As the 2022 Route du Rhum approaches, we take a look at some of the top names set to compete in the race. Toby Heppell looks at Alan Roura's chances
Swiss-born sailor Alan Roura already has two Vendée Globe races to his name. He participated in his first, the 2016-17 edition of the event, when he was just 23 years old, making him the youngest ever competitor in the solo non-stop round the world race.
Roura finished a credible 12th in that first attempt at the Vendée Globe. He was so young on his first attempt, that even when Alan Roura lined up four years later for a second shot at the Vendée, he was still the youngest skipper on the startline.
The 2020-21 edition of the race saw a great many technical woes for the Swiss sailor and he finally crossed the finish line in 17th overall.
Alan Roura’s sailing history is an interesting one. Having sailed on Lake Geneva through his early youth, he then spent 11 years sailing across the world with his family on their own boat before finally discovering the allure of offshore racing. He competed in his first major offshore race at the age of 20, taking part in the Mini Transat – just three years later he would be on the startline of the Vendée.
Since that early foray in the shorthanded racing scene, Roura has competed in all the big races on the calendar with multiple Transat Jacques Vabre and Route du Rhum races to his name. He has not not yet picked up a podium in any of the transatlantic races he has taken on, but until now neither has he had a latest generation IMOCA under him.
Roura has, however, demonstrated that he has the outright pace to be a factor in a 2022 Route du Rhum or 2024-25 Vendee Globe race, as he proved himself more than capable in 2019 when he set a new North Atlantic solo crossing record, which still stands to this day.
IMOCA 60 Hublot
Sail number: SUI 7
Design: VPLP with Pete Hobson
Builder: Carrington Boats, Southampton (GB)
LWL: 18,28 m
Beam: 5,40 m
Draught: 4,50 m
Weight: 7,6 tonnes
Mast height: 29 m
There was much speculation surrounding who would purchase Alex Thomson’s latest Hugo Boss after the 2020-21 Vendee Globe. But it was Alan Roura alongside his headline sponsor Hublot who picked the boat up, instantly making Roura one to watch.
The boat is radical in its design and showed some impressive bursts of speed. But it never managed to show what it could do over an extended period of time.
Structural problems during that edition of the Vendée hampered Thompson’s efforts and he was eventually forced to retire with rudder failure in the South Atlantic.
The boat features a unique enclosed cockpit design – now adopted to varying degrees by other new design IMOCAs – which Thomson hoped would keep him better protected and rested and thus able to work at maximum ability for longer periods of time. It also created some significant structural weight saving opportunities.
Hublot also had radical c-shaped foils. These have divided opinion. Some see the benefit that their ability to fully retract in light weather, reduced exposure to unidentified floating objects and downwind efficiency provide. Others think it is a step too far in terms of optimising for pure downwind performance at the expense or upwind or fetching.
Whatever the benefits of the radical design, most would agree we have not seen the boat at her absolute best yet and Alan Roura will be hoping to find the speed the design showed at times as he aims for Route du Rhum and, ultimately, Vendée Globe glory.