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Éric Péron sailing ULTIM ADAGIO crossed the finish line of the Ultim Challenge at 14 h 44 27" to finish in fifth position, the final skipper to complete the 22, 460 nautical miles course which started on Sunday 7th January. His elapsed time is 66 days 01 hour, 14 minutes 27" and he finishes 15j 6h 6mn 45s after winner Charles Caudrelier.

Finishing the course is a major triumph for Péron who worked very hard to pull together the resources to build a small team, take on the Ultim which is the only non-foiler of the six which started the race.

A former Olympic classes campaigner turned Figaro racer, