Britain’s Sam Goodchild among the Route du Rhum favourites

French based British skipper Sam Goodchild lines up for his second Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe as one of the widely tipped favourites to win the Ocean Fifty multihull class.

While the hugely experienced 32-year-old Brit whose formative years were spent on boats in the Caribbean, on the island of Grenada and in the south west of England, is playing down the dockside and media-room chat in Saint Malo during the final week before this Sunday’s start, he firmly believes he has every chance of his first major ocean racing victory.

Others in the class may have newer more modern boats but Goodchild is happy to be equipped with a solid, fully proven all-round, optimised boat. He has the hard ocean miles under his belt and is  backed by a supportive, well-resourced international partner. This is very much Goodchild’s time to shine.

“Yes, I’ve got a chance to win.” He smiles aboard Leyton at the Saint Malo race dock among the eight boat Ocean Fifty fleet, “ But I’m not the only one. The aim is just to do my best. I dropped out four years ago and I don’t want to end up like that again, but I do want to make the most of my chance now.” 

Third on last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre, racing two handed with the Leyton team’s Aymeric Chapellier, the duo were on the back foot early in the race on a rich get richer course to Martinique, but came back from fifth at Cape Finisterre course to be second by the Brazilian coast. But the Route du Rhum is a very different animal, racing solo on the fast, light Ocean Fifty requires maximum attention and focus as the multihulls can be prone to capsizing.

“You still have to consider that sailing across the Atlantic is a challenge in itself. And then when you’re in this solo racing environment, you need to do things very well all the time. There is no room for mistakes. The Route du Rhum happens every four years and so it’s a big, big event. I want to be the one that comes out on top in the end. And as a team that’s what we’ve been putting our time and energy into. And believe me doing it on a multihull puts it into a whole different dimension from doing it on a Figaro or Class40.” Goodchild attests.

On the 2018 edition when he raced in Class40 on a boat in the colours of a Netflix series he was unfortunate to have to retire during the first big storm when the mast of his boat broke.

Looking back he says, “It hurt at the time but the project was always quite late and last minute. And we knew what caused it so I got over it relatively quickly but you learn from it and move on. The most important thing was learning from what happened and doing things differently next time.” Goodchild recalls, “ And this race is followed by the whole sailing world. Everyone really wants to perform. We are driven towards the highest competition there is so for us that’s the Route du Rhum. It’s a big challenge on this multihull and I’m really looking forward to it. Two years ago, I didn’t really know if I would take this on, so I have spent two years breaking this down bit by bit, step by step to get here and now I feel comfortable to go.” 

© Martin Viezzer / We Explore

There is a feature which is common to all six classes and the 138 boats which are set to line up for the twelfth Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe. That is the commitment of the skippers to a charity or association. They want to give meaning to their project and project their message as they cross the Atlantic, whatever their sporting ambitions are. They are no long just sailors but have become ambassadors for environmental protection or other social responsibility concepts

Among there are A l’aveugle, Mieux, Lazare, Reforest’Action, Fondation Stargardt, Initiatives-Cœur, Médecins du Monde. Their messages are clearly visible on the pontoons in the Vauban and Duguay-Trouin docks. “We got 120 people from the Lazare association out sailing before the Route du Rhum. Taking out people who have been on the streets and are trying to move away from that life means this has been a successful project even before the start,” explained Tanguy Le Turquais (Lazare) who had around 30 people on board his IMOCA today.

All of the skippers agree. This fortnight in the Village before the start on 6 November is a key element as it allows them to meet the general public, sponsors and partners and change the world in their own way. Some major charity campaigns can be seen here too and these are echoed by the presence of government ministers. France’s Junior Minister for Maritime Affairs, Hervé Berville met up with Mathieu Claveau (Prendre la mer, Agir pour la Forêt), a skipper and engineer competing in Class40, who is focusing on the sustainable development of forests. Fabrice Amédéo (Nexans – Arts et Fenêtres) also talked to the Junior Minister about the ADNe sensor he has taken aboard to measure the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity.

© Alexis Courcoux / #RDR2022

Pioneer in the concept of a campaigning boat, Tanguy de Lamotte started to support the Chirurgie Cardiaque Charity (heart surgery) in 2004 in the Mini Transat. Initiatives Cœur began sailing across the oceans in the Route du Rhum and Vendée Globe to save the lives of children suffering from heart defects (343 children have been saved since 2008) and the campaign was strengthened since 2017 with the arrival of Samantha Davies.

The fact that we race for a charity gives a meaning to my race project. We’re always keen to support the charity. I have a new boat, but in every other way, nothing has changed. In this Route du Rhum, we have fixed a target of saving 20 children.”

The basic idea is to bring together partners supporting an association whose name is clearly visible on the boat, like Lazare (Tanguy Le Turquais), LinkedOut (Thomas Ruyant), Médecins du Monde (Morgane Ursault-Poupon), Café Joyeux (Nicolas d’Estais), Solidaires En Peloton – ARSEP (Thibaut Vauchel-Camus), Les P’tits Doudous (Armel Tripon), Mieux (Arthur Le Vaillant), We Explore (Roland Jourdain) and other associations or foundations in major ocean races. The skippers are very attached to this concept and are fully committed even when they return to dry land.

“I’m lucky to be among those able to live their passion, and better than that, I can share it and dedicate the energy to people who don’t have those means. Sailing while being useful is an opportunity to be able to express our admiration for the sick in their daily battle,” declared Thibaut Vauchel-Camus.

As for the sailor and member of the European Parliament, Catherine Chabaud, she is taking to the sea again to show her love of the ocean aboard Formative ESI Business School pour Ocean As Common. Maxime Sorel (V and B – Monbana – Mayenne) and his team have chosen to decorate their new IMOCA with a dragon to support the ‘Vaincre la mucoviscidose’ cystic fibrosis charity. That is certainly not going to be an image that will go unnoticed at the start of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe.

The Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe
Created in 1978 by Michel Etevenon, La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe is regarded as the queen of solo transatlantic races. For 44 years, the race has joined Saint-Malo in Brittany to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe. It musters the biggest fleet ocean racing fleet of all levels on the same starting line. This transatlantic course at a tota distance of 3542 miles has become legendary as its unique magic is all about the range of different classes and the mix of competitors. Some of the best solo racers in the world of sailing, professionals and amateurs, meet every 4 years to taste “the magic of the Rhum”.
On November 6 2022, this legendary race will set off once again, taking on the Atlantic whilst appealing to a broad mass of public fans and followers. They are offered the chance to dream, to escape and share the wonder at the solo racers who are all ready to go to sea and challenge the Autumn Atlantic.

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