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Francis Joyon won the Route du Rhum and set a speed record

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Frenchman Francis Joyon was the first to cross the finish line of the Route du Rhum race at 6:26am UTC. His IDEC Sport maxi-trimaran took him 7 days, 14 hours and 21 minutes to sail from Breton Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre in French Guadeloupe. That's 46 minutes and 45 seconds faster than the previous race record time, which was set in 2014 by Frenchman Loïck Peyron on the 31.5m Maxi Banque Populaire VII. During the race, Joyon covered 4.367 nautical miles at an average speed of 23.95 knots.

Up until the very last minute, it was an intrigue to see who would be the overall winner of the Route du Rhum and the ULTIME Echelon winner. Just before the finish, Juillon andFrançois Gabart, the long time leader of the race, staged a real match race. The competition between the athletes ended with the closest finish in the history of the race since 1978.

Gabar lost to his rival by only 7 minutes and 8 seconds.

The distance between Joillon and Gabar narrowed to a minimum as they rounded the west coast of Bass-Terre Island . Whereas Gabar would go 160 nautical miles in the mid-Atlantic, they would now be separated by a mere 20 nautical miles. They now had 28 nautical miles to go before the finish line.

The current Route du Rhum might have ended with Gabar winning if his 32m MACIF had not lost part of its rudder blade and foil during the race.

«François had more problems in the six days than he had in his entire 42-day round-the-world race», the sailor's team stated.

As it turned out, Gabar lost his foiler on the second night of the race (November 5 to 6). Though there was no damage on the hull, the part had simply disappeared. After a while, the left rudder pen cracked. But, according to team technical director Gabar, the breakdowns, more than anything else, motivated the yachtsman to move forward as quickly as possible. The team didn't announce all of these problems until a few hours before the finish line.

The remaining two ULTIME Division sailors, Frenchmen Romain Pilliard and ThomasCovillie, still have nearly three thousand nautical miles to go from the finish line. They are now bidding farewell to SpainandPortugal.

Much closer to the finish line is the fleet of MULTI50 and IMOCA. The leader in the trimaran class, Frenchman Armel Tripon, has just over 1300 nautical miles to go. His closest rival, Thibaut Vauchel-Camus, is 266 nautical miles behind. Tripon had a chance to take the lead after the weekend when the then leaders, Vauche-Camus andErwan Le Roux, made a technical stopover in the Azores.

In the IMOCA echelon, Britain's Alex Thomson is still the fastest. In the last few days his gap to the Frenchmen Paul Meilhat andVincent Riou has widened again to 100 nautical miles.

The CLASS40 fleet is slowly approaching Madeira and the west trade winds that will help the yachtsmen cross the Atlantic . Group leader Yoann Richomme of France is just over two thousand nautical miles away from the finish line. His closest competitor, Briton Phil Sharp, is 90 nautical miles behind him.

They are matched by RHUM MONO leader Sidney Gavignet. Runner-up Sebastien Destremau is more than 330 nautical miles away. Alone on the yacht, however, is Gavignet's pleasure:

«I try to just be "in my bubble," and it feels good. But when my brain starts to worry about the future, I talk to myself. Sometimes I have to speak loudly: «Get a grip, Sid! » It's helpful to use your vocal chords when you're alone»," says Gavinier.

RHUM MULTI leader Pierre Antoine, on the other hand, has already reached the Passat after a 560 nautical mile breakaway from his fellow echelonists. He has 1,900 nautical miles to go before the finish line.

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