Watch the Start of the Rum Honored 3542-Mile Route Du Rhum

Sailboat racing is an oxymoron in the eyes of many, especially of late, with the introduction of foiling vessels into America's Cup competition. The event, the oldest international competition still operating in any sport has become more of a design competition than an actual race.
Route Du Rhum 6 photos
Photo: Alexis Courcoux
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That being said, transoceanic single-handed yacht races are different animals completely. You see when organizers of races such as the America's Cup or any of the other regattas held on weekends throughout the world, deem the weather to not be optimal, they will simply delay or call off the races for the day. In addition, such races are held close to shore on a planned route, usually involving round markers a couple of times upwind and then back downwind.

By way of comparison, transoceanic races have a starting point and a finish line often 1000s of miles apart. It is an exercise in determination and perseverance that tests the ability of sailors to endure whatever Mother Nature tosses their way while navigating toward the finish line. There are no crew members to rely on to go topside to reef the main as the wind picks up, nor is anyone aboard to stand watch while they try and get some sleep. It is them alone albeit, with other competitors nearby, to muster the strength to finish.

One such race began yesterday afternoon from the French city of Saint-Malo. Known as the Route du Rhum, the race is held every four years in November and derives its name from the alcohol made from sugar cane. The finish line is located some 3542 miles (5700 km) to the southwest across the Atlantic on the small French Island of Guadeloupe, tucked between the Caribbean Islands of Montserrat and Dominica.

This is the 12th edition of the race that welcomed 138 solo sailors in six different classes from all over the world. The current record for arriving in the port city of Pointe-a-Pitre is 7d 14h 21m 47s set in November 2018 by Francis Joyon.

Ironically, the start was delayed for a few days while organizers waited for better weather but the sailors know that good weather is rare and often fleeting this time of year in the wild and woolly Atlantic Ocean.

Autoevolution will continue to track and report on the race as it progresses throughout the next week.

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