It’s a brand new boat, a new design with a revolutionary new rudder configuration taking part in its first transoceanic race and it has been consistently in the podium places.

This Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe has seen an impressive performance by Jérémie Beyou on his Sam Manuard-designed Charal 2, with its inverted V-shape rudder configuration and the Manuard signature scow bow.

In the history of the Class very few boats have been designed after a Vendée Globe, then been built and launched and then gone on to complete the Route du Rhum. So Beyou is on his way to a considerable achievement and so far everything has been going like clockwork.

The 46-year-old Breton skipper from Finistère had to retire from the last Route du Rhum on the VPLP-designed Charal 1 because of technical issues. He then saw his dreams of winning the Vendée Globe dashed, after he had to return to the start for repairs, and he eventually finished 13th. As a result, this is a massively important race for Beyou.

Currently in third place, and 75 nautical miles behind new leader Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut and 53 miles behind Charlie Dalin on Apivia, Beyou is fighting hard to stay in touch in the trade winds and give himself a chance of moving up the podium places in the final stages.

In a report from on board today he described tricky unstable downwind conditions with squalls that can lead to huge losses. “It can happen and it can happen again, so we are not safe from anything,”he said. “You have to keep pushing and believe in yourself.”

Beyou is trying to ensure that he gets to Pointe-à-Pitre in one piece. “Right now, the wind is getting stronger and I’m paying attention to the boat because the idea is to finish the race,” he explained. “With a new boat, being here is already not bad. We shouldn’t ruin everything by doing something stupid, by pushing too much on the boat or by adjusting the mast badly…I’ve been on the podium since the beginning of the race, so I’d be upset if I wasn’t there at the end.”

In fact Beyou’s team say their skipper finds it almost impossible not to push himself and his boat to the limits, so competitive a sailor is the three-time Figaro winner. “Jérémie doesn’t know the word ‘conservative,’”said the Charal technical director Pierre-François Dargnies. “That’s why we had to prepare a very strong boat for him because we know he can’t manage a boat conservatively – he always wants to win a race. Even when I say ‘this is the first race, we have to finish and we need experience on board,’ he says ‘yes, but I will push’ because every race is important to him.”

Dargnies says the team has been pleased with the new boat’s upwind performance in the tough early stages of this race. “We know that upwind it is impossible to match Apivia. We know that it was impossible. The objective is to be faster than the other new boats and we saw that. We know that we can do better…but today we are really happy with the performance upwind,” he said.

Downwind it is more of a work in progress with the boat improving all the time as Beyou tries out different configurations and set-ups as Charal 2 flies towards Guadeloupe. However, the unique rudder design – in an inverted ‘V’ configuration – is on its way to passing another one of its first big tests and the team is convinced that it is more efficient than the more conventional arrangement on Charal 1.

“The rudder design is very new and we play with the system carefully because we don’t want to break it,” said Dargnies. “We are happy because the system is OK – it is operating at 100% without problems – and we are absolutely convinced that the boat trim is more stable than on Charal 1, but it is not perfect. We have to work on it, but we are happy because the system works and we know that on the return transat, with a full crew, we will play with it and try a lot of things and I am sure we can progress a lot with this rudder configuration.”

During the build-up to this race the Charal team has been augmented with the arrival of Franck Cammas who has been driving performance improvements with characteristic zeal. Dargnies says Cammas – who has talked recently of his dream of competing in the Vendée Globe himself – is the perfect addition to a team that needs to move one or two more steps up the podium.

“In the last four years we have had a good project, with a lot of second and third places – with first place too in some small races and in the Vendée Arctique – but we have been missing something to win and I think Franck can show us how to do that,” he said. “He pushes the team a lot and he will sail on the transat, coming back from Point-à-Pitre to Lorient, when I am sure he will find a lot of improvements.”

The other boat in the same category as Charal – a post-Vendée Globe new design and build – is Boris Herrmann’s VPLP-designed Malizia SeaExplorer. The German skipper is now down in 25th position, nearly 750 miles off the lead, and is no longer in race mode. Herrmann has discovered a structural problem with the starboard foil casing and is content to nurse his boat to the finish, saying he is glad he has discovered this issue now and not later – for example during the up-coming Ocean Race.

As the leaders in the IMOCA fleet reach the final stages of another epic race, the gap between the top-seven – Ruyant, Dalin, Beyou, Kevin Escoffier (Holcim-PRB), Paul Meilhat (Biotherm), Maxime Sorel (V And B-Monbana-Mayenne) and Justine Mettraux (Teamwork) is of the order of 200 miles.

Then, behind Benjmain Dutreux, there have been some big changes with Sébastien Marsset putting together a remarkable performance on the non-foiling 2006 Farr design, Mon Courtier Energie-Cap Agir Ensemble. Over the past couple of days Marsset, with Britain’s Pip Hare in tow on Medallia on the northern flank of the fleet, has moved up to an impressive 10th place and is now the leading daggerboard boat in the field. Hare, in 11th position, is hot on his heels despite sailing with a badly torn mainsail.

Ed Gorman