A racing masterclass from the solo sailor who won the Route du Rhum in a record time, but Loïck Peyron admits he nearly capsized

Bravo Loïck Peyron, who has won the single-handed Route du Rhum race and set a new record of 7d 15h in the 31m trimaran Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII.

In a race characterised by fatigue and stress, and an incident that brought him dangerously close to capsize, Peyron nevertheless dominated.

He led from the first night at sea, racing a boat he was only brought in to handle as relief skipper two months ago when Armel Le Cléac’h damaged his hand. He had planned a very different race, having this year restored a sistership to Mike Birch’s Olympus Photo, which won the first race in 1978.

But this 103ft giant is a different beast. Taking over on Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII, Peyron joined a nine-strong fleet of giant mulithulls designed originally for crewed records, a class the race dubbed the ‘Ultimes’.

These giant mulithulls require utmost care, especially in the squall conditions of the tradewinds.

Peyron sailed 4,199 miles over the ground at an average of 22.93 knots.   He arrived after a tense last night at sea, closing land and dodging fishing boats, yet he was reported to be relaxed and on good form.

“It is a very nice victory, but a team victory,” he commented. “I was not supposed to be on this boat two months ago. I was supposed to do the Rhum race on a very small yellow trimaran, which will be the case in four years time – I will be back. But it is not a surprise because I knew that the boat was able to do it. I knew that the team was able to help me a lot.

“The last day was difficult; there was a lot of maneuvering to be done.

“I never imagined that I would win a Route du Rhum on a boat like this. A race like this is never simple and that is what is so exciting and incredible about it. It is also very stressful for the boat to withstand such high speeds in bad seas. I was able to sail the boat well but was scared.

“This is what the multihull game is all about. You have to constantly manage the boat. One night I fell asleep at the helm and nearly capsized the boat. This is a great victory; possibly one of the nicest and breaking the record is the cherry on top of the cake.”

At the age of 54, his Route du Rhum triumph is another new summit for Peyron, who can turn his hand in many yachts, from foiling Moth dinghies to the America’s Cup.

On course to finish second, some 140 miles behind, is Yann Guichard in Spindrift 2, a much bigger 130ft trimaran – in fact, this was the boat in which Peyron set the outright round the world record in 2012.

Read Elaine Bunting’s comment, ‘the world’s greatest sailor’, here.