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Mediterranean Skippers: the club of five taking on the Rhum

© Yohann Brandt
© Yohann Brandt

Five of the sailors competing in the upcoming Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe are based in the Mediterranean, between Sète and Marseille. Kito de Pavant (HBF - Reforest’Action), Mathieu Claveau (Prendre la Mer, Agir pour la Forêt), Jean-Pierre Balmes (FullSave), Mikael Mergui (Centrakor) and Laurent Camprubi (Glaces Romanes) have been hard at work preparing their Class40 campaigns with a packed schedule of time on the water, training and competing in well-known races. The newly launched championship for the region, the Class40 Mediterranean Trophy, has brought good sailors together, boosted offshore racing in the region, and enabled teams to combine resources and thoroughly prepare for the challenge ahead. 

For Kito de Pavant, they are “the indomitable band of Mediterranean sailors come to challenge the Breton armada”. On the 6th of November, after a long delivery to get to Saint-Malo, five Class40 skippers from the south of France will line up for the start of the Route du Rhum. While offshore racing is highly developed in Brittany, the Mediterranean-based sailors have been putting in a lot of effort to develop the discipline in their part of the world. “This is where we live, work, and play, so it is logical for us to be based here”,  Marseille-based Mathieu Claveau emphasises.

 


The Class40 Mediterranean Trophy - an added attraction
The sailors all cite the benefit of more time spent training and racing in the Mediterranean, where conditions are far more variable and very different from those found in the Atlantic. “The wind is a lot shiftier, so you have to think quickly and manœuvre a lot more”, explained Jean-Pierre Balmes, based in La Grande Motte. Mikael Mergui, a native of Hyères who has sailed all over the world, says “here there are no tidal or lock-related restrictions, but the wind can be totally different just by going from one bay to the next, which adds a layer of difficulty to the sailing”. “The temperature is quite mild for much of the year, so we can sail more often and get on the water earlier in the year”, adds Laurent Camprubi. For this Marseille-based sailor, the race programme is also “very interesting and really busy”. The Class40 Mediterranean Trophy was launched this year as part of the drive to make it more attractive: “we wanted it to act as a focus for bringing together boats and strengthening the ties between Class40s”, explains Kito de Pavant. A number of races count towards the championship, including Roma per Due, Corsica Med, Duo Max, Au Large de Saint-Tropez, Palermo-Montecarlo, Round Italy and the Middle Sea Race…


Flying the flag for the Mediterranean in the Route du Rhum!
«The good level of competition makes us work hard and pushes us all to raise our game, as well as working together more closely», Kito de Pavant emphasises. For this group of sailors, this new Trophy “has created a new momentum” (Mikael Mergui), “helps increase the attractiveness of Class40 in the Mediterranean” (Laurent Camprubi) and “may incite other sailors to come and base themselves here, or come and compete in some of our races”  (Mathieu Claveau).
Geographic proximity, the need to be organised to compete in the big offshore races and the fact that they compete against each other regularly has strengthened the bond between these five sailors. “We share information and help each other out on technical and logistical matters” (Mikael Mergui). “We race against each other, but we are all faced with the same issues, so it’s normal that there is a certain amount of  solidarity” (Jean-Pierre Balmes). 
« We are close friends and we will do everything in our power to defend the colours of the Mediterranean in the Route du Rhum », Laurent Camprubi states. For this club of five, the main goal of the year is nearly 2000 miles away from their home ports. And nothing has been easy, particularly the qualification process: “it was quite a problem, nothing is simple when you are not based on the Atlantic coast”, Jean-Pierre Balmes recognises. “The long delivery makes it complicated, but we have found ways to adapt to the situation”, Mathieu Claveau emphasises. For sailors based in the Mediterranean, taking on the Route du Rhum can feel like a long, hard battle. But this group of sailors are strongly attached to their region, and have risen to the challenge. 
In Saint-Malo on the 6th of November, 138 skippers will cross the start line of the most legendary of transatlantic races, of which 55 in the Class40 fleet, the largest class in the race. As well as giving it their all to get to the finish with a creditable result in class, the five sailors from the South have also vowed to remind others of the joys and demands of sailing in the Mediterranean, whose distinguished races attract thousands of international sailors every year.  

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