This Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe goes down in the long history of the solo transatlantic race as a class. After the slow motion match race finish between the Ultimes of François Gabart and Francis Joyon, the Imoca class delivered its own surprises as solo ocean racing so often seems,
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) was heading for a well deserved win, his first ever in the IMOCA class on his first attempt at the Rhum. But an accidental grounding on the north coast of Guadeloupe cost him the win that has eluded him throughout his career.
Forced to use his engine to extricate himself from his predicament he was given a 24 hours time penalty by the international jury, so handig the victory to Paul Meilhat (SMA). Yann Eliès (UCAR Saint-Michel) took second place.
Sir Alex and Battling Paul
Alex Thomson's Guadeloupe accident does not detract from a stellar performance. Leading the race since the north of Brittany he committed early to going west. The British sailor then demonstrated that he is at the top of the game, regularly opening more margin on his competitors. The quality of the strategy, his instantaneous speeds, the fluidity of his maneuvers, all that stood between him and the win was his oversleeping through his alarms at a critical stage of the race.
Thomson was a gentleman and a sportsman when he accepted his penalty, taking full responsibility for his error. But for sure his disappointment makes him more formidable competitor for the next Vendée Globe.
Paul Meilhat, like Yann Eliès, has had his share of bad luck in recent years. Between the serious injury forcing him to abandon his boat during the Transat BtoB off the Azores in 2015, repeated physical glitches, many would have been tempted to throw in the towel. But Meilhat has clung on day after day to put himself in a positio to win the 2018 Route du Rhum. On his boat with astraight daggerboards, he was able to hold off the pack of foilers and accept a well deserved victory. The Route du Rhum sees the two top placed sailors still looking for partners for the next Vendée Globe. As such it is hard to imagine they might both end up on the dock when the 2020 race starts...