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 Thomas Ruyant's chances
Thomas Ruyant truly made his mark on the IMOCA 60 fleet in the lead up to and during the 2020-21 Vendée Globe Race.
The Frenchman took 4th place on the water in the singlehanded solo non-stop race around the world, finishing 6th overall after redress was awarded to competitors involved in Kevin Escoffier’s rescue.
Thomas Ruyant was duelling for the lead in the Vendée Globe when his port foil suffered major damage just three weeks into the race. Incredibly, he climbed out onto the end of the foil to cut the most badly damaged section away using an electric saw, before resuming racing.
Although he was able to make the foil partially functional, his speed was severely compromised on starboard tack for the remaining 19,000 miles of the race.
Born in Dunkirk, Thomas Ruyant was a dinghy sailor initially. He purchased a Mini 6.50 while at university, which he reconditioned. In 2007 he took on his first big solo offshore test, the Mini Transat, finishing 24th.
Two years later Ruyant was back with a new boat and won the transatlantic race, cementing his position as one to watch for the future.
In 2010 Ruyant moved into the Class 40, where he again dominated in the class which is seen by many as a feeder to the IMOCA 60. Ruyant won almost everything he entered, including the Transat Jacques Vabre.
He also tested himself in the Figaro Beneteau class, and although mid-fleet in the competitive Solitaire du Figaro, with its many short, almost inshore, coastal sprint legs, he won the Transat A2GR La Mondiale in the Figaro in 2018.
Ruyant secured the position of skipper on the IMOCA 60 Le Souffle du Nord ahead of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe and cemented the faith placed in him by finishing 4th alongside co-skipper Adrien Hardy in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre – his first proper IMOCA 60 race.
In his first attempt at the Vendée Globe, Thomas Ruyant was performing impressively when disaster struck. Some 260 miles from the coast of New Zealand, while travelling at almost 20 knots, his boat hit an unidentified floating object (suspected to be a container) and suffered severe structural damage.
Ruyant managed to limp to the nearest port of Bluff, on the south island of New Zealand, with the boat literally breaking up around him. After a tense two days he finally made it safely to land.
Determined to make the start of the 2020/21 Vendée Globe, Ruyant began the build of a latest generation foiling IMOCA before he had committed backing from a title sponsor, instead raising funds from a consortium of supporters from the 2016 race.
Fortunately, the gamble paid off, and he secured backing from the French employment organisation LinkedOut, which continues to sponsor him today.
IMOCA 60 LinkedOut
Sail no: FRA TBC
Architect: Guillaume Verdier
Builder: Persico, ITA
Displacement: 8 tonnes
Mast height: 29m
Foils Yes – 2020 generation
This third generation foiling IMOCA 60 came from the trusted pen of designer Guillaume Verdier and was built by the Italian yard Persico Marine in 2019 – both respected options in the world of IMOCA designs and high performance construction
LinkedOut has proved impressively quick across the wind range on all points of sail. She may be out-performed by some more radical designs on specific points of sail, but Thomas Ruyant and his team have done an impressive job in moding and optimising the boat to provide a very quick package. They also competed in the fully crewed Ocean Race Europe.
Ruyant will be competing once again in LinkedOut for the Route du Rhum 2022, although he will be getting a new IMOCA 60 for the 2024 edition of the Vendée Globe. For his new boat, Ruyant is changing designer to a new build from Antoine Koch working with Finot-Conq, who are making a return to the IMOCA class.
Ruyant has been quoted as looking for a design for his new boat which is more tightly geared towards the fast downwind conditions that dominate round the world racing.