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Displaying items by tag: Charles Caudrelier

Blessed with a perfect sunrise, flat seas and a modest 15kts breeze as he approached the long-awaited finish line off Brest on Tuesday (Feb 27th, 2024), Charles Caudrelier took time to enjoy the final ten miles of his Ultim Challenge solo multihull race around the world.

Required for many days to moderate the speed of his Maxi Edmond de Rothschild to make most sure of closing out an impressive victory, Caudrelier lit the afterburners and flew at nearly 40 knots for a sustained period in the early morning sun, as it to remind himself, and the 100 thousand or so race fans watching on line, of the sheer unbridled speed potential of the flying, foiling ULTIM.

One day after his 50th birthday, Caudrelier crossed the finish line off Brest at 08:37:42hrs local time this morning to win the inaugural Ultim Challenge, the first-ever race around the world for 32m high-speed foiling ULTIM multihulls.

His elapsed time for the 22,460 nautical miles course, which left Brest on Sunday, 7th, January, is 50 days, 19hrs 7 mins 42 secs. He sailed an actual course of 28,938 miles on the water.

After losing his nearest rival when 26-year-old Tom Laperche’s SVR Lazartigue struck an object on the 18th day of the race and had to retire into Cape Town, the lead of Caudrelier extended to the equivalent of six days at one point after the second and third placed skippers had had to make successive technical stops in Brazil and Hobart.

Along the way, he set a new solo record for the passage from Ushant to Cape Leeuwin, 18 days 5 hours 44 minutes, and for the Indian Ocean between Cape Agulhas and Tasmania’s South East Cape in a time of 8 days and 8 hours. But the Pacific Ocean was less kind to him, and he had to pause just after Point Nemo – some 1300 miles west of Cape Horn - to avoid a big storm at the fearsome tip of South America.

Last week, he was able to make a strategic stop into the Azores to avoid one final Biscay gale – storm Louis – before completing the final 1200 miles with this perfectly timed, perfectly executed finish this morning.

Charles Caudrelier took time to enjoy the final ten miles of his solo multihull Ultim Challenge race around the world Photo: Pilpre ArnaudCharles Caudrelier took time to enjoy the final ten miles of his solo multihull Ultim Challenge race around the world Photo: Pilpre Arnaud

Caudrelier rewarded

His win rewards his remarkable work ethic, a strong appetite for self-sacrifice, perseverance and a powerful sense of community, family and teamwork, which also underpinned his successful leadership of the winning Chinese-backed Dongfeng team on The Ocean Race. His solo triumph today is a just reward for the immaculately run historic Gitana team’s multihull project which started almost ten years ago.

And so the Paris-born, former Merchant Marine officer Caudrelier, at 50 years and one day old, has become the Ultimate 'Ultim' sailor, the one who sailed best on the best prepared, most optimised and reliable giant ULTIM, to win this inaugural, first ever round the world race in a multihull and solo.

Caudrelier is a sailor who has always enjoyed sailing alone and dreamed of emulating the solo success of the heroes of his youth, such as Michel Desjoyeaux and Jean Le Cam. He remains discrete and humble and, whilst he deals with the rigours and deprivations of the Southern Oceans and cherishes his bond with the ocean and nature, that is balanced by his real appreciation for his close family circle, his friends and teammates.

Indeed, before the Sunday, January 7th start, he made a promise to his children to be back in time for a mid-term holiday, a surf trip with his young son Maxime and his daughter Nina - who may have been less keen on the choice of activity - but Caudrelier left Brest sure she would be convinced.

There is a constant, down-to-earth duality to Caudrelier. On the one hand his imposing build and fitness gives an impression of solid dependability, he works hard in the face adversity, accepts being hurt, fights against the odds, but also gets visibly annoyed and complains when things don't go well.

On the other hand, there is his openness and gentleness in his eyes, in his carefully chosen words, in his attention, and in his support for others. At the same time, Caudrelier is a fierce competitor with a sincere personality. He is content solo but is a happy family man.

