Offshore racing

Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest: Charles Caudrelier's coronation aboard his Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

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At the helm of his Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, the skipper of Gitana Team, who had celebrated his fiftieth birthday the previous day, thus wins the most demanding sailing race of our times - a solo round-the-world race aboard the fastest flying machines in existence. This feat is all the more remarkable in that the skipper has just completed this course around the Great Capes for the first time single-handed. His record time stands at 50 days 19 hours 7 minutes, 42 seconds, making an average speed of 23.74 knots, with 28,938 nautical miles actually logged. His time is still a long way off the true solo round-the-world record held by François Gabart - 42 days 16 hours 40 minutes 35 seconds set in December 2017 - for fairly simple reasons: firstly, this was a race with a pre-set start date and time, not a free record where they could pick and choose their weather window. Secondly, provided they lasted at least 24 hours, stopovers were possible under the Arkea Ultim Challenge rules. In fact, the winning skipper was twice forced to ease off the pace to let dangerous weather phenomena pass him by - once before Cape Horn, and the second time in the Azores, where the trimaran was forced to dock. And lastly, the Ultim Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is a true flying trimaran, while François Gabart’s Macif was a simple foiler that merely lifted the hulls with its appendages. “This pioneering race was about going into the unknown," explains Charles Caudrelier. “We even wondered if there might not be any competitors at the finish. Seven years ago, we still weren’t flying. Yet today, with 15 knots of wind, we’re capable of 35 knots! It’s incredible, and it’s only the beginning. We’re going to build even more powerful boats, and we’ll sail around the world even faster than that. Perhaps we’ll still have to make stronger machines and not give in to the hunt for weight. Because on this race, I have the impression of having spent my time fixing things and in the end, we were sailing at 80/85% performance.

Not all the competitors in the Arkea Ultim Challenge were flying trimarans, but this new and latest generation of flying Ultims has proved its (relative) reliability. The challenge of bringing back a boat in one piece seemed impossible... but in the end, five out of six sailors fulfilled (or are about to fulfill) the contract: well done to these great skippers capable of flying three hulls, and well done to the organizers of the Arkéa Ultim Challenge, who were able to set up this breathtaking round-the-world race 20 years after having had the idea and the desire to do so. Thank you for making us dream all the way around the Great Capes!

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