While there are a whopping 53 Class40s in the fleet, the pack of sailors that are expected to be at the front of the pack looks more like 15 of those 50 skippers. As you look through that list of 15, a few obvious themes emerge. The front runners are largely French, they are almost exclusively professional sailors, and many of them are racing on Sam Manuard designed boats, either the second generation of his Mach40 series or third generation versions.
Class40 racing remains so close and tight across the designs and even the build generations, there is a reasonable chance that a dark horse from the rest of the skippers could elbow their way onto the podium. It is also true, however, that this race absolutely rewards the well prepared. Over 25% of the fleet routinely drops out in the first 5 days, almost always for reasons of preparation. It is smart money to believe that the pro sailors on newest boats will be the best prepared in the fleet.
In alphabetical order, the top favorites with a couple of extras thrown in include:
Luke Berry – 31 year old and French. He is a Marine industry professional, and has been in the short handed scene for several years now. Achieved a 2ndplace in the 2015 Mini Transat, and stepped into the class last year as crew for Maxime Sorel on V&B for the Quebec St. Malo. He has #153, a brand new Mach 40.3 to play with this year which he has been piling up miles in with several mid-fleet finishes in various races.
Antoine Carpentier – 43 years old and a French professional sailor. He is the nephew of Patrice Carpentier, a legendary French sailor and one of the founders of the Class 40. He has raced as paid crew on many other Class 40s, and managed to secure sponsorship for his own ride this time, sailing a 2016 Verdier design.
Americ Chappellier – 37 years old, a French professional sailor. He is sailing #151, a recently launched Manuard designed Mach 40.3. He as a considerable amount of Class40 sailing in the past 5 years, and has snagged podium finishes in the past 18 months in the Normandy Channel Race, the 1000 Milles des Sables, the Transat Jacques Varbe and the Les Sables Horta race.
Bertrand Delesne – 40 years old, a French professional sailor. He is sailing #115, a 2012 Manuard design and one of the earlier versions of the Mach series of boats. He has over a dozen Class40 races under his belt in the past 6 years, with a couple of podium or near-podium results to point to.
Kito de Pavant - Sure to be a crowd favorite, Kito is 56 years old and a legendary French sailor who has had a string of bad luck in his three Vendee Globe attempts. He has countless IMOCA miles, and a couple of podium finishes in Class40 races. He is sailing #142, a Verdier design launched in 2014 and the boat is impeccably prepped.
Louis Duc – 34 years old and French professional sailor. He is sailing #150, the Lombard design that he launched last year but has clocked a staggering 30 + races in the Class 40 in both this boat and his prior boat. The new boat is finding its form with a second place finish in this year’s Normandy Channel Race
Loic Fequet - 43 years old and a French professional sailor. He is sailing #123, the blazing fast Botin design that dominated the Class for several years as Tales under its prior owner, Gonzolo Botin. Loic is new to the Class 40 this year with several mid-pack finishes but has substantial amounts of Multi 50 experience. He has the weapon if he can figure out how to unlock her potential.
Jean Galfoine – 46 years old and a French Corinthian sailor. He is sailing #125, a Humphreys designed boat launched in 2013. He had over 17 Class 40 races under his belt from 2011 to 2016 in his prior boat with mid-pack results, and his purchase of #125 in 2016 has vaulted him towards the front of the fleet with 5 podium finishes in the 8 races he has done in the past 24 months.
Sam Goodchild – 27 years old and an English professional sailor. He is sailing #137, a Manuard Mach40.2 and while he has limited experience in this boat he has sailed a wide array of Class40 events as crew on other boats. He also has substantial Figaro experience and was a trimmer / bow on Mapfre’s Volvo 65
Arthur Le Vaillant – a 30 year old French pro. He is sailing #156 which is a brand new Manuard Mach 40.3. The boat is so new that his experience on the new ride is non-existent other than his qualifier but he has nine other Class40 finishes on his resume and almost all of them were at the top of the podium.
Halvard Mabrie – a 61 year old French pro and legend. Halvard has an extensive sailing resume across a very wide range of boats, and a long history in the class. He is the current President of the Class, and is racing on #101 a Pogo S3 that he and his wife Miranda raced on prior to designing and building the boat that Miranda is sailing on. Halvard likes to sit back at the start and then crawl up through the pack and pick off boats one by one. He is a wily wolf.
Miranda Merron – a 48 year old English pro. Miranda has piles of Class40 miles starting back in the earliest days of the Class, and most recently in #147, the Mabrie designed boat launched in 2016. She knows the way, and is a fierce competitor
Yoann Richomme – a 34 year old French pro. Yoann is sailing #154, a branch new Lombard build using the same mould and design as Louis Duc’s boat. He has some Class40 experience dating back 6 or 7 years ago with finishes in the front half of the fleet, and has had success in the Figaro circuit as well as IMOCA 60 miles in more recent years. He is aimed at competing in the 2020 Vendee Globe and is hungry to show well in the RdR.
Phil Sharp – a 37 year old English pro. Phil is sailing #130, the Manuard Mach 40.2 that he has campaigned very successfully over the past three years. He has been on the podium in all but one of the 11 races he has competed in since 2016 and most notably he won the Route du Rhum in 2006, the very first year there were Class40s in this race. Phil has world class navigational skills and he is not afraid to break from the fleet in search of advantageous conditions.
Maxime Sorel – a 31 year old French Corinthian sailor. Maxime is sailing on #144, a Manuard Mach 40.3 that is his second Class40. He started sailing in the class in 2014 and after a few years of mid-pack finishes his success improved substantially with his new boat starting in the 2016 season.
Jack Trigger – At 24 years old, this Brit is a bit of a nipper in a fleet of veterans. He got his start young and has been given great opportunities racing for Tony Lawson’s Team Concise, earning his start in this race on the 2013 launched Kerr design. Jack is hungry, and aiming for a IMOCA 60 campaign. His boat has been historically fragile, but blazing fast and just went through a massive rebuild. Someone to look out for.
Nicolas Trousell – A 40 year old French professional sailor, Nicolas came up through the Figaros. Legendary training grounds for the best in French offshore sailors, Nicolas is 2 time winner of the Solataire du Figaro. He was second in the 2010 Route du Rhum, and many pick him as the dark horse winner for this year’s edition.