French skipper Charles Caudrelier celebrates his record-shattering Route du Rhum triumph with flares
Pointe-à-Pitre (AFP) - Charles Caudrelier won the Route du Rhum on Wednesday, smashing the record in the transatlantic race though the finish in Guadeloupe was marred by the deaths of two spectators.
The two men – aged 35 and 38 – died as a boat chartered by race organisers and which was following Caudrelier’s maxi trimaran Edmond de Rothschild capsized off the coast of Guadeloupe, the public prosecutor of Pointe-a-Pitre told AFP.
The prosecutor, Patrick Desjardins, said a judicial investigation has been opened for manslaughter.
According to local media, a dozen people were aboard the boat which was part of the flotilla accompanying Caudrelier to the finish line.
The local fire department said the French National Sea Rescue Society rescued the survivors.
“We are all very upset by this,” said Caudrelier.
“This should have been a party but in the end it is a tragedy.”
Caudrelier, a 48-year-old French mariner became the first competitor to finish in less than seven days when he completed the 12th edition in six days 19 hours and 47 minutes at 05:02 local time.
He was almost a day faster than the time set by compatriot Francis Joyon who won in seven days 14 hours and 21 minutes in 2018.
“I’m not even tired surprisingly,” said Caudrelier after docking. “The race was exhausting, but I did well to find my rhythm. I wanted to win this race so badly.
“I had never been able to do it. It was a huge frustration.”
He was chased for much of the race by Francois Gabart in SVR Lazartigue.
“There was a real fight with Francois,” Caudrelier said.
“We talked a lot about the record, but that’s normal because my boat is newer than Francois’s.”
- ‘Boat crazy’ -
Gabart, overtaken by Joyon in the final stages in 2018, touched land three-and-a-half hours later.
“Charles is a great sailor,” said a gracious Gabart.
“He has worked really hard the last few years.
“He was one of the favourites and lived up to that from being on the attack from the start.
“There were two or three moments when I succeeded in getting close but he really deserves this success.”
For Caudrelier it was his first attempt at the race which had been won twice (1994⁄98) by his Swiss idol Laurent Bourgnon – who drowned in a diving accident in 2015.
Edmond de Rothschild, launched in 2017, is the first trimaran designed to rise entirely out of the water on foils. Caudrelier was part of the crew that broke the Fastnet race record in it in 2019.
“I found this boat crazy. It’s a complicated boat, which has always had to evolve against new boats,” he said. “Our team is like a Formula 1 team and I’m the driver, all year long.”
One of the pre-race favourites, Armel Le Cleac’h, had seen his chances of success dashed a day after setting out when he returned to Lorient in Brittany last Thursday to repair damage to his boat.
Le Cleac’h – who capsized after just two days in the previous edition four years ago – set out again after two days of repairing his daggerboard, the retractable fin attached to the keel.
However, despite seeing his hopes of victory shattered, the 2016⁄17 winner of the Vendee Globe said he was determined to finish the race.
Thomas Coville is expected to dock later on Wednesday to complete the podium.
Of the 138 sailors who set out from Saint Malo, 23 have had to pull out.