Good start out of Fort-de-France in light conditions with the fleet in close contact. - The fleet of 30 solo sailors leave Martinique heading across the Atlantic towards Lorient, France.

Heading back to France! At midday today (local time, 1100hrs UTC) 30 solo racers benefited from light airs on the bay of Fort-de-France, Martinique to make a gentle start to the inaugural 3,500 nautical miles Retour à La Base race to Lorient where the leaders are expected soon after the 9th December. 

First to cross the start line in the light, patchy 6-9kts of easterly trade wind was British favourite Sam Goodchild (For the Planet) who carried his momentum well from before the gun. He was quickly joined by favourite Jéremie Beyou (Charal). Further offshore Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer) found a steadier, more solid line of breeze and was able to lead the file of IMOCAs out of the bay, and away from Fort de France, which has been their home since finishing the double handed Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie. 

The first afternoon of the course will see the racers dodging or dealing with squall clouds which will pepper the climb upwind after turning the south of the island. 

The 30 sailors are expected to be joined within a few days, by two other entrants in the Retour à La Base. Tanguy Le Turquais (Lazare) is due into Martinique this evening after having to pitstop on the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre to make major repairs after he hit an object, and Jean Le Cam (Tout Commence en Finistère – Armor Lux) has delivered his brand new boat across the Atlantic to take part in this race as it is an essential qualifier for the Vendée Globe. 

Sam Goodchild GBR For The Planet:“. Apart from the few squalls that there may be, the first three days should be quite simple in terms of strategy. That gives us a little time before we worry about what's next! This is the first time that I will be solo on my boat. We didn't even have a day solo! There are lots of things to discover, to learn and I can't wait to see what happens! There can't be a better setup for starting out solo. There are a lot of parameters that change from double handed. I don't have any worries yet, but I really want to see what it's like! It’s the last race of the year, it’s the return home. We are all tired but excited nonetheless. It feels good to leave relaxed!”

Yoann Richomme, FRA, Paprec Arkéa:“I really like this boat. It is made for this type of transatlantic with strong downwind sea conditions which we will find when we get to the Azores and even more so in the Bay of Biscay as we approach Lorient. I am looking forwards to seeing its potential in these seas and getting my bearings on board when we are making fairly high average speeds I will have to manage the beast alone. I have never done this before and so looking towards the Vendée Globe, this is interesting . I need a lot of information to learn how to perform well on this boat in harsh conditions.  The beginning will be fairly neutral but when we go west, there we will be able to put the cursor a little more where we want and start to attack more or less. I'm going to watch the boat, we have to get to the other side but we also have to learn, we have to come back with answers and not generate more questions than those we already have at the start. I’m glad to be going home. It's been almost a month and a half since we left but mentally we've been at it for several months. Also happy that it was a relatively quick transatlantic. It's true that as soon as we finish we're going to get our heads back into the next two Transats for next year, you wonder a little when will it stop but we're going to have to break a little all the same !”

Nicolas Lunven, (Holcim PRB):“I have not very much experience in solo IMOCA racing. I am hungry for this,  I'm going to be happy to be at sea and racing! I see this event as a great learning curve to learn how to use Holcim PRB properly, particularly in terms of performance since we will be in full race mode. If I can go faster than my rivals then I will, with the fundamental aim also of qualifying for the Vendée Globe so getting to Lorient without any problem. Where do we put the cursor between learning, racing, the desire and the need to reach the end of this race? The positioning of the cursor will certainly evolve during the race depending on the weather conditions which will very much determine how hard you can push.

There’s a lot of desire, I’m going to be happy to be at sea and racing! Where do we put the cursor between learning, competition, the desire and the need to reach the end of this race? This cursor will certainly evolve during the race depending on the weather conditions which will allow you to pull more or less on the machine. If I can go faster than my friends, I'll do it!"

Clarisse CREMER (L’Occitane en Provence): “I'm obviously a little tired because I have a double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre in my legs, but I'm happy to leave despite a little apprehension: it's still a big piece of a solo return race in the month December, it's a bit busy. The last time I did that was the Vendée Globe! At the same time, that’s what I’m looking for… And I really need to finish, like others, to ensure my selection for the Vendée Globe.”

Damien SEGUIN (Apicil Group): “There is a lot of desire among everyone, at least among me there is! I have confidence in myself and in my boat. The weather pattern with depressions coming from behind is also something that is close to what we can experience in the deep South. I will be the handle in the corner, reasonably of course, but with boats like that it's difficult to put the cursor in the middle. It’s also an opportunity, one year before the Vendée Globe, to put the pressure on things a little!"

Thomas RUYANT (FOR PEOPLE):“After twelve days in Martinique, it’s good to leave now and go solo. There is definitely a little tension, but I know it will get back into place quickly. We have a start to the race which also allows us to slowly get into the rhythm. We will have to see my state of form after this busy year and an intense Transat Jacques Vabre. I'm going to do it as I feel, also looking at how the competition behaves. But if there is the opportunity to win it, I will take it!"