Jumping at the opportunity to be a part of this prestigious transatlantic race meant Phil had just a few weeks to prepare for this epic adventure. Working through the night managing the technical and purchasing side of the boat and numerous 3rd party influences – the workload was considerable, but worth it.
The cutting timeframe meant that Phil could not attend the Official Skippers Briefing, and instead had to make a dash for London to get his passport visa stamp – one does not want to get on the wrong side of the U-S-A! Fortunately for Phil this meeting was postponed to a one-one session the following day to have the opportunity to receive the imperative information that other skippers had benefited from, or so he thought. All but ‘no-go zone Ushant’ were covered. Phil left the meeting confident in the knowledge of the race rules and later commented “I’ve gone through the zones with ***, I know where they are – all sorted!”.
As Phil merrily sailed on in 1st place, he had absolutely no idea he was entering the Ushant off-bounds zone, by actually a mere 3.8nm. A buffer zone for the shipping lanes, which Phil sailed well clear of. Unfortunately for Phil, he clearly had not spent sufficient time studying the last 3 pages of the 26 page document of ‘Race Instructions’ – big slap on his wrist.
With no written hard and fast rule on punishment procedures, the jury decisions are made on a case by case basis. After a long and painful five day wait, the committee have officially set the punishment for the lone Brit, and have confirmed the following:
- Phil did not attain any competitive advantage from racing through the edge of this zone
- When instructed Phil must take a 6 hour stop-start time penalty
“It’s hugely frustrating to receive such a large penalty for crossing a restricted zone I was not made aware of, especially when I stayed well clear of the shipping lane, but it is what it is and the rules are there at the end of the day for our safety.”
“Effectively there is a virtual line of longitude that I must cross and then simply wait 6 hours before restarting on this very line. I’m estimating to end up around 80nm behind 1st, and ARSEP, who is currently some 16nm behind me now…”
“I am treating it as a mid Atlantic pit-stop! Time to mend some important things on the boat that I cannot do easily when sailing, get some sleep, and what the hell, I might even relax and ponder at the views of the North Atlantic whilst cruising!”
We can stay rest assured that our Brit is clearly an incredibly skilled sailor having proven himself since the gun in Plymouth, with minimal training and experience on board Imerys, Phil has done the unimaginable. 2000 miles to go, multiple compression zones to come, the future is unknown…
“I’m determined to make up those miles, and I’ll be seeking every advantage possible. There are several compression zones in the weather between now and the finish, so I hope I can take advantage of these, and try and get back in front before New York. It’s a hell of a long race – we still have another 2000 miles to go – so anything can happen!”
The 2006 Route du Rhum was Phil’s last solo transatlantic race, which saw him win almost a whole day ahead of his nearest competitor. Is it too much of an ask for him to do it again? Watch this space…