Offshore racing

Obituary - The Route du Rhum pays tribute to Mike Birch

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Aboard his yellow, Dick Newick-designed Olympus Photo, Mike won the first Route du Rhum on a trimaran: this was 1978, and the then 47-year-old skipper managed to catch up with Michel Malinovski's imposing Kriter V monohull and even overtake it almost within sight of the finish line. Just 98 seconds separated the two solo sailors. Dejected, Michel’s famous quote and title of his book said it all: “Only victory is pretty...” But that victory by a modest multihull heralded the beginning of the supremacy of two and three-hulled craft over monohulls and the creation of distinct classes.

In Saint-Malo today, the day after the opening of the Route du Rhum Village (the start of the 12th edition is set for November 6), the emotion of those who were close to Mike, a man as discreet as he was a master of self-deprecation, was palpable. Note that the skipper, after his exploits in the first race, took part in every edition until 2002! Multihulls World extends its deepest sympathy to his family.

Bye bye, Mike...

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