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Ultim Challenge Race: Le Cléac'h Stopped. Caudrelier Dodges Bullet. Coville Should Move to Second Place

17th February 2024
Second-placed Ultim Challenge solo skipper Armel Le Cléac’h has docked in Rio de Janeiro for a rudder repair
Second-placed Ultim Challenge solo skipper Armel Le Cléac’h has docked in Rio de Janeiro for a rudder repair

Since Friday afternoon (UTC), second-placed Ultim Challenge, solo skipper Armel Le Cléac’h has been docked in Rio de Janeiro. He should be overtaken today by Thomas Coville (3rd), who is progressing off the Brazilian coast and was 225 miles south of Rio this morning. Meanwhile, Leader Charles Caudrelier continues his ascent of the North Atlantic whilst Anthony Marchand In fourth and Éric Péron in fifth are going steadily in the Pacific Ocean.

The Maxi Banque Populaire XI is on their second Brazilian stop of this solo multihull race around the world. After pit-stopping in Recife during the descent of the Atlantic, they have been in Rio de Janeiro since yesterday. The double damages, first to the port float rudder then to the central rudder have forced the team and Armel Le Cléac’h to stop.

“We have no other option than to put the race on hold,” explained the skipper yesterday. “It’s a real blow, It is especially hard because we’ve done the hardest part.”

Race management started the 24-hour timer at 1417hrs UTC.

“The tech team arrived on site, they had equipment sent to try to repair and find solutions,” explains Guillaume Evrard from race direction. As yet the Banque Populaire team have not provided further information as to the extent of the damage, nor on the options considered. They published a series of photos on their social networks where members of the team, including Sébastien Josse, winner with Armel of the Transat Jacques Vabre, are getting busy around the maxi-trimaran.

So now there are four solo skippers still racing.

Caudrelier's fright

The leader, Charles Caudrelier, crossed out of the South Atlantic yesterday. In a video broadcast yesterday, he looked back on the last few particularly trying days.

Ultim Challenge Leader Charles CaudrelierUltim Challenge Leader Charles Caudrelier

“I was so very tired from the squalls, I scared myself a little by broaching up to 40° of heel, something this has never happened in my entire history with this boat.” He spoke for the first time of the idea of his imminent arrival, his fierce desire to finish the job saying “I want to reward everyone for everything that has been done over the past seven years with this team and this boat”.

The skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild showed palpable emotion, something of a preview for what he should enjoy with his team in a few days .

“Right now Charles is gradually getting into the Northeast trade winds and should soon benefit from a well-established flow,” explains Guillaume Evrard. “Next Tuesday, he will have to deal with a transition zone with weaker winds before being able to head directly towards Brest where brisk conditions are expected at the finish.”

Coville…..busy busy busy

And so Thomas Coville could regain the second place as he had during the crossing of the Indian Ocean. He was just over 250 miles from the latitude of Rio de Janeiro, where Armel Le Cléac’h stopped.

“Thomas is expecting a small depression off the coast of Cabo Frio,” explains Evrard. “He will have to negotiate a wind shift and turn with the depression, which will involve a lot of manoeuvres and transitions to end up upwind in 15 to 20 knots. It's going to be a busy day!”

In the Pacific, Anthony Marchand has been moving at around fifteen knots for the past 24 hours. He is currently going through a depression. “He still has to be patient so as not to get caught up in it,” explains the Assistant Race Director, “His sea conditions will be not very pleasant with downwind conditions. It’s up to him to find the right tempo to anticipate his approach to Cape Horn.” Marchand’s passage of his third Cape is expected next Wednesday.

Anthony Marchand on the Actual Ultim 3Anthony Marchand on the Actual Ultim 3

Some 940 miles further west, Éric Péron continues to gain ground on fourth placed Marchand. The skipper of ULTIM ADAGIO skirts the ZEA (ice exclusion zone) sailing fast always ahead of a depression.

“He went close to the ZEA to hold on as long as possible in the westerly wind,” added Evrard, “He will probably do a series of gybes along the ZEA.”

Péron is going fast and it shows, surges up to 35 knots with around 20 knots of wind and an average which currently fluctuates between 28 and 30 knots. Right now his Saturday is going well on the oldest boat in the fleet.

Published in Ultim Challenge
Andi Robertson

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Andi Robertson

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Andi Robertson is an international sailing journalist based in Scotland

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About the Ultim Challenge

The ULTIM CHALLENGE – Brest, which starts from Brest, France on Sunday, 7 January, will be the first-ever solo race around the world on giant Ultim trimarans, the biggest and fastest ocean-going sailboats in the world.

The inaugural six competitors of the Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest are:

  • Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild)
  • Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3)
  • Tom Laperche (SVR - Lazartigue)
  • Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire XI)
  • Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3)
  • Éric Péron (ADAGIO) - subject to qualification.