For any first time anglophile visitor, landing in the heart of the ninth edition of the Route du Rhum La Banque might be overwhelming. Even for the old stagers who are on their four yearly odyssey to the ramparts of Saint Malo, this year’s edition is a truly intoxicating spectacle for its sheer scale, colour and level of activity.
To the outsider it might seem a curious contradiction that French ocean racing is so evidently in robust health. This edition has an all time record entry which of course includes the return of giant multihulls in the Ultime category, a flourishing IMOCA Open 60 fleet including three new French boats launched since April, and a 45 boat Class 40 fleet which has more or less doubled in size since their debut in 2006.
From the multi-million Euro programmes, for which this Route du Rhum- La Banque Postale is one of the cornerstone returns, to the small sponsorships in kind, more than 75% of the entries have some kind of sponsorship. Clearly the Route du Rhum- La Banque Postale has lost nothing of its huge appeal commercially, or to the public.
Two days before Sunday’s start and the huge 7000 square metre main regatta village is rammed with visitors. Today, Friday, saw another new record with more than 1 million visitors having passed through the quayside arenas, virtually surpassing last year’s total even in advance of the tens of thousands who will arrive for start day. There is scarcely a seat to be had in the huge media centre.
Sam Davies, the Brittany domiciled British skipper who is seeking support for her second Vendée Globe campaign and is here to support Oman Air’s Sidney Gavignet sums up the magic and the appeal of the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale:
« In France this is such huge event. You have to remember that the race start is broadcast live on national TV for two and a half hours. It is Sunday, middle of the day, it is families who watch. This is quite a traditional country and everyone sits down to watch on a Sunday, they will have an early lunch and watch the race as it unfolds. If they do that, that creates a huge following all over France and they will follow the race until it finishes, especially because Gaudelouope is French. That sets them off. It creates such a buzz. And of course it is only once every four years, so everyone waits and talks about the race for months in advance.»
« It has gone on for so many years, there is so much history, names like Tabarly, Florence Arthuad. This is the only race that a woman has won overall, beating all the guys, and it was in a race which has such extreme conditions, that makes it a race which is always has a history and stays in people’s minds. So many people still cherish that memory of a little girl crossing the finish line in her silver trimaran.»
Photo Credit: © MOCHET Marcel – Multi50 Prince de Bretagne
– PR –