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Ultim Challenge Winner in Waiting is 'Patient, Prudent and Poised….'

22nd February 2024
Because of ferocious weather on the Bay of Biscay Ultim Challenge leader Charles Caudrelier is stopped in Horta, sheltering from the strong gales
Because of ferocious weather on the Bay of Biscay Ultim Challenge leader Charles Caudrelier is stopped in Horta, sheltering from the strong gales

In Horta in the Azores Ultim Challenge, leader Charles Caudrlier and his team remain patient. In second place, Thomas Coville crossed the Equator yesterday afternoon while the race’s three sailors were climbing the South Atlantic.

On Brest’s Quai du Commandant Malbert, everything is ready to welcome the first winner of the Ultim Challenge. But because of ferocious weather on the Bay of Biscay Charles Caudrelier is stopped in Horta, sheltering from the strong gales.

At 1189 miles from the finish line, or around 36 hours of racing, Charles Caudrelier is poised for the final attack, the last climb to the summit. But he needs to wait for the first, most suitable weather window to go. But the big question right now is ‘when’? He might take advantage of a small window for a Sunday arrival or if he waited until the first depression has fully cleared Biscay it could be Monday. Only when the Gitana team make official their decision as to when Caudrelier will leave the Azores can a finish programme be projected.

Having entered the intertropical convergence zone on the afternoon of February 20, Thomas Coville on Sodebo Ultim 3 is about to extricate himself from the doldrums glue pot. He is into a light north-easterly wind but there is a big anticyclonic zone which will block his direct route to the Bay of Biscay.

Unless he chooses the shortest, direct route which needs a series of transitions, Coville could head west to take advantage of the winds coming in from with the low pressure train, but he would sail many more miles. With a boat close to its maximum capacities, thanks to the work of his technical team during the stopover in Hobart, the former solo round the world record holder will likely go for the higher speed option. His finish into Brest could take place on February 29 or March 1.

Coville is currently 600 miles ahead of Armel Le Cléac'h who is who is currently sailing in the southeast trade winds. He might benefit from a small opening in the doldrums and get to the Equator in one and a half days.

The weather is transitioning in the southern hemisphere. Currently heading upwind in a northerly flow, fourth placed Anthony Marchand will eventually hit a westerly wind which will allow him to follow a more direct course north. Then within 24 hours, the skipper of Actual Ultim 3 should be sailing downwind. He climb towards the equator should be quite brisk. So it should also be for Éric Péron, who needs to choose between an easterly route which would take him south of the Falkland Islands. He would then sail upwind, but on a direct route. Or he can go west, towards the coast, on a route which is a little less direct, but which could prove to be profitable if he can get into the downwind conditions closer to land.

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.