Route De Fun, I Mean Rhum, Is Ready to Blow You Away

This singlehanded, transatlantic challenge is the most exciting sailboat race of the year.

Back in June, I inked a big old X on the sailing calendar: the start of the 2010 Route Du Rhum. The reason was simple. It will hands-down be the most exciting sailboat race of the year, and it starts this coming weekend.

How can I know that? Easy. 2010 has been a slow year, to start with. Volvo is still gearing up. The America's Cup is still all blah, blah, blah. Yes, the Velux 5 Oceans is underway, but you already know what I think of watching Brad Van Liew spank a middling fleet of, um, five boats, all the way around the globe.

Hey, where is everyone?

More important, while the Route Du Rhum only happens once every four years, it always delivers intense sailing action, which sometimes reaches the level of serious carnage. The 2002 race, in particular, was a demo derby (read a detailed account: Part 1; Part 2).

This year, the RDR has 87 registered skippers, and the class breakdowns are telling. There are nine IMOCA 60s, which have been the workhorses of long-distance solo ocean racing over the past decade. That's fewer than the 17 that started the 2002 race, but the Open 60s are always sailed to maximum potential, and the skippers in this class are as good as they come, ranging from Vendee Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux to 2006 Route Du Rhum winner Roland Jourdain.

While the IMOCA boats always deliver hyper-close racing, it's the Class 40s and the mega-multihulls which will really launch this year's RDR into orbit. The Class 40 is on a tear, rapidly becoming a perfect entry into big-time solo ocean racing. So perhaps it's not a surprise that there are 46 Class 40 boats registered for the race. There are lots of up-and-coming Vendee aspirants. But a few familiar names—like Bernard Stamm and Pete Goss—are also in on the action.

Pete Goss is back in one hull.

For sheer spectacle, nothing will surpass the fleet of nine monster multihulls that is racing the RDR for the first time. I've long waited for the G-class to race formally in a transatlantic race (as opposed to in the Jules Verne). The fact that they will be sailed solo seems almost insane. That is to say, insanely fun and exciting. I have no idea what will happen. None. I just hope everyone stays safe.

I’m picking Joyon, but watching Sidney Gavignet on Oman

Okay, sounds like it will be a pretty spectacular week of racing out on the Atlantic. There's only one thing left for you to do: get in the race yourself. You don't have to actually risk your life, you only have to sign up for the Virtual Regatta. You won't be getting seasick, but you will be pitting your skills and tactical smarts against the more than 18,000 virtual skippers who have already signed up. It's just one more thing that makes the Route Du Rhum pretty amazing.