‘It was a real challenge’: Yoann Richomme wins Route du Rhum

French skipper Yoann Richomme has won the 12th edition of the Route du Rhum solo transatlantic race, crossing the finish line yesterday (23 November 2022) with his newbuild Lombard Lift 40 V2 Paprec-Arkea at 16:23:40 UTC to win in the Class40, from a record entry of 55 boats.

Meanwhile, Italian skipper Ambrogio Beccaria brought his Alla Grande-Pirelli across the finish line four hours and 15 minutes later, to take a hard-earned second place.

There was drama on Wednesday evening when long-time multi class leader Gilles Buekenhout triggered his distress beacon, after his Martin Fischer-Benoit Cabaret-designed 12m-trimaran capsized. The Belgian skipper is on board and race management reports he is not injured. Two cargo ships have been diverted, as well as competitors Loïc Escoffier (Lodigroup) and Roland Jourdain (We Explore), to rescue him.

Ambrogio Beccaria and Yoann Richomme © Alexis Courcoux / RDR 2022

Ambrogio Beccaria and Yoann Richomme. Image courtesy of Alexis Courcoux / RDR 2022

Yoann Richomme joins the elite group of solo ocean racers to have twice won their class on the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.

Richomme also won the 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in the class with a similar programme, launching his latest new boat in the same season as the race, optimising and making the boat reliable over a compressed period before going on to win comfortably.

Key differences this year are that the 39-year-old Southampton-trained naval architect was called over the start line early off Saint-Malo on 9 November, and had to take a four-hour mandatory penalty. This ensured he immediately dropped to 50th place, with a deficit of 19 miles on the leaders.

Regardless, smart strategies saw him pull through the fleet and take the lead just before the Azores.

Richomme’s lead was up to 120 miles in the fast trade winds sailing, as he made a relatively serene passage around the west of the island of Basse Terre yesterday.

Richomme had a 120-mile lead as he made his way to the finish line

With an elapsed time of 14 days, 3 hours, 8 minutes and 40 seconds, Richomme broke his own course record for the class by two days. (His winning time in 2018 was 16 days, 3 hours, 22 minutes and 44 seconds.) He also becomes the first skipper to win Class40 in successive years.

The Route du Rhum club of double winners includes Laurent Bourgnon (1994 and 1998 line honours Multi); Erwan Le Roux (winner in the Multi50/Ocean 50 in 2014 and 2022); Roland Jourdain (IMOCA winner 2006 and 2010); Thomas Ruyant (Class40 2010 and IMOCA 2022) and the only three-time winner, Franck-Yves Escoffier (1998, 2002 and 2006 Multi 50).

“I’m really proud,” Richomme said from the dock after crossing the line. “There are so many ingredients necessary to win this race. I spent my time analysing the weather and we had some violent systems. I was afraid all the time that I would suffer a breakage. Even rounding Guadeloupe, I was afraid of that. It was a real challenge.”

“Of course I could have stayed home preparing my IMOCA, but this was a challenge for me and the team. So I’m really pleased. It was hard to manage the race. I had to slow down the boat for the first time. It’s really hard and you have to give it all.

Richomme’s Lombard Lift 40 V2 Paprec-Arkea

“I did my thing and at each front, I gained. I never studied what was happening. I was in my race and didn’t study the rest. The start was fantastic under gennaker for two days like in the manuals. It was wild after that with huge waves … I was forced to slow the boat down when she reached 25 knots. For the last two days, I went into my world to do my race.”

He recalls he was up close behind the IMOCAs at times, “The fourth front, I said I would change my strategy and head south, rather than go with the others. The others made mistakes. That’s when I was enjoying myself. I hadn’t raced like that for a while so I was pleased that it worked out.”

Richomme adds: “I am nevertheless exhausted. I was at the end of my tether a few times, but aboard all went well. I managed my sleep differently from in the past. It was hard to try to get any sleep.”

On 14 November, Skipper Fabrice Amedeo was forced to abandon his IMOCA Nexans – Art et Fenêtres during the race, after an explosion on board the vessel caused it to sink.

The rest of the field have been navigating the final miles of the race over the past 24 hours. Briton Pip Hare slipped yesterday from 10th to cross the line in 12th position, because of a hole in her mainsail, while compatriot James Haryada finished in 14th.

Pip Hare

Pip Hare finished in 12th

Backed by French recycling group Paprec and banking group Credit Mutuel Arkea, the team management has hand-picked Richomme to skipper their new IMOCA, which is in build for the 2024 Vendée Globe and will be launched early next year.

Richomme is a double winner of La Solitaire du Figaro, winning in 2016 and again in 2019; the first year the Beneteau Figaro 3 was introduced to the race — when he left a raft of French sailing legends – including Jérémie Beyou, Michel Desjoyeaux, Yann Eliès, Armel Le Cléach and Loick Peyron — in his wake.