EVERY two years more than 80 single-handed sailors race more than 4,000 miles from the west coast of France to the Caribbean or Brazil on tiny 6.5 metre yachts.
Despite their small size these are full-on race boats, with the most recent designs typically providing a test bed for ideas that are subsequently incorporated into more mainstream racing yachts and, occasionally, cruising models.
The fleet left La Rochelle on October 1 for the first leg, bound for Las Palmas, Grand Canaria in relatively light airs, but with faster downwind conditions in prospect for a few days once to the west of a cold front in the Bay of Biscay. However, they then had to endure a few days of very light airs on the final few hundred miles to the finish.
In the class for series production boats one of the early leaders was a newcomer to the race, 23-year old Clarisse Crémer (TBS) who boasted a 32-mile lead over the rest of the fleet after five days.
However, this division was to see seven different leaders and 13 changes at the top of the leader board during the leg. Crémer lost out in the very light airs on the final frustrating days before the finish, to take third place at the end of the leg, behind Valentin Gautier (Shaman - Banque du Léman) and Rémi Aubrun (Alternative Sailing – Constructions du Belon).
The Prototype class also saw particularly intense competition, with Ian Lipinski (Griffon.fr) taking victory just 113 seconds ahead of Arthur Léopold Léger after almost exactly 10 days at sea.
Pre race favourite and winner in the production boat category in 2015, Ian Lipinski crossed the finishing line on November 14 in a time of 13 days, 22mins. This is the first occasion that a racer won in the production boat category and then repeated the win in the prototype category two years later.