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 3542 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 4 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 at the solo racers who are all ready to go to sea and challenge the Autumn Atlantic.
A race which has built its formidable reputation and made generations of solo sailors
One man or a woman, one boat, the ocean. The concept is simple and easy to understand. And above all this is a French race loved by a nation that knows and loves solo races. On the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe, all racers must cover the 3,543 nautical miles, or 6,562 kilometers (Editor’s note: 1 nautical mile is equivalent to 1.852 km). They all start at the same time, on a single starting line. The first in each class to cross the finish line in Guadeloupe wins.
It is a veritable Atlantic sprint towards the finish line, it has and will continue to prove how difficult it is as a race as per the stories and adventures told be the skippers for more than 40 years. The race brings together the biggest, fastest and most powerful ocean racing boats in the world, all sailed to their limits by their skippers.
There are dozens of women and men who have written their chapters the history of solo racing, setting records for the course, winning by tiny margins and some dominating their fleets. But the success of the race is by and large an ongoing legacy of the first edition. It had an incredible finish with just a 98-second gap between Mike Birch's small yellow trimaran and Michel Malinovski's big blue monohull. Among the standout victories was that of the "little bride of the Atlantic", Florence Arthaud whilst there have been heart wrenching dramas like the disappearances of Alain Colas in 1978 and that of Loïc Caradec in 1986.
And the history is not all from many years and editions ago, indeed the current race record is held by Francis Joyon who narrowly won the 2018 edition after 7 days 14 hours 21 minutes and 47 seconds at sea.
The names synonymous with the Route du Rhum include Mike Birch, Alain Colas, Florence Arthaud, Loïck Peyron, Marc Pajot, Philippe Poupon, Laurent Bourgnon, Ellen MacArthur, Franck Cammas, Loïc Caradec, Michel Desjoyeaux, Francis Joyon, but there are so many others, top professionals and simple adventuring amateurs who have all engraved their names in the history of the race.
Boats: 6 categories to write history
On Sunday November 6, 2022, more than 120 solo sailors will set off from Saint-Malo. True to its values of openness, the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe will welcome all sailboats from 39-feet, and will include six categories.
In the multihull categories, the giants of the seas, the Ultims 32/23, will be present in Saint-Malo, as will the Ocean Fifty (former Multi50s). In the monohull classes, the race will welcome the IMOCAs and their “tourdumondiste” skippers, alongside the Class40s which will offer an interesting mix professional racers and amateurs.
In addition to these four categories which fit within strict class rules, the Rhum Multihulls and Monohulls are classes that, in part, define this race. Some of them are from the first edition in 1978, such as the sisterships of Mike Birch's little yellow trimaran, the first ever Route du Rhum winner. Suffice to say that they are a part of the history of the race, and carry with them the very essence of this "transat of freedom" as envsioned by Michel Etevenon. The boats in the Rhum category are divided into two categories: multihulls and monohulls, offering racing lovers a chance to unite every four years.
- ULTIM 32/23 : the premier category of maxi-multihulls over 100 feet (32 meters long) with no size limit - number of entries to come
- OCEAN FIFTY : 50-foot multihulls (15 meters long) which all belong to the same class - number of entries to come
- IMOCA : the 60-foot Vendée Globe monohulls (18.28 meters long), some of which, the most efficient, are equipped with foils - number of entries to come
- CLASS40 : 12.18 meter long monohulls which all belong to the same class - number of entries to come
- RHUM Multi : ≤ à 64 feet that cannot enter a class defined above - number of entries to come
- RHUM Mono : monohulls ≥ 39 feet (11.88 meters) and which cannot fit into a class defined above - number of entries to come
A strong positioning in the world of ocean racing
The success of the race can partly explained by the mix of amateurs and professionals. It is in the DNA of the Route du Rhum that is has never been an exclusive preserve of the racing elite. As its founder Michel Etevenon wanted, diversity and a mix of classes and outlooks remain the credo of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, where a postman and his production sailboat can take the same start as the professional ocean racing skipper on his or her giant multihull or monohull.
True to its values of inclusion, the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe is open to all sailboats from 39 feet. There were five classes in 2014 and since 2018 there have been six : Ultim, OceanFifty, IMOCA, Class40, Rhum Mono and Rhum Multi.
The Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe is also a great popular festival !
The Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe is about a unique atmosphere that brings together millions of people in the entertainment villages at the start and at the finish. It unites fans and enthusiasts, amateurs, or some who are simply curious, all come to admire these extraordinary women and men and their craft. The region of Brittany and Saint Malo the Corsair city see their sailors preparing to take on the ocean, while the Guadeloupe Region and Pointe-à-Pitre share the honour of crowning each individual success having crossed to the other side of the Atlantic !
Is an historic town in north Brittany, built between the 17th and 18th centuries, which stands out for the richness and beauty of its heritage and environmental legacies, with its walled centre Saint-Malo has managed to retain a real air of history and authenticity.
Always looking out to sea, the city has been the historic starting point of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe since the first race in 1978, and combines its love for the sea in all weathers. An area which has produced great sailors and navigators, from explorers to discoverers, including corsairs, Cape Horner captains, fishermen and other renowned offshore racers, the Corsair City has been pursuing its proactive policy in terms of culture and tourism for more than four decades hosting major sailing events.
The Breton port has the constant pleasure of seeing lovers of the open sea and freedom rally its ramparts and within its historic walls and the quays there is a unique, incomparable atmosphere. Between widespread popularity btu still offering almost intimate meet and greets with these women and men who are about to take the start of the most beautiful of solo ocean races.
Saint-Malo has 44 years of history with this race and a common history that will continue.