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With Less Than 1,200 Miles To Finish, Ultim Challenge Leader Caudrelier Takes Shelter in the Azores

21st February 2024
Ultim Challenge leader since January, Charles Caudrelier on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild
Ultim Challenge leader since January, Charles Caudrelier on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

With less than 1,200 miles to finish the Ultim Challenge, Charles Caudrelier on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, leader of the race since the end of January, has elected to take shelter in the Azores, thereby making a technical stopover.

The “24-hour stopover timer” was started by race management at 0504hrs UTC. His objective is to avoid a big depression approaching from the south of Iceland which is set to make the Bay of Biscay “impassable” according to his team. He will then sail in better to reach the finish in Brest.

"His objective is to avoid a big depression approaching from the south of Iceland"

His prudent mindset has been evident for a few days. “I’m not going to sacrifice the team’s work out of impatience,” said Caudrelier on Monday. “There are races which have ended badly in the Bay of Biscay which is one of the most difficult sailing waters.”

“We are expecting 40 knots of winds, gusts of more than 50 knots, seas of 8 to 9 meters,” explains Benjamin Shwartz, one of the routers at the Gitana team. He adds: “We waited and hoped for improvements but that’s not happened. There is no question of taking the slightest risk.”

Leeward of Faial Island

Caudrelier and the team had considered waiting offshore but, they explain, “The maritime traffic in the area as well as the expected weather and in particular the heavy seas in the possible waiting zone ended up putting him off that idea" specifies a press release from the team. The option chosen is to take shelter in the Azores, in the lee of the island of Faial in Horta.

“It’s a safety choice to take shelter,” explains Guillaume Evrard from the race direction. Their intention is to stay outside the marina, in a small channel between two islands.”

Towards a very rapid return to racing

Members of the team joined Caudrelier for the technical stopover, which must last a minimum of 24 hours as stipulated in the notice of race. The race management started the “24-hour stopover time” at 0504hrs UTC “His team can bring him fresh food and can fix a few little things,” explains Evrard

Until now Caudrelier had been the only sailor on the ARKÉA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest not to have stopped since the start.

His stopover should be quick, “The routing unit is already hard at work to consider the next steps to allow Caudrelier to reach Brest as soon as possible” confirms the press release.

“A window of opportunity is possible with a little more manageable weather between two depressions,” says Evrard. “There was no information to this effect from the team but there is a small lull during the night from Saturday to Sunday. We can therefore imagine that he tries to cross the finish line during the night from Saturday to Sunday.”

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.