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 Jeremie Beyou's chances
Jérémie Beyou is one of the most experienced offshore racers in the world and has a daunting record of wins and podium places across a wide variety of classes, in both solo and crewed races.
The Frenchman is one of only a handful of sailors to have taken part in four Vendée Globes and is aiming for a fifth entry in the 2024-25 Vendée Globe race. His best position to date in the solo non stop round the world race is a 3rd place that he picked up in the 2016-17 edition.
A new boat, launched with plenty of time to develop Charal ahead of the 2020-21 Vendée, combined with Jérémie Beyou’s impressive skills made him the clear favourite to win ahead of the 2020 race (as much as there can be a clear favourite in a race which regularly sees the a significant proportion of the fleet retire).
However, a collision soon after the start put paid to his winning chances, leaving Jérémie Beyou faced with returning to port for repairs, restarting (allowed in the immediate early stages of the race), and continuing the course.
Beyou, who is more accustomed to being at the front of the fleet than chasing the tail-enders, initially struggled with being uncompetitive. Nevertheless, he continued, adding his personal challenge to the legions of Vendée human stories and came home in an impressive 13th place.
Jérémie Beyou has been at the forefront of the offshore shorthanded racing scene since the late 1990s, notching up a swathe of impressive results. He has won the supremely competitive La Solitaire du Figaro – widely considered as the event to cement your name in offshore racing circles – on three separate occasions and finished in the top five seven times.
He won the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre and has finished on the podium on two further occasions, was a part of the Volvo Ocean Race winning crew onboard Dongfeng in 2018, won the IMOCA 60 class in the Rolex Fastnet Race, and won the first ever Vendée Arctique just before the last Vendée Globe.
There is scarcely a race that sailors want to win in the world of offshore racing, that Beyou has not already taken a 1st in… with the exception of the two big ones, the Vendée Globe and the Route du Rhum, though he finished 2nd in 2014.
IMOCA 60 Charal 2
Sail number: FRA 3
Architect: Sam Manuard
Builder: CDK Technologies, Lorient
LWL: 18,28 m
Draught: 4,5 m
Mast height: 29m
Jérémie Beyou was the first to launch a third generation IMOCA 60 ahead of the last Vendee Globe, splashing Charal in the summer of 2018. While other skippers chose to launch as late as possible to try and gain a design advantage, Beyou instead used the extra time at his disposal to optimise his IMOCA and make it as reliable as possible.
Beyou and his backers Charal announced their renewed partnership for the 2024-25 Vendee early, enabling them to again get their build underway ahead of many other IMOCA teams. The latest Charal is one of the earliest ‘4th generation’ foiling IMOCAs on the water, having been launched last year.
In the Route du Rhum 2022 all eyes will be on Beyou and his new IMOCA 60 to see what pace they are showing at this early stage in the development cycle. The new boat is likely to still have some teething issues, with skippers that are still sailing their older boats likely to have a much firmer grip on their moding. However, flashes of serious pace are the kind of signs to look for that could deliver a Vendée chance of victory (and could be enough to secure an elusive Route du Rhum win too).
The new Charal is something of a departure for Beyou, who has this time turned to Sam Manuard to design his new boat. Manuard designed the radical scow-bowed L’Occitane en Provence for the last Vendee Globe and it proved both quick and stable. Clearly this has not gone unnoticed by Beyou and his team, with the last boat known to be tricky to handle even in the hands of a super-skilled pilot.
Although this new boat shares the same designer as L’Occitaine, and does feature something of a scow bow, it is not quite as pronounced as the older Manuard design. What is brand new, however, is an interesting rudder system, with the twin rudders both mounted close to the centreline of the hull and dramatically toe-ed outboard in a marked move away from convention.
This newest Charal is a combination of learning from the previous Charal and from L’Occitane. And with another two years of potential development ahead, is likely to look at least a little different come the start of the next Vendee.