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Britain's Sam Goodchild Leads Retour à La Base Solo IMOCA Race from Martinique to Lorient

4th December 2023
Sam Goodchild at Thursday’s start of the Retour à La Base Solo IMOCA Race from Martinique to Lorient
Sam Goodchild at Thursday’s start of the Retour à La Base Solo IMOCA Race from Martinique to Lorient Credit: Pierre Bouras

The Retour à La Base solo IMOCA race from Martinique to Lorient, France, is heating up as the leaders complete their curve around the North Atlantic high-pressure system and start to head towards the east. They are seeking to find the best entry point to catch a ride on the train of fast-moving, low-pressure systems set to carry them rapidly towards Europe. 

According to reports, the speeds on Monday and Tuesday could be high enough to threaten the solo 24-hour record, which has been held for five years by Alex Thomson at 539.71 miles. Jéremie Beyou (Charal) had been leading the race, but in the late afternoon, Briton Sam Goodchild (For The Planet) took the lead as Charal gybed north. 

At four days into the 3,500 miles passage from Fort-de-France, the pace is already telling on boats and skippers. Goodchild revealed that he hoped to get some much-needed rest this afternoon before a week’s onslaught with successive, deeper and more malicious low-pressure systems due through to the finish, which should be Saturday, according to the latest estimates.

Goodchild said, “To be honest, I don’t know what I am doing right, really; I am just happy the boat is going well. But I am a bit tired, so I need to start being a bit careful. Last night was a bit full-on, so I did not get much sleep. I have been trying to catch up on sleep but it really is not easy. It is nicer now, and the wind is more stable, so we had the big sail change this morning, which went relatively well. We are heading more to the east now, which is nice; I am trying to eat properly get some rest and keep going fast. The last two nights have been bad for sleeping, painful, to be honest, with unstable winds and a bad sea state, so I am hopeful. I have put some rice and fish curry on for my Sunday lunch to eat, I am looking forwards to it and then try and get a nap after that.”

Meanwhile, Beyou is still in the race, always around 17-19 nautical miles ahead of Goodchild and Yoann Richomme (Arkéa-Paprec). 

The race is far from over and the sailors are pushing themselves to the limit. As the weather conditions continue to pose a challenge, it remains to be seen who will emerge victorious in this exciting solo race.nd Seb Simon (Groupe Deubril) are more on the outside, positions more fancied by Will Harris, the co-skipper of Malizia-Seaexplorer and a renowned weather expert,

“Going slightly wider will take them north earlier and may mean one less gybe, and they should have a little more pressure.” Says Harris who believes the solo record could well fall, considering 550 miles a realistic mark. “The thing here is if they need to gybe in the 24 hours. Really to maximise the record run it needs to be straight line, especially solo.”

“Between Monday morning and Tuesday, there can be some very nice runs,” explains Christian Dumard, the race meteorologist. “They must manage to sail at more than 22.36 knots to beat the record,” specifies Jacques Caraës assistant to the race director.

The daggerboard boats will also start to accelerate and turn to the right. Louis Duc (Fives Group – Lantana Environnement) is positioned slightly further East than his competitors. Often happy to do his own thing, Duc says he is liking passing through the South-East of Bermuda – “I would have liked to stay round here to see how it is.”

Follow the race tracker here

Published in Offshore, Solo Sailing Team

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