At 1302 this afternoon the 74-strong Route du Rhum fleet crossed the startline for their 3,500 mile Atlantic dash 29/10/06

The start of the eighth Route du Rhum earlier today went exactly as planned with the fabulous sight of a fleet of 74 lone yachtsmen aboard six different classes of yacht in light airs and seas stirred up by the bows of hundreds of different pleasure craft.

At 1302 sharp, after one week of final preparations the 3,543 mile race started from a two mile starting line and the fleet headed towards the Cape Frehel mark, the sole point to pass before tracing their route across the ocean to Pointe à Pitre.

One hour after the start Franck Cammas, (who chose a light offshore option in comparison to the other multis) was leading in Géant (Michel Desjoyaux), Thomas Coville (Sodéb’O) and Pascal Bidégorry (Banque Populaire).

In the IMOCA class, Jean Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec), Vincent Riou (PRB), Roland Jourdain (Sill and Veolia), and Jérémie Beyou (Delta Dore) quickly caught up with Jean Le Cam (VM Matériaux).
The strength of the wind increased progressively as the boats reached the open sea, its direction shifting from north-west to west, enabling the vessels to reach the Cape frehel mark on a direct line.

Only five minutes are separating the top five multihulls. Franck Cammas (Groupama – passage time is 14:56:35) leads over Michel Desjoyaux (Géant – 15:01:11), while Lionel Lemonchois (Gitana XI – 15:02:08) sped up the pace to reach the 3rd place. Thomas Coville is in fourth (Sodeb’0 – 15:02:23), just in front of Pascal Bidégorry (Banque Populaire -15:14:51).

The first monohull (60-footer) is in 11th place in the general ranking. Vincent Riou (PRB) arrived at the mark at 15:14:51, some 15 minutes after the first multihull 60, leaving three of the 60-footer multis behind him, Jean Pierre Dick (Virbac- Paprec / 15:17:04) and Rolan Jourdain, not far off on his track (respectively 15:17:04 and 15:19:04).

Jean Yves Escoffier (Crêpes Whaou ! 50 footer multi) passed the mark in the 10th place ranking, leaving Orange and two other multihulls behind him.
In the 40-footer class, Ian Munslow who is considered one of the favorite in this class, reached Cape Frehel in second position behind Dominique Vittet (ATAO).

The unusual weather conditions at this time of the year (a high pressure system positioned over Brittany and a low on the Azores) may also increase the pace of the race, giving the skippers of the fastest boats the opportunity to break the crossing record set by Laurent Bourgnon (12 days, 08 hours in 1998) in multihull and Ellen MacArthur (13 days, 13hours, in 2002) in monohull.

Best start in each Class
Multis Orma : Michel Desjoyeaux (Géant).
Multis Classe 2 : Franck-Yves Escoffier (Crêpes Whaou!).
Multis Classe 3 : Charlie Capelle (
Monos Imoca : Jean Le Cam (VM Matériaux).
Monos Classe 1 : Arnaud Dhallenne (TAT Express).
Monos Classe 2 : Kip Stone (Artforms).
Monos Classe 3 : Régis Guillemot (Régis Guillemot Charter Martinique).
Monos Classe 40 : Thibaut Derville (Cap VAD)

Individual recall
Maisonneuve Région Basse Normandie / Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty (mono 60)