Route du Rhum: single-handed sailing on a giant of the seas!

By MyWatch

Yann Guichard is about to undertake one of the greatest possible challenges: he will sail the legendary Route du Rhum transatlantic regatta single-handed aboard Spindrift 2, the giant super-fast trimaran de-signed to be manned by a crew of 14, bearing the colours of Zenith.

It is a transatlantic single-handed yacht race, which takes place every 4 years in November. The 3,542 miles (6,560 km) race starts in Saint Malo, Brittany (France) and finishes in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.
The 2014 edition will see an unprecedented 90 boats crossing the start line, including 8 ocean-going maxi multihulls (including Spindrift 2) in the Ultimate class. Zenith will be represented by Spindrift 2, the elegant racing trimaran that will be the largest on the start line.
Skipper Yann Guichard is only too aware of the difficulties that lie ahead: ‘On a boat the size of Spindrift 2, the slightest manoeuvre requires an hour’s work’, he explains. ‘You can’t simply make one move after another, or waste all of your energy at once, because you have to remain clearheaded, and ready for the next challenge that awaits.’
The first edition of the Route du Rhum was won by Canadian Michael Birch in his boat Olympus Photo in 26 days and 6 hours, by a margin of 98 seconds over second-placed Michel Malinovsky in Kriter V. 36 years later, the race should last approximately a week, 7 days during which the skipper will work harder than ever. Deprived of sleep, he will spend most of his time manoeuvring, trimming, steering and organising his navigation at the chart table. An extraordinary challenge, both physically and psychologically.


Spindrift 2, the giant of the seas, has been specially adapted for the 2014 Route du Rhum. The result is a perfect mix between speed and reliability, performance and safety.
With her impressive 40 metres, Spindrift 2 is a true giant of the seas! She will also be the largest boat in-volved in this year’s Route du Rhum. Designed to be manned by a crew of 14, she has been carefully adapted for this race by Spindrift racing’s design team.
The mast has been shortened by 6 metres, reducing the sail area by a fifth to make it more manoeuvrable. The cockpit, meanwhile, has been condensed so it can be used by a single-handed sailor. A bicycle has also been attached to the deck so that Yann can operate the winches with either his arms or his legs. Finally, an autopilot system – an essential feature for single-handed ocean racing – was both designed and fine-tuned.
During the race, Yann will spend most of his time outside, under the canopy, in a special pilot’s unit which will host his computer, his bunk and all other necessary equipment. He will have to be ready to act at any time, for example, in order to alter course or trim a sail, sometimes urgently if the wind changes or if a cargo ship crosses Spindrift 2’s path.
The technical changes to Spindrift 2 have required significant tests out at sea. For Yann, it has been particularly important to ensure that the boat strikes the right balance between speed and reliability, performance and safety.


Launched: August 26th 2008
Architects: VPLP & Spindrift racing design team
Boatyards: CDK technologies (deck), Lorima (mast), North Sails (sails)
Length of main hull: 40 metres
Length of outrigger hulls: 37 metres
Width: 23 metres
Displacement: 21 tonnes
Draught: 5.1 metres
Air draught: 41 metres
Mainsail: 365 m2 (450 kg)
Reacher: 292 m2
Staysail: 166 m2
ORC: 72 m2
Gennaker: 440 m2


Yann Guichard is about to take on one of the biggest challenges of his career to date. A multihull expert since a young age, he has sailed on almost all types of multihull on the professional circuit, from the Olympic Tornado to the 40-metre maxi-trimaran Spindrift 2.
Aged 40, Yann Guichard has competed in the Olympic Games 2000 and collected records and victories on various circuits, both in oceanic and inshore races, including the Route du Rhum, Transat Jacques Vabre, Extreme Sailing Series and Vulcain Trophy, amongst others.
Yann discovered offshore multihull racing with some of France’s best experts – Marc Guillemot, Fred Le Peutrec and Lionel Lemonchois. He went on to join the Gitana team as one of their skippers. A fine helmsman, in 2011 he was asked to share the helm of the French America’s Cup challenger Energy Team with Loïck Peyron, during the America’s Cup World Series.
He has since moved on and now manages Spindrift racing alongside Dona Bertarelli, with whom he founded this professional sailing team in 2011. Skipper, helmsman and router – Yann plays each of these roles with unfailing skill, dedication, passion and energy. All of which he channels towards the ultimate goal: victory.
He now looks forward to the excitement and challenge of the Route du Rhum: ‘When Spindrift 2 has the right sails up for the weather at the time, and you’re gliding along over the waves, it’s incredibly satisfying and exhilarating. Over these final days of preparation, I will learn to do more things automatically and will become increasingly competitive. I will also continue to prepare myself physically, although in moderation, so that I remain suitably energised when I reach the start line. I will need to be in the best possible shape on November 2nd, ready to take on the full challenge ahead!


Career highlights:
2014: Winner of the Bol d’Or Mirabaud on board the D35 Ladycat powered by Spindrift racing
3rd in Vulcain Trophy
2013: Holder of the Discovery Route record on board Spindrift 2, 6d, 14h, 29m
Winner of the Fastnet Race aboard Spindrift 2
2012: Winner of the Krys Ocean Race and the Multi One Championship aboard the MOD70 Spindrift
2011: 2nd in match racing and 3rd in fleet racing in San Diego in America’s Cup World Series aboard Energy Team
2010: 4th in the 2010 Route du Rhum on board Gitana 11
2006 and 2007: Holder North Atlantic Record aboard Orange II (2006) and Groupama 3 (2007)
2005 and 2007: 2nd Transat Jacques Vabre on board Gitana 11
2000: 4th in the Sydney Olympic Games


Yacht racing is a very complex sport that requires perfect management and timing. Race starts, manoeu-vres, anticipation of the weather systems, sleep management: winning is all about mastering time!
The start of the Route du Rhum will take place on Sunday November 2nd at 14:00 off the coast of Saint Malo in Brittany. 10 minutes prior to this intensely exciting moment, the Principal Race Officer (PRO) will hoist a warning signal on the starting vessel and fire a gun, and the 90 sailors will simultaneously check their watch and initiate the count down to the start of the race. During the next 10 minutes, they will look at their watch every 15 seconds on average… Their goal’ To cross the start line at full speed on the precise place where they want to be and at the very second the start gun is shot.
Timing is one of the keys to performance during a yacht race. The start is the most obvious moment, but there are many others. Indeed, the timing of every manoeuvre is crucial for the final result of the race. Whenever sailors reach a new weather system, such as a low pressure in the North Atlantic or the trade winds as they head South, the timing of their next manoeuvre will have a direct impact on their arriving time, that will be measured in hours – if not days – as they arrive in Guadeloupe. Indeed, in sailing, the shortest route is never the fastest, and the tactical skills of the sailors play an essential role.
Yann knows that the weather will be a key factor, as depressions are notorious for giving competitors a rough ride during these autumnal transatlantic crossings. He knows that with a boat this size, he must get his tactics right and anticipate the conditions to avoid performing manoeuvres that will slow him down and get him caught in unstable winds.
The single-handed sailors also need to sleep – however rarely for longer than twenty minutes in a row. They also need to know how long they’ve slept for in order to manage sleep deprivation. One more reason to have a reliable and sturdy watch on the wrist, and to keep a good eye on it at all times!

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  • Route du Rhum
  • Route du Rhum