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Gentoo Sailing Team charge to 14th place finish in first Route Du Rhum transatlantic race

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

The youngest skipper in the 38-strong IMOCA class completes his first major international solo regatta, a major milestone on his journey to the Vendee Globe

British skipper James Harayda has taken a major step in his journey to the Vendee Globe, completing the historic Route Du Rhum in a fantastic 14th place within a field of some of the best sailors in the world. Competing in the world’s biggest ocean race for the first time, Harayda finished the race in a time of 13d, 12h, 13m and 35s.

In a class of 38 starters the Brit finished in a brilliant 14th in the IMOCA category and of 138 entrants he came in 27th overall. The youngest sailor in the IMOCA fleet, Harayda was competing in his first major international solo regatta within the biggest and most competitive IMOCA fleet that has ever taken on the famous Route Du Rhum.

James Harayda, Gentoo Sailing Team Skipper, said “I really don’t know what to say… at different points over the past six months it didn’t feel like we were going to make it to the start let alone the finish! It was a brilliant race. At the start I could never have imagined finishing in 14th. It is amazing especially after the first week when I was really struggling getting the boat to perform the way I wanted it to. I knew my opportunity would come in the transition to the tradewinds, so I stayed a little bit north and tried to get west until I found a nice little corridor I could go down into.”

“Initially it was all upwind, every day was the same, just constant difficulties. I had an issue with my keel ram which I had to fix, and then I got involved with supporting Fabrice with his problems. And then finally I made the transition into the tradewinds and the closer I got here the better the sailing got.”

“I think coming into this race in particular I came in with no pressure, I was not coming in to make a result. I was looking to do the race and just get across the finishing line, always thinking – I suppose – what’s the worst thing that could happen? That worked really well. It is quite an intimidating boat to step into and start racing and with that mindset it let me enjoy it a bit more."

"I had the devil and the angels on my shoulders, Martin and the guys on my team saying have you slept? Take it easy. Just make sure you get the boat into Guadeloupe safely, and Dee was saying ‘right last 72 hours push as hard as you can, and so I was balancing that. But Dee has been great, we chatted at times through the race.”

“I basically broke the race into a few different sections. The first bit was always going to be difficult. I knew upwind was where I struggled with the boat but the objective there was to just manage the fleet so that when the upwind did end I was in a position to capitalise on the downwind sailing where the boat could perform and so could I. The second part was the transition and it was really difficult.”

“I knew that if I was positioned well on that upwind section then I had an opportunity to get back. I saw most of the fleet go south to try and get into the tradewinds early and I was really tempted because after a week of upwind sailing it was really enticing, just to get south and into the warm and downwind, but I ran a few different routings, options came up to stay north and push on through and that ended up working. I was a bit nervous as I thought I was going to be the only one to do it but then I saw Pip doing it.”

“That last bit was just a drag race for me coming down from the north. I knew I had four days to try and get bow forwards on the fleet so that I knew that when I got that shift I was already bow forwards on them. That worked. I was not quite close enough to get to the next group. I was impressed by Tanguy who managed to sail super low and fast. After that it was good sailing. The last day today has been long. I was nervous about the wind holes on the west side of the island and so I made sure to take the most offshore route that anyone had taken yet. I got sucked into one small hole for ten minutes but that was it.”

“I was very relaxed going into the race and just wanted to keep my eyes and my mind open. And even today when you are tired and just wanting to get home and sail the shortest route I could see what worked. We went through a lot of trackings from previous races and the Caribbean 600 to see where people had slipped up. And the forecasts I had were very good.”

“Overall this race has been a fantastic experience… the whole show in St Malo, making our agreement with JET Connectivity literally on the dock! Then the delayed start time, the first few days into the wind… the last few days screaming downwind and a few tech hiccups along the way have made this a proper challenge. It feels like a lifetime of experiences packed into two weeks! I just want to thank everyone involved… who knew a solo event needed such great teamwork…In particular though a big shout out to the academy sailors who worked so hard and to Ian Atkins who made their participation possible.”

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