2 pm, Francis Joyon, who sailed between 5 and 6 knots faster than his rival, got back to 15 miles. Three hours later, Macif lifts the veil on the technical problems encountered by Maxi trimaran. Since 5 days, he is sailing with less foil and saffron! Joyon is at his heels but at 18:50, Gabart is the first to pass the rock from Head to English. He is 20 miles ahead and starts the tour of Guadeloupe.
The petole along the coast. The conditions are favorable, the ETAs provide a 5 hour ride. Off Bouillante, Gabart sails at 16 knots and keeps the gap. It is 20 hours in Paris and the wind is invited in the game. Or rather the lack of wind. Gabart is trapped. Joyon is not at best, with top speeds of less than 10 knots, but he manages to fill his return. Only three miles separate the two men, shortly after 23 hours.
Francis Joyon near the port of Pointe-à-Pitre. / LOIC VENANCE / AFP
The buoy of Basse-Terre as justice of the peace. The bottle of floating rum that marks the passage of Basse-Terre is a nightmare for all sailors. Even more this Sunday evening. The gap is now less than a mile, we imagine that Joyon will this time take over. And yet, Gabart and his lighter Maxi extricate themselves from the buoy. A laughing stock, and here he is running more than 15 knots to the Saintes Canal. There are only 20 miles left to go.
Midnight, the time of the crime. It was thought that he had abdicated but it was not counting on the old sea bass. At 62, Joyon, seven Roads of Rum behind him, has matted more than an ocean. At the exit of the canal des Saintes, it is inside and exceeds Gabart, for the first time since the departure of Saint-Malo!
Joyon trapped in turn. The two maxi trimarans are engaged in Pointe-à-Pitre Bay. Joyon, who has enjoyed a laugh, has a little more than three miles in advance when fishing nets are caught in his rudders! Idec is idling but maintains his lead. It is 2 hours in Paris, 21 hours at Pointe-à-Pitre, and the line is 20 miles.
The ultimate maneuver. Two miles from the line, the wind falls again. Both boats are edge to edge, only three knots speed! Less than a mile from the line, 200 meters separate them. A final tack is in preparation. Joyon is the first to engage it. "A transfer of anthology", he will note on arrival. A transfer that allows him to go to the line, and to cross seven minutes before Gabart. It is then 4h22 in Metropolis.
In red, the trajectory of Francis Joyon. In blue, that of François Gabart. / ROUTE OF THE RUM