He is adept at compartmentalising the constant stress and intensity of noisy high-speed ULTIM racing for extended periods but is exhilarated by the calm while cruising. And for all that, he recently acknowledged that he was “not necessarily made to be a sailor”: “I get seasick, I don’t like it when things move and in fact most of all I like dead calm”.

Along the way in the Ultim Challenge, Charles Caudrelier set a new solo record for the passage from Ushant to Cape Leeuwin, 18 days 5 hours 44 minutes, and for the Indian Ocean between Cape Agulhas and Tasmania’s South East Cape in a time of 8 days and 8 hours Photo: Vincent OlivaudAlong the way on the Ultim Challenge course, Caudrelier set a new solo record for the passage from Ushant to Cape Leeuwin, 18 days 5 hours 44 minutes, and for the Indian Ocean between Cape Agulhas and Tasmania’s South East Cape in a time of 8 days and 8 hours Photo: Vincent Olivaud

His early life

Like many others before him, Caudrelier owes the genesis of his sailing career to his parents, “My mother, a Parisian for whom Brittany represented the end of the world agreed to follow my father who hated the city and dreamed most of all of boats and horses,” he told Paris Match in 2009. And so his childhood was spent on the bay of Port-La-Forêt, where the all the great sailors of the time trained.

The young Caudrelier loved the beach and the ocean and windsurfed as much as he could thanks to his dad’s extensive quiver of boards and fishing. And it was on his father’s cruising boat that he made his first longer sailing passages. Indeed, in his early youth, he asked only to spend the night sleeping on the boat alone. Unbeknown to his parents, he then went for his first solo night sail just to see what the experience was like, returning back to the mooring before anyone had noticed, reporting back that he had slept perfectly.

Caudrelier completed his childhood dream, winning a solo race around the world Photo: Alexis CourcouxCaudrelier completed his childhood dream, winning a solo race around the world Photo: Alexis Courcoux

At the request of his father, who had seen too many pro sailors of the time run into hard times financially, further education studies came before being allowed to sail full time. Accordingly he took his Merchant Marine officer qualifications at the same time taking on his first races, demonstrating his talent. Among his friends and rivals of the time are Franck Cammas, Armel Le Cléac’h and Sébastien Josse.

Caudrelier impressed, and 20 years ago, wins the Solitaire du Figaro at 30. Then he adds three Transat Jacques Vabre wins, two Volvo Ocean Races – “an extraordinary human adventure” and a Route du Rhum victory two years ago which really established his name as a solo racer in the eyes of the general public. He noted today that his major successes have arrived at ten-year intervals.

He believed in his lucky star

This win is also a testament to the continued assiduous development and optimisation of the Verdier-designed Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, which has been ongoing since its launch in 2017. They have learned from three consecutive unsuccessful round-the-world challenges for the Jules-Verne Trophy in 2020 and 2021, as well as again last year when the Gitana team had to return after just one day.

Nothing, then, is ever taken for granted as Caudrelier and co-skipper Erwan Israel - one of his routing cell on this race - know too well. Their Transat Jacques Vabre last November became a test of Caudrelier’s skills in fixing their boat and keeping going after damage to the steering system soon after the start and damage to a foil compromised their chance of winning the two-handed race from France to Martinique.

Just over seven weeks ago, Caudrelier set off from Brest saying, “I believe I have a lucky star”. The skipper of the Maxi, Edmond de Rothschild, was in the leading duo from the first hours of the race. The start itself looked like a sprint which just continues and continues, “It’s a round the world race, we’re not in ‘Route du Rhum’ mode,” he maintains after two days of racing.

Forty-eight hours later the first significant depression comes with up to 50kts of wind and there is the first major damage a wave causing a break in the starboard front fairing.

The duel, the charge and the need for caution is established

But the pace does not drop as 26-year-old rival Tom Laperche (SVR-Lazartigue) presses relentlessly hard. The intensity is at a maximum as the duo go head to head, as little as two miles apart at speeds of well over 30kts. On the 18th of January, speeds reach a peak, and Caudrelier makes 828 miles in a 24-hour period, just less than the 851 miles Francois Gabart did in 2017 on Macif.

But just as the race is shaping up to be an extended duel, Laperche is the victim of a collision with an object which wrecks his main daggerboard and casing, causing a significant ingress of water. Laperche has to retire into Cape Town, and Caudrelier’s lead is suddenly more than 1,000 miles away.

Across the Indian Ocean to Cape Leeuwin, Caudrelier sets a new solo record, 1 day and 8 hours ahead of François Gabart's 2017 mark), crossing the Indian Ocean in 8 days and 8 hours. The Pacific is less kind in terms of conditions but the French skipper confides that he does not pay attention to the records or data, “I am not fighting against the stopwatch, it would be stupid to press the boat too hard and break it in pursuit of a record, I take the pleasure in rolling out my route, optimizing my trajectory and choosing the right sails.”

Two days later, he has to slow, putting his race ‘on hold’ for 48 hours as gusts of 50 to 70 knots are expected at Cape Horn, and so he prefers to wait. And this is not the only concern. Icebergs are drifting near Cape Horn, requiring increased vigilance.

Nonetheless his passage of the ‘Horn’ by day is majestic under a heavy, threatening sky. It is his first solo rounding and the first for the boat too. “This remains a legendary place and it’s magical.”

Above all, do not “sacrifice work out of impatience”

In fact, compared with the first third of his race during which he had the prefect ‘to order’ conditions – riding the same low pressure from Brasil’s Cabo Frio nearly to the Pacific - the final 7,000 miles back to Brest, climbing the South Atlantic felt like purgatory.

He has to stay inshore, upwind to avoid the South Atlantic high pressure, then facing a violent depression and always adapting to changing conditions. And as he remains the only skipper in the race not to have to make a technical stop for damage, he voices his nagging concern, “I live with a sword of Damocles hanging over me, my boat is not perfect. I only have one fear, and that is that it will stop.” He admits he finds himself “getting angry over nothing very much” recognising how much harder it is to manage this continuous tension.

And even the final runway into Brest proves problematic. A storm named Louis is approaching the Breton coast and the crossing of the Bay of Biscay looks treacherous.

“I’m not going to sacrifice the team’s work out of impatience.” He says and heads towards the Azores and the island of Faial. Stopping in the middle of a race starting again and winning is unusual in high-level sport. Michel Desjoyeaux of course did it, returning back to Les Sables d'Olonne after electrical damage after the start of the Vendée Globe (2008-2009), Loïck Peyron and Jean-Pierre Dick stopped in the Cook Strait before winning the Barcelona World Race (2010-2011). And motor sports fans will remember that Michael Schumacher already won the French GP in 2004 after four pit stops.

But having built a lead of the best part of 2000 miles Caudrelier could afford to stop in Horta for four days. He did some boat fixing, spent nights ashore in a proper bed had many showers and rested whilst he says always “having the impression of staying in the race”.

But the prudence pays off and Caudrelier and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild complete the final 1200 miles at a steady, reduced pace. He eschews the chance to celebrate his 50th birthday and finish on the 50th day of the race to be doubly sure of coming in behind one last big depression rather than fall victim to the 40kts winds it held.

And so Caudrelier today completed his childhood dream, winning a solo race around the world. That it was the first ever for a fully foiling, giant ULTIM 33m multihulls adds to his remarkable achievement, a job very well done as he summits the very top peak of ocean racing.

