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Ultim Challenge Leader Caudrelier Expected to Restart from the Azores Today

24th February 2024
Charles Caudrelier should leave the Azores today, which could see him cross the Ultim Challenge finish line between Monday noon and Tuesday noon
Charles Caudrelier should leave the Azores today, which could see him cross the Ultim Challenge finish line between Monday noon and Tuesday noon

Sheltered in the Azores since last Wednesday, the leader of the Ultim Challenge Race Charles Caudrelier should leave today which could see him cross the finish line between Monday noon and Tuesday noon according to Race Direction. In second Thomas Coville continues to climb the North Atlantic whilst Armel Le Cléac’h in third crossed the equator yesterday. Anthony Marchand in fourth and Éric Péron, fifth, are progressing at good speeds off the Argentinian coast.

It is in the nature of long ocean races that sometimes solo skippers lose their sense of time, forgetting days and dates. But then they are summarily reminded by the wealth of data on board, the tracking, the study of the weather and messages from loved ones too. A few days before arrival, Charles Caudrelier already knows now he is a little late for what should have been the start of his winter mid term holidays he had planned with his kids. He had promised them he would be back in Brest for the start of the school holidays. He might still make it Monday, his 50th birthday. “That would be a beautiful story to tell my grandchildren”, he said yesterday.

A finish between Monday noon and Tuesday noon

He still has the 1200 miles last stretch to Brest to complete. His Gitana team press release said Caudrelier “should be able to be back racing this Saturday”.

“For the moment, the team has not given us any details about a possible re-start,” explains Pierre Hays, assistant race director. “He should leave during the day or even in the morning.”

Despite the wait in the Azores, the conditions still promise to be tough.

“It will still be fairly challenging for him to get to Brest with 25 to 30 knots of wind, gusts of 30 to 35 knots and 6 to 7 meters of sea in the Bay of Biscay.” If he starts racing again today Caudrelier should cross the finish line in Brest “between Monday noon and Tuesday noon” Hays reckons.

Coville – Le Cléac’h, mixed fortunes

Further south in the Atlantic Thomas Coville and Armel Le Cléac’h are also getting closer to home. The two skippers are expected in Brest at the end of the week. The Sodebo Ultim 3 skipper pointing at the Cape Verde islands. “He has had good average speeds over the past 24 hours, slightly below 30 knots,” explains Hays. “Thomas has made good miles in recent hours with good winds for him, in a moderate easterly regime.” Coville is taking a North-East route in order to stay with the maximum wind, even if he will have to face an anticyclonic ridge which could block his route at the end of the day.

His nearest rival Banque Populaire XI, now 1,200 miles away, crossed the equator yesterday at the end of the day. But Armel Le Cléac’h is still facing a complicated doldrums. Over the last 24 hours, he has been progressing around eight knots with light winds. “His doldrums have not been favorable,” adds Hays. “He will have to wait until midday to find a trade wind regime of around 10 to 15 knots.”

Marchand and Péron, fair progress and staying focused and vigilant

The ascent of the South Atlantic continues for Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3) and Éric Péron (ULTIM ADAGIO). “They have both had relatively strong winds over the last 24 hours, with 25 to 30 knots of wind. Actual had a regime of South, South-East, Adagio rather of South-West. But as they progress through the day and over the next 48 hours, it should ease to around fifteen knots.”

As they skirt the coasts of Latin America they are having to constantly watch out for the fishermen and look out for shipping traffic such as they have not really used to seeing in recent days.

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.