With 14 different nationalities represented, the transatlantic race has never been universal. There will actually be 25 captains coming from outside of France setting out on November 6. Originating from all continents, from Australia to the United States and from China to South Africa, they tell us about their fascination with this race and their desire to see the event more popular among their fellow countrymen.
British sailor Babe Hare (Medalia) has appeared regularly on rafts since 2011. This makes her smile, “I don’t feel at all foreign. I have a real impression of being part of the ocean racing community. I feel at home in France.” Many other sailors feel this way, too. Sailing has no limits. In all, 25 captains from outside France will compete in this 12th edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. They are represented in four of the six participating classes with the largest contingent in the IMOCA Class (13 sailors) and Class 40 (10 sailors). There are also two foreign nationals at Rhum Multi – French-Israeli Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert) and Belgian captain Gilles Poinkenhout (Jess) with British sailor Sam Goodchild (Lytton) competing in the Ocean Fifty class.
A race that fascinates people around the world
Sam Goodchild (Leyton) is already one of the favorites to win this race in his class. The 2020 Pro Sailing Tour winner knows this well: “Of course, I have a chance to win, but I’m not the only one,” said the British rider. “I want to give myself the best possible chance by doing my best.” There are also some serious outsiders who could be very successful, like Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) and Sam Davies (Cœur Initiatives) in the IMOCA category. The same is true of Class 40 where Swiss captain Simon Koster (Bank de Lehmann), Italy’s Anbrogio Beccaria (Alagrand Pirelli) and Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic (ACI) are hoping to be with the winners.
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Each of them has their own personal goals. Some are there to take the fight, others to take a giant step forward, while others are involved in adventure, challenge or to discover something new. For American Alex Mahran (Polka Dot), it’s the “memorial of watching the races with my family from the other side of the world” that fascinates him. For Belgian sailor Jonas Jeskens (Volvo), he thinks of his childhood years in Saint-Malo and still fondly remembers previous editions. Australian captain Robert Henry (Eora) only discovered the pleasures of legendary transatlantic racing and Class 40 boats when traveling in France with his family in 2016. South African sailor Donald Alexander (Planet Consciousness) is particularly keen to see the adventure all the way through, after That it all ended prematurely four years ago in A Coruña…
“There was a great welcome”
“I’d love to be in France. Who can say the other sage?” Donald Alexander joked. I bought my boat in Marseille, and stopped in La Rochelle, Lorient, Saint Malo… I saw a lot of local landscapes and really liked it.” Everyone stresses the friendly welcome they received.” The welcome from the ocean racing community and Class40 was great for me. “There’s a great atmosphere,” said Robert Henry.
For some, it has become necessary to move to France to develop their projects, take advantage of infrastructures and knowledge of ocean races. “As a competitor, I wanted to dive into the culture that can be found in Brittany,” Jonas Jerkins explained. It was Japanese captain Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI Global One) who made that choice a few years ago, who had already run two races at the Vendée Globe. “It’s a shame he moved to France to compete in these races, but it was the best thing,” Sam Goodchild added.
“When you come from another country, you have to give your all”
They are all trying to improve their knowledge of French to be more comfortable on the rafts. For Hungarian Szabolcs Weores (Szabi Racing), the fact that he can’t speak French “can add to the tension, as you always wonder if you’ve missed something in discussions with the organisers,” he smiled. “Sometimes, I don’t understand everything, but everyone is helpful and understanding,” Pipe Hair added. Robert Henry explained, “I was fortunate to study some French at school when I was young, but my French is far from perfect.”
For these skippers, there is pride in representing their country. This is what Alain Roura (Hublot) said often after competing twice in the Vendée Globe: “I am very proud to represent Switzerland and it gives me extra motivation and desire to move forward no matter what.” The captain added: “I think at some point when you’re sailing up and down Lake Geneva, you feel the urge to head out to the open seas.”
“When you come from another country, you have to give your all and you have to make a full commitment. It can’t be done by half measures,” declared his countryman, Simon Koster (Lehman Bank).
“The Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, Superbowl”
Everyone in their own way hopes to encourage others, especially young people who can follow in their footsteps. “If we manage to get young people interested in our mimicry, it might strengthen things and help them take their first step,” said Babe Hare. “It’s a pleasure to be able to inspire young people,” added Sam Goodchild. Szabolcs Weores knows all about it. Following on the heels of Nandor Fa, the first Hungarian to have participated in the finest ocean races, he is determined to continue the story that connects his country with the ocean race.
This is a link that Alex Mahran wants to develop in the United States. “Americans love adventure sports and ocean racing is part of that, and that can motivate some sailors. Ocean racing has a lot of potential. The Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe is as huge an event as our Superbowl!”
Robert Henry also believes that in Australia, the growth of interest can attract young sailors in the future: “There is no better school than individual ocean races to become a good all-round captain. We don’t have that culture yet, but I hope my project and my race will show that anything is possible.” “. This could further contribute to making the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe and ocean races in general more international.