Charles Caudrelier says his win is a testament to the continued assiduous development and optimisation of the Verdier-designed Maxi Edmond de Rothschild Photo: Alexis Courcoux(Above and below) Charles Caudrelier says his win is a testament to the continued assiduous development and optimisation of the Verdier-designed Maxi Edmond de Rothschild Photos: Alexis Courcoux

Charles Caudrelier says his win is a testament to the continued assiduous development and optimisation of the Verdier-designed Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

Selected quotes from the day:

Charles Caudrelier on the victory pontoon,

“I was lucky because what happened to Tom (Laperche) could have happened to anyone but I trusted my lucky star and trusted in this boat and so I am really, really happy.”

“When Tom abandoned the race I was relieved in some senses because the pressure was relieved. As that point when I was racing with Tom I was kind of relieved to be able to do my own race. And you have to remember at the start of the race we did not really know if the boats were capable of finishing the race. I am happy to be able to say that I complete the course and I could have done it without stopping, I am very proud of that.”

“ At some point I realised that I was not achieving my lifelong goals such as the Vendée Globe and I had a period when I thought I would never be able to do this – win a solo round the world race – and so when I got the opportunity to do it I realised I could make that dream come true. It is a lifelong dream realised.”

“ I have been lucky to be able to go from one project to another, to win with Dongfeng and then I was really into doing the Vendée Globe but then this came along and it was just perfect. At the time my phone was ringing off the hook with other offers but even so I was surprised to get the call from Gitana team.

“ The rhythm of this race is so super intense. I am just happy to have got to the finish like I did. I am used to this racing round the world, being away, but I really missed my kids. And I missed good food but in then end I am happy how everything worked out.”

“ I had some complicated weather but had a great Cape Horn rounding. Not long after that I ripped my mainsail a little and I felt I was making some little mistakes, errors were creeping in, and so I had to really re-focus again. The team proposed a way to repair the mainsail myself rather than have to make a technical stop and so I really wanted to not stop, so I made the repair in a couple of hours hard work and I am still really proud of that.”

“There was some damages, the furling line broke, the foil system needed work it was a little damaged, I lost a bit of the foiling part of the rudder, some sails were damaged but everything was sorted out and I was always just trying to manage these things with my team who were incredible. When the fairing on the forward beam was damaged four days out I worried initially that the boat might not prove capable of finishing the race, but the team said everything no everything was OK.”

“ With the team we plan to do the Jules Verne Trophy challenge next wnter. The boat is incredible it such a good looking boat, I am so honoured to be able to sail it and I trust in it completely. The boat was so capable of doing the whole race, I trusted the way it was built, I trusted in our team and their work they have done, and after that it was up to me to manage the pace of the boat. This boat has a special place in my life, in my family, in our team and I hope it will go on to have a long life ahead of it.”

“ I have so many important moments in my life, winning La Solitaire du Figaro, winning the Route du Rhum….I don’t know what is the best achievement but when I won the Solitaire du Figaro it was huge at the time it was incredible at the time, and winning the Volvo like we did at the time in 2018 it was incredible, sharing it with a bunch of people I really loved, that was the hardest race of my life. In fact this race was a little bit smoother, it was a little bit easier, everything was in place to do a good performance, we had the boat and the team, so it is great to deliver.”

At the Press Conference

The condition of his boat. “I had two major damages. The first, I had from the first few days, caused by a violent wave, but the front beam fairing is not structural, it was only aerodynamics and we quickly found a solution. There were problems with the sail furlers, I broke some . I had repair materials on board but not enough. I also had watermaker problems and that could have made me stop the race. The second problem occurred after Cape Horn with this torn mainsail. We were going to make a 24-hour stop in Uruguay and ultimately, we saw that it wasn't a big tear. The team came up with a great solution and I was able to leave after a few hours of fixing. There was also a problem with the starboard rudder fitting, we were going slower on one side. And then we had the problems that we had had in the Transat Jacques Vabre and that we were able to identify beforehand.”

His track record. “It’s certain that when I see the lines on my prize list, they are beautiful. I still see myself on my first Figaro but now, I can no longer act like a teenager. Tom Laperche calls me old, I think I changed categories. At one point I didn’t think I was going to tick the multihull boxes, the Volvo boxes. I didn’t check the Vendée Globe box but I have no regrets. It always went well. I have worked hard, I hope I have a little talent too but also a lot of luck to have been in the right place at the right time. I was lucky that Pascal Bidegorry, Franck Cammas and so many others trusted me.”

Optimizations. “I think we can still make even stronger boats. On the boat, perhaps we can add weight rather than gain aerodynamics. Even when I was at full tilt, I was at 80%, 85% of the boat's polars possibilities. At first, I was very worried about losing performance. There are lots of details that we can optimize, especially on the foils.”

His future goals. “I checked a lot of boxes and I promised my children and my wife to calm things down. But also I am part of a team which has great objectives. I experienced from a distance the builds of Safran, Groupama 4, Gitana. It’s a great challenge to develop boats. I did a lot of one-designs and I always had complexes about it. I'm having a blast working and developing Gitana 18. It's an incredible opportunity and it's a great prospect. We will try to defend my title at the next Route du Rhum!”

The near future. “I want to take a break, go on vacation. That was planned from last Saturday but we will have to leave a little later than planned. My idea of a vacation is to go on the water with sailing, surfing. I very soon miss the sea when I'm far from it. And then there is this new boat project. It is like contemplating the start of the school year, I can't wait to get back to my routine, to start this work. And I can't wait for it to come to fruition.

Published in Ultim Challenge

French sailor Charles Caudrelier has emerged victorious in the Ultim Challenge, the first-ever solo multihull race around the world. Caudrelier, skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, crossed the finish line off the coast of Brest on Tuesday morning at 8:37:42 local time (UTC+1hrs), after completing the 24,260 nautical miles course in 50 days, 19 hours, 7 minutes, and 47 seconds since leaving Brest on January 7th.

The race leader, who has been unchallenged at the front of the race since January 17th, triumphed on the first edition of this unprecedented race. Although he had to slow down to avoid a massive storm at Cape Horn, at one point in the Pacific Ocean, Caudrelier was ahead of the time required to set a new all-time record for sailing solo round the world.

Caudrelier widened the gap to over 2,500 miles ahead of his nearest rival, 26-year-old Tom Laperche, after a thrilling head-to-head duel down the South Atlantic. Laperche had to retire into Cape Town with damage caused by a collision.

Ultim Challenge Race winner Charles Caudrelier Photo: GitanaUltim Challenge Race winner Charles Caudrelier Photo: Gitana

Caudrelier's victory rewards more than ten years of endeavour by the Edmond de Rothschild Gitana team. They worked initially with a MOD70 in 2011, on which they developed the multihull foiling program before launching the innovative Verdier-designed Ultim in 2017.

After his frustrating third-place finish in the Transat Jacques Vabre last autumn, which was marked by numerous damages, including problems with the steering system and a foil, Caudrelier and the Gitana team worked hard to repair and be ready for this race.

A popular and highly respected racer and leader among his peers, this is Caudrelier’s biggest solo success and finally fulfils his youthful dreams of winning a singlehanded race around the world. The victory also establishes him further as one of the best skippers among the French greats.

Along his route, Caudrelier set a new record for the Indian Ocean and then proved he knew how to moderate his pace to look after his high-tech flying ULTIM and give himself and the emblematic Gitana team the best chance of completing the course.

With a substantial lead, Caudrelier put his race on hold, sailing at very slow speeds for more than 36 hours in the eastern Pacific, to avoid a storm at Cape Horn. He also sat out Storm Louis, stopping in the safety of the Azores last week to avoid any additional risk that might have jeopardised his win.

