Menu

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

British Star Alex Thomson in Saint Malo Ahead of Route du Rhum Ahead Race Start

5th November 2022
Back in the ‘hood…British star Alex Thomson (left) in Saint-Malo at Route du Rhum start. “For all the new boats it is really touch and go if they even make it to the other side.”
Back in the ‘hood…British star Alex Thomson (left) in Saint-Malo at Route du Rhum start. “For all the new boats it is really touch and go if they even make it to the other side.”

The Route du Rhum carries a frustrating memory for British solo racer Alex Thomson. With a comfortable lead, on course for his first ever IMOCA major ocean race win, he slept through his electric shock watch alarm, and his IMOCA hit the island of Basse Terre. A consequent 24 hours penalty for using the engine to get off the rocks dropped Thomson to third and handed victory to Paul Meilhat.

After announcing a break from ocean racing to focus fully on family life and help other emerging teams, Thomson is back today in Saint-Malo, relaxed, happy and wearing the colours of Canada Ocean Racing, the outfit which his Alex Thomson Racing are mentoring towards the 2028 Vendée Globe.

“It is fantastic to be back.” Thomson volunteers, “Obviously there is a big part of me wants to be back doing this. But it is a pleasure to be back and see everyone and this is the first race start I have been to since the Vendée Globe. I have had a proper break.”

“For all the new boats, it is really touch and go if they even make it to the other side”

The IMOCA fleet has grown almost twofold since the 2018 race – his only Route du Rhum – when there were 20 boats on the start line. He concurs that many of the new, youngest IMOCAs might not make the finish line.

“Thirty eight IMOCAs is insane. What a fleet. Obviously, APIVIA, Charlie Dalin is the favourite. For all the new boats it is really touch and go if they even make it to the other side as they have not done the miles. Most people will take it quite carefully. I can imagine many going far to the north or even to the west. I think a few new boats will get there. I think Jérémie Beyou will make it and do well, he has Franck Cammas in his camp and that is one of the smartest moves ever.”

Jérémie Byeou'ss Charal - The Frenchman is one of only a handful of sailors to have taken part in four Vendée Globes and is aiming for a fifth entry in the 2024-25 Vendée Globe race. His best position to date in the solo non-stop round the world race is a 3rd place that he picked up in the 2016-17 edition Photo: Eloi Stichelbaut Jérémie Byeou'ss Charal - The Frenchman is one of only a handful of sailors to have taken part in four Vendée Globes and is aiming for a fifth entry in the 2024-25 Vendée Globe race. His best position to date in the solo non-stop round the world race is a 3rd place that he picked up in the 2016-17 edition Photo: Eloi Stichelbaut 

Surveying the assembled fleet for the first time, he says, “I love Kevin Escoffier’s boat and technically, he is very good, and I can see him doing well. Of those new boats, Boris (Herrmann) might find it tough to get to the other side as he is on this schedule to get to Alicante directly for The Ocean Race start. And the other thing is these boats are doing 16-18kts upwind now, which is amazing.”

Team Maliza Seaexplorer , Boris Hermann’s new IMOCA, designed for both The Ocean Race 2023 and the Vendée Globe 2024 by naval architects VPLP, was launched in Lorient on 19 July 2022 Photo: Antoine AuriolTeam Maliza Seaexplorer , Boris Hermann’s new IMOCA, designed for both The Ocean Race 2023 and the Vendée Globe 2024 by naval architects VPLP, was launched in Lorient on 19 July 2022 Photo: Antoine Auriol

Inevitably the questions about his 2018 accident are replayed. Four years on it still rankles that he was so close to winning his first ‘major’ with a huge lead, racing the fastest most optimised boat in the fleet.

“It is funny how everyone wants to remind me.” He smiles with his trademark grin, “ And that is fine. I describe touching Guadeloupe as ‘my most embarrassing public moment’. And what is great is it means I don’t have to talk about my other most embarrassing moment!. But it happened. I can never get away from it. I should have won that race and therefore I did not ever win an IMOCA race which grates, but everyone’s reaction was way better than I thought. And my reaction at the time? There was minutes between being told the outcome (of the Jury decision which penalised him +24hrs). The only thing at the time was not making it bad for anyone else.”

And looking back, he adds, “It doesn’t matter whether I think the penalty was fair or not. I gave them the opportunity to give me that penalty in the first place, stupidly. But that is life. But the reaction from the French public was great. And from that point of view as well, it is lovely to be back here on the docks and getting such a warm reception.”

Among his first visits on the IMOCA pontoon were Ollie Heer, the young Swiss skipper who was previously boat captain on Thomson’s IMOCAs and the young, 24-year-old Brit James Harayda.

“I am saying to them is ‘guys, don’t think about going west or north.” Thomson explains, “You have to finish and get the miles. Ollie is a really good sailor and a good communicator. I told him he had to quit working with me and get on and do it too. And I feel responsible as well a bit for James Harayda too as I kind of told him what he could do and how he could do it too. Now they have gone and done it too. It is great to see. And now, the pathway for them is to get to the finish, get the miles and find some money. They don’t need big, big budgets; they need funding.”

Has the landscape changed much for them compared to when Thomson was prepping his first IMOCA race? He responds: “ I think it is fairly similar. Going on board their boats today was a real déjà vu compared to my first Vendée Globe, but neither have anything on their job lists to be done. That brought me back, figuring out how to do stuff. There was never much help, and there is still a French/English thing. It is not easy. But the scale of the whole thing, these big races, and getting to the start of the Vendée Globe is a much bigger task on shore than on the water.”

Surveying the fleet, he concludes, “It is amazing to think of the next Vendée Globe with 38 boats here and seven more new ones coming. There are something like 56 active projects for the next Vendée Globe and that is great. And 40 boats in the Vendée Globe will be amazing. We always used to talk (as a team) about whether the slice of the pie we got became smaller the more boats there were. But 40 boats is great as long as it is safe. There are more people to follow and the whole thing is bigger. And I think for the sport to grow the whole idea of the IMOCA Globe Series is working.”

La Route du Rhum race Tracker

You may need to scroll vertically and horizontally within the box to view the full results

Afloat.ie Team

About The Author

Afloat.ie Team

Email The Author

Afloat.ie is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

About The Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe

Created in 1978 by Michel Etevenon, La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe is regarded as the queen of solo transatlantic races.

For 44 years, the race has joined Saint-Malo in Brittany to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe. It musters the biggest fleet ocean racing fleet of all levels on the same starting line. This transatlantic course at a total distance of 3,542 miles has become legendary as its unique magic is all about the range of different classes and the mix of competitors.

Some of the best solo racers in the world of sailing, professionals and amateurs, meet every four years to taste "the magic of the Rhum".

On November 6 2022, this legendary race will set off once again, taking on the Atlantic whilst appealing to a broad mass of public fans and followers. They are offered the chance to dream, to escape and share the wonder with the solo racers who are all ready to go to sea and challenge the Autumn Atlantic.

At A Glance - Route du Rhum 2022 start date

La Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe 2022 starts on November 6 off Saint-Malo, France

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating