A look at a couple of the smaller classes in the Route du Rhum which starts on Sunday 27/10/06

With just two days to go until the start of the Route du Rhum – la Banque Postale, there is a real buzz on the pontoons and the boats in St Malo. The crowd of spectators massed around the basins is confirmation of the success of this quadrennial event, that skippers are keen to add to their track record.

Embedded in between the numerous 40-footer and the Imoca Class, 14 skippers, dispatched in 3 classes (monohull Class 1, 2, 3 – 40 to 50 feet) are going through the usual “to do list” for final preparations with amazingly mild weather in St Malo. Obviously slower than the other boats in the race, they will have to fly across the Atlantic if they want to cut the finish line before it closes – that is 10 days after the first monohull has arrived. Here’s a summary of the runners in riders in those classes:

Class 2
Kip Stone (Artforms) is considered as the favourite, but he will have to count on the motivation of Servane Escoffier (Vedettes de Bréhat Cap Marine) who is seeking a springboard for a pro sailing career. It is also noticeable that those two will compete on rival boats in terms of design, Owen Clark for Artforms (launched in 2003) and Finot-Conq for Vedettes de Bréhat Cap Marine (launched in 1996 and 5th in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2005). The class 2 just might tease their colleagues in Class 1, as they are usually more recent boats or have been refitted. In essence, both classes are nearly equivalent in speed.

Class 3
Michel Kleinjans (Roaring Forty, BEL) should compete with the 2002 title-holder, Régis Guillemot (Régis Guillemot, Charter Martinique) and ‘postman’ Alain Grinda on Fantasy Forest. Jankees Lampe (La Promesse) the dutch entry, has never sailed across the Atlantic, but has benefited from Michel Kleinjans’ experience (who acknowledges many victories including a WSSRC non-stop Ireland record with Roaring Forty – and a Whitbread experience).

Aurelia Ditton (Dangerous When Wet), is a last minute entry see previous news story here. She bought the boat a few weeks before the start and has only sailed her qualification miles on her. She has the will to become a pro sailor – so she will definitely be looking for good results – but she is in a rush to complete her to do list and be “ready” on the starting line.

The 86 registered boats set off from a single start line at 13h02 on Sunday. The latest forecasts announce clement conditions for the first few days of sailing, in stark contrast to those of the previous edition, where the violent winds decimated a large number of the boats.