Charles Caudrelier's Ultim Challenge Solo Multihull Race Around the World Victory in Figures

Finish time: 8 h 37 min 42 sec
Race time: 50 days 19 hours 7 min 42 sec
Miles travelled: 28 938,03 miles
Actual average speed: 23,74 knots
Average speed on the Great Circle: 19,93 knots

Published in Ultim Challenge

Ultim Challenge leader Charles Caudrelier is approaching the longitude of Cape Leeuwin on the leading edge of a new front, sailing along the ZEA, which is not an easy feat. He should pass Australia's Great Cape at the end of the day. The positions behind him are relatively stable for Thomas Coville (2nd) and Armel Le Cléac’h (3rd). Meanwhile, Anthony Marchand (4th), who decided on a stopover yesterday, should arrive in Cape Town tonight. 

In an interview last Tuesday, second-placed Thomas Coville summed up what you need to go well in the Southern Ocean: “You need opportunity, talent, and luck”. The skipper of Sodebo, who is on his ninth round the world passage, said he believed that leader Caudrelier has all three. 

And Caudrelier continues to prove this to be the case. The winner of the last solo Route du Rhum is charging along the course, but it is extremely hard work for the 49-year-old who, before the start, refused to talk about records or the potential duration of his race other than to say he wanted to be home for his 50th birthday in just over a month's time and he had booked mid-term holidays with his kids. At his present pace, he should not only achieve both deadlines but is on target to break Francois Gabart's 42-day round-the-world solo record.

"He must be very tired where he is right now," smiles Guillaume Rottée, Race Director. "His weather situation has taken him to the edge of the ice zone, which forced him to make 12 or 13 gybes in the last 24 hours!" Rottee reports: "Each time, he went very close to the ZEA, as close as just 1.6 miles from this limit!"

Caudrelier is gaining even more miles on the boats behind and that should continue. "Now he can go straight ahead with good speeds," says Rottee. He should reach Cape Leeuwin in the early evening, around 5 to 7 pm UTC. Behind him, the gaps are relatively stable. For a while, Armel Le Cléac'h came back slightly on Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3, 2nd) and on Charles Caudrelier (when the latter was slaloming along ZEA). But since then, the status quo has prevailed.

Coville is still dealing with conditions that are much more unsettled than his rivals and so his progress has been slowed down. "We see that his track does not always correspond to the normal speed of his boat," explains Rottée. "Either he has had a problem, or he focuses on fixing stuff whenever he can." Coville has been back on a "normal" course and at a good target speed since the middle of the night.

Anthony Marchand, on the other hand, is continuing his route towards Cape Town. The skipper of Actual Ultim 3 had to cross an anticyclonic ridge during the night, which slowed him down. He picked up some speed this morning and should reach the South African port sometime tonight. For the first time since the start of the ARKÉA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest, two of the six boats competing will be stopped as SVR-Lazartigue is still moored in Cape Town.

In sixth place, Éric Péron continues to benefit from a wind corridor in the South Atlantic. He still has 800 miles to go to pass the Cape of Good Hope, probably during Saturday night.

Published in Ultim Challenge

As the fifth leg of The Ocean Race 2022-23 approaches, Team Holcim-PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier and his crew have a total of 19 points — with a one-point lead over Leg 4 winner 11th Hour Racing Team and second-placed Malizia, who are tied at 18 points.

And with double points up for grabs in the upcoming leg, which begins next Sunday 21 May, the team is fighting to ready the IMOCA boat following its devastating dismasting just days out of Itajaí.

One thing that should boost Escoffier’s and morale alike is the return of Charles Caudrelier as part of a handpicked crew of transatlantic specialists intimately familiar with the boat.

The skipper of Dongfeng Race Team (who won the race in 2017-18) and recent Route du Rhum victor will serve as navigator alongside British sailors Abby Ehler and Sam Goodchild, while Yann Riou will take charge of photo and video production as onboard reporter.

“My idea was to reunite the core of the crew,” Escoffier says. “Sam Goodchild will be returning after sailing on his IMOCA and has had a little rest. Abby is coming back in great shape and as motivated as ever.

“As for Tom [Laperche], he has embarked on his own project and was no longer available. So, I called upon Charles Caudrelier, who will be the navigator on board. I chose Charles because he is someone I know very well, who is highly motivated, and who has great experience in The Ocean Race. We communicate well together, and he can contribute a lot in terms of performance on the boat.

