There are 2 yacht ocean races on the go these days. One is the Volvo Around the World Ocean race which lasts about half a year, the other one is the Route du Rhum, a mostly French effort from St Malo in Bretagne, France to Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe, Caribbean. The first leg of the Volvo, Alicante, Spain to Cape Town has been sailed by the 7 competing boats in fairly clement conditions and boats and crews arrived in Cape Town after 25+3 days in good shape. All the Volvo boats are identical this race, the competition is no more between boats and crew but crews only.

The Route du Rhum is altogether a different effort, firstly because this is a single-handed race and a great many different size boats, from a monstrous 40 meter trimaran to mono-hulls of less than 10 meter participate. The last few days saw the first arrivals in Guadeloupe, 7 multi hulls ranging from 20 to 40 meters in length, it took them between 7 and 9 days to cross the Atlantic of which the first 2 days were extremely taxing for the single-handers because of difficult weather conditions. More than 90 boats left St Malo, today a good 30 have abandoned through lost keels, broken masts, collisions and bad preparation.

Such races must of course be organised because someone must be able to make a profit out of the endeavours of the slightly crazy people that man these yachts and whose only profit is to suffer at sea and, sometimes, be happy. However, the sponsors and the ports of departure and arrival have to be paid and the parasites of telepublicity do their best which often turns out the worst for the sailors.

Departure date is of paramount importance for the telepub people, weather conditions be buggered. As long as the skippers don’t mind the headwinds, big seas and no visibility, the race organisers don’t bother about such details. The skippers don’t want to be called ‘chicken’ and keep silent, most of the time fagged out because of all the work to get their boat ready.

Now, if you want to understand the following, you ought to look at a chart of North Brittany and check how close St Malo is from The Channel, the most dangerous waterway on our planet. Leaving St Malo to steer a course for the Bay of Biscay, of necessity, the skippers have to go into the part of the Channel where the cargo ships are supposed to sail according to their designated channels. Half today’s cargo vessels are manned by jokers who have faint notions of radar and other navigational devices. Drugs replace the cigarettes of the lookouts. Single-handed skippers are no great lookouts either, they’re busy with sails and things that break in unfriendly weather.

Yet, the organisers of this more than 3000 mile transatlantic race decide to let the participants leave Saint Malo as late as 2 o’clock in the afternoon in November, by 5 o’clock it’s getting dark and by 6 o’clock they can become the prey of unseeing cargo vessels. Of course, departure at 8 o’clock in the morning, 6 hours of added daylight visibility, would not have suited the telepub boys.

What had to happen, happened, a big 30meter multihull got wrecked by an unknown sleeping cargo, other collisions happened but were not much talked about.

When the skipper arrive at Guadeloupe after 7-8 days of hard sailing but not much sleep, the landlubbers are at it again to bugger around the sailors. The island must be sailed around from the north, a narrow channel without any wind gone through and the finish be negotiated against a head wind.

The Volvo lot is not much better organised. Apart from sending the boats into shitty waters without much wind the lubbers thought of helping the single boat with a female crew by allowing them 3 more sailors on board. I don’t know why the girls took the bait that would make them certain losers. 3 More people makes at least 350 kilograms, bodies, gear and grub. The boats are all the same, 12 500 kg empty and so the girls have to take onboard 3% more weight from the start. They can’t win. Proof: near Cape Town when after 26 days their boat was lighter they beat the Spaniard easily.

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