A French Connection: Racing Aboard Legendary Sailor Marc Guillemot’s MG5 Catamaran on Day 2 of the Caribbean Multihull Challenge

Competitor Dazeilad in the 2024 Carribean Multihull Challange Race. Photo by Laurens Morel.

Simpson Bay, St Maarten:  Marc Guillemot is a certified French legend, a veteran of multiple Route du Rhum and Transat Jacques Vabres transatlantic races on monohulls and multihulls who took third place in the 2008 edition of the nonstop Vendée Globe round-the-world race on his IMOCA 60, Safran. Aboard his latest boat, the 52-foot MG5 cat Dazelad – which means “alternative” in French and is a tribute to the boat’s innovative carbon construction – he took a third place in the 2022 Route du Rhum soon after the boat’s launching that year. Today, Guillemot and his all-star crew took to the waters off St. Maarten on Day 2 of the 6th running of the Caribbean Multihull Challenge Race and Rally. And a memorable day it turned out to be.

Competitor Mana in the 2024 CMC Race. Photo by Laurens Morel.

After an opening day in which only two boats finished the round-the-island race in light airs prior to the race’s time limit, principal race officer Chris Mansfield took advantage of the rare but welcome 10-15 knot northerly breeze to conduct four races for the CSA 1 racing boats and a whopping five races for the Diam 24 one-design fleet. When the spray had settled, with a pair of bullets, Riccardo Pavoncelli’s Gunboat 66 Mana topped the CSA leader board, and Alexis de Boucaid’s Merlin continued its winning ways to top the Diam 24 class. In part because of a rating that penalizes his concave dagger boards, Guillemot’s Dazeilad was off the pace in the standings, but still enjoyed a fine day of tight competition in the CSA battles.

Competitor Oceans Tribute in the 2024 Carribean Multihull Challange Race. Photo by Laurens Morel.

Guillemot’s standout team included his cousin, Regis; professional sailor and yachting writer Nicolas Raynaud; and tactician Bruno Jourdren, who has also competed in the sport’s highest levels. French sailor Michel Desjoyeaux is known in his country as “the professor” for his otherworldly tactical prowess, but according to French sailing journalist Emmanuel van Deth, who was also board, Jourden also possesses an academic approach to strategy. “He knows things,” said van Deth. “If he says ‘go left’ that’s where you go.”

All four of the CSA 1 races were run on identical courses with a downwind start and upwind finish, and there was a bit of discussion about headsails on the MG5 before the crew settled on a Code Zero reaching sail. “Under 12 knots is not too good for us,” said Guillemot, referencing the conditions under which the first of the four races was contested. An early jibing duel with Anthony McVeigh’s 2 2 Tango and the Kelsall 47 Triple Jack was a race highlight, with tight and close sailing across the field.

Guillemot’s fascinating boat features a long list of gear from his previous racers and those of his friends, including another French legend, Jean le Cam. Guillemot laughed as he pointed out the various parts and pieces which have earned a second life on his latest boat: the rudder, tiller, running rigging and trampoline are all on their second tour of offshore duty. The finished cat is a sum of many disparate parts.

Wet, squally weather was parked over the finish line at the end of race 1, but in the aftermath the skies cleared and the wind filled in to the mid-teens, and the fresh breeze was much more to Guillemot’s liking. His boat lit up in the puffs, creaming along at 15 and 16 knots off the wind and registering a very respectable 9-plus knots close hauled.

Competitor Calamity in the 2024 Carribean Multihull Challange Race. Photo by Laurens Morel.

The day’s third race saw Guillemot sparring with Kimmo Nordstrom’s ORC 50, Calamity, and Guy Chester’s Crowther-designed trimaran Oceans Tribute, in what was becoming a very familiar scenario. By race 4, it all started to feel somewhat like the Bill Murray-movie Groundhog Day – around and around everyone went – with one exception: it was easily Guillemot’s best start of the day, right on the heels of the class’s heavyweights, Mana and Todd Slyngstad’s HH66, Nemo. It was a fine way to wrap up a classic day.

Once the racing was completed, Guillemot and his crew quickly boarded a dinghy for a quick trip to Marigot to catch the France-Ireland rugby match in the Six Nations Championship tournament. With their day of competition finished, it was time to go root for the home team.

Meanwhile the Rally fleet had a beautiful day sailing from Great Bay to French Saint Martin, Anse Marcel, where the evening will be filled with live music and socials.

Marc Guillemot in the 2024 CMC Race