“I think we both have a passion for technology and performance. We are also fully dedicated to the sport, and that is something I greatly appreciate. We have started working on the weather and discussing pilot settings, polars [etcetera].”

Abby Ehler and Sam Goodchild have each already competed in two legs of The Ocean Race aboard Holcim-PRB, including the third leg in the Southern Ocean.

Both are enthusiastic about returning to the blue and green monohull. Ehler’s experience with three previous circumnavigations and Goodchild’s extreme motivation will undoubtedly be valuable assets for this leg.

“They are two very good sailors who have already impressed me with their qualities and skills in the previous legs,” the skipper says. “For me, they are among the pillars of the crew. Together, we have completed three-quarters of the circumnavigation in terms of mileage.”

Escoffier is determined to perform well again after the setback in the fourth leg: “We are taking a fresh start, and although we didn’t finish the last race, our lead was comfortable enough to keep us in the lead of The Ocean Race.

“While the upcoming leg is important, I know that there are still 50% of the points to be earned until the finish in Genoa in July. So, we are only halfway through the race. And the pace is only going to accelerate. I know this from experience, so we need to stay focused.”

Leg 5, which covering 3,500 nautical miles across the north Atlantic, promises to be intense once again. Beyond the double points, the demands of this return journey to Europe will require the crew to be fully in sync with the boat and execute a perfect strategy in order to hope for a leading position in Denmark.

“I expect it to be cold,” Escoffier says. “It’s a leg we don’t often do. I have already done several transatlantic crossings in this direction, but always to arrive in France. Going to Denmark will take us through the north of the British Isles. That completely changes the game in terms of weather strategy, and that’s something new for me. We will have to play around the ice limit, not far from Newfoundland. It’s going to be a very interesting leg.”

Published in Ocean Race

#vor – Birthday boys Charles Caudrelier and Ian Walker were planning to dampen each other's celebrations as Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race continued to go down to the wire on Friday.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Walker/GBR) held a tiny 7.3-nautical mile (nm) advantage at the head of the fleet at 0040 UTC with Dongfeng Race Team (Caudrelier/FRA) and MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) leading the chasing pack.

The leading trio have around 300nm still to sail to complete the 5,264nm leg from Sanya to Auckland and are expected to arrive in the port known as the 'City of Sails' on New Zealand's North Island around 2100-2400 local time on Saturday/Sunday (0900-1200 UTC).

Walker celebrated his 45th birthday on Thursday and Caudrelier his 41st a day later, but neither was in the mood to celebrate anything just yet although the Frenchman had a double reason to mark the day – Dongfeng Race Team's Volvo Ocean Race campaign was launched exactly a year ago as well.

Instead, they were desperately trying to eke out some kind of advantage before the nail-biting final day. It's a leg which has seen the fleet sail through the South China Sea from February 11 and battle all the way through the Pacific Ocean, exchanging the lead on several occasions.

According to Caudrelier, arch-rival Walker has so far received the better of the gifts from the weather gods in the last 24 hours.

"This morning I woke up a 41-year-old onboard this boat, leading Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race" he wrote in his daily blog from the boat. "I'm spoiled.

"Yesterday, it was Ian Walker's birthday; we exchanged some nice, fun emails about our receptive gifts. Tonight we've been the victims of a cruel squall, which destroyed in 30 minutes the three days of effort we've made to catch up and overtake Ian and his men.

"Without wind for 30 minutes, we went backwards against the swell while Azzam sped up to 18 knots, three miles from us.

"That was his gift. I'm waiting for mine before the end of the leg."

The pair look destined to be the closest of rivals throughout the nine-month, 38,739nm race, which will be decided over nine legs in all before the conclusion in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27.

They are currently one point apart after three stages with Leg 3 winners Dongfeng Race Team narrowly holding the upper hand. It is by no means, however, a two-horse race – or leg.

MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) could well be cast in the role of party spoilers on Saturday night. They lay just 0.7nm behind Dongfeng Race Team and were quite capable of catching one, if not both, of the leading boats and claiming their first leg win of the race.

Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA), Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) looked likely to be contesting the minor placings (see panel above) although a late, windless 'park-up' near the finish could yet lead to a surprise.

Auckland is no stranger to thrilling finishes – there are still strong memories here of the 1989-90 race's showdown between Peter Blake's Steinlager 2 and Grant Dalton's Fisher and Paykel, which the former won in the last couple of nautical miles.

New Zealand Prime Minister, John Keys, was among the many who are looking forward to the conclusion of such a memorable leg.

He opened the Race Village on Friday after the local Maori people, the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, officially 'loaned' the Auckland Viaduct Basin area to Race CEO, Knut Frostad.

"Lots of families and friends will come, lots of tourists will come. To have come all the way from China on such a long leg and to have such a small gap separating the teams shows you how well matched they are. And that makes it really exciting," said Keys.

Published in Ocean Race

#VOR - Record-breaking British yachtswoman Dee Caffari has confirmed her membership of Team SCA competing in this year's Volvo Ocean Race.

Writing on her website on Monday 17 March, the offshore specialist broke her radio silence since the New Year, saying she "had a lot of ground to cover" as one of the last women selected via the team's trials in Lanzarote, "especially compared to the girls that had been training as part of the team for the past year."

But now that the honorary Royal Navy commander and non-stop round-the-world record holder is officially part of the all-women squad preparing for October's first in-port races, she says its time to "move onto the next phase of training", putting in the miles on the new VOR 65 yacht with greater intensity.

In other VOR news, French sailing stalwart Charles Caudrelier has been named skipper of China's Dongfeng Race Team.

Instrumental to the success of Groupama in the last Volvo Ocean Race, the 40-year-old has called his appointment "a key step as a sailor and as a man".

Commenting on the challenges of leading the first all-Chinese crewed team in VOR history, Caudrelier said: “I’ve seen it on my skipper and friend Franck Cammas in the last race: being a skipper is a huge responsibility and it’s demanding from a human point of view. 

"But I’ve learned from my past experiences and I want to take these skills further.”

The VOR website has more on the story HERE.

Published in Ocean Race

The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School is based on Dun Laoghaire's West Pier on Dublin Bay and in the heart of Ireland's marine leisure capital.

Whether you are looking at beginners start sailing course, a junior course or something more advanced in yacht racing, the INSS prides itself in being able to provide it as Ireland's largest sailing school.

Since its establishment in 1978, INSS says it has provided sailing and powerboat training to approximately 170,000 trainees. The school has a team of full-time instructors and they operate all year round. Lead by the father and son team of Alistair and Kenneth Rumball, the school has a great passion for the sport of sailing and boating and it enjoys nothing more than introducing it to beginners for the first time. 

Programmes include:

  • Shorebased Courses, including VHF, First Aid, Navigation
  • Powerboat Courses
  • Junior Sailing
  • Schools and College Sailing
  • Adult Dinghy and Yacht Training
  • Corporate Sailing & Events

History of the INSS

Set up by Alistair Rumball in 1978, the sailing school had very humble beginnings, with the original clubhouse situated on the first floor of what is now a charity shop on Dun Laoghaire's main street. Through the late 1970s and 1980s, the business began to establish a foothold, and Alistair's late brother Arthur set up the chandler Viking Marine during this period, which he ran until selling on to its present owners in 1999.

In 1991, the Irish National Sailing School relocated to its current premises at the foot of the West Pier. Throughout the 1990s the business continued to build on its reputation and became the training institution of choice for budding sailors. The 2000s saw the business break barriers - firstly by introducing more people to the water than any other organisation, and secondly pioneering low-cost course fees, thereby rubbishing the assertion that sailing is an expensive sport.