This seems to be an obsession reserved basically for the French and the British, but it is frankly amazing how huge the crowds are for each departure. Today, the Route du Rhum from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe started and there were 1.3 million spectators on the coast to see the 123 boats leave. The current record is for 7 days, but with technological advances, most people think that the winner will arrive in 6 days. However, this really isn't the point of the race. Some of the boats will take a month to arrive and they will be cheered just like the winners. One of the former winners is sailing a historic boat that won about 20 years ago and he knows that it will take him at least twice as long in 2018 to arrive as this year's winner, but he just likes the challenge. It makes no difference whatsoever, and that is the beauty of this race.
Sailing is one of the wonderful sports where just participating is considered to be as noble as winning. I know that certain cultures where only #1 counts might have difficulty understanding the concept About the only sport that I can think of that resembles this is running a marathon, where anybody who manages to finish is feted appropriately.
This has not been a record breaking year, because the winner Sidney Gavignet arrived on November 21 after 16 days 11 hours. #2 arrived a bit more than 20 hours later. #4 just arrived today -- and there are plenty more to come, although more than half of the participants have been forced to abandon.