Big seas and gusting winds for Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on first night of Route du Rhum race

03 November 2014

Clipper Race chairman and founder, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, has sent his first blog since he started Transatlantic solo race, the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe yesterday at 1400 CET from Saint-Malo, France.

It has been a dramatic night with 15 incidents across the classes, including a collision between an Ultime trimaran and a cargo ship, the air rescue of a sailor after his boat lost its keel and overturned, and a Multi50 sailor who is awaiting help after his float broke off.

With winds of 30 knots plus and large seas reported overnight, Sir Robin sent this report from his Open 60, Grey Power, this morning.

A grey sea, overcast, light drizzle and a West South Wester'ly Force 5 greeted me at dawn this morning. I am currently 40 miles from Ushant and debating whether to take the inner side of the Traffic Separation zone. Currently making 6-7 knots. Could do more if I put up more sail but we'll stay like this for the time being, as the wind is still 20 plus knots and gusting higher, just had one of 29 knots and the sea very lumpy.

It’s a long race, and no point in breaking things at the beginning. I made a very cautious start. My Clipper Race colleague Simon Johnston was with me until half an hour before when my Rhum class competitor Bob Escoffier sent his rib to take him ashore. He has been invaluable, as was fellow colleague Alex Dower.

I soon found myself surrounded by 40's most of yesterday evening, pushing hard. Those boats are quick, but when the forecast squalls of 40 knots arrived I would not have wanted to be in one. Fortunately I had decided to settle in on the first night, so already had 3 reefs in the main and the storm jib set, but the boat was still pushed hard over and even with the mainsail pushed right down its track, was crashing into the waves.

I saw a couple of Automatic Identification Scheme targets turn round, I think they were in the race, but it was a gear breaking situation if you did not think of the boat and try to get her comfortable. We came through without damage, except for the staysail sheets becoming amorous, and it took a dark, cold wet hour on the foredeck, often under water, sorting out the resulting snakes’ honeymoon.

Now typing this on a jumping boat is far from easy, as the computer often skips a letter or inserts one you did not ask for.

I am wondering how the big multis are fairing and if everyone is alright. There was some mention on Channel 16 last night but it was in fast spoken French.

C'est tout pour le moment.

RKJ

You can track Sir Robin and Grey Power here on the official race tracker.

It will update every hour during the race.

The Clipper Race will continue to post his blogs here as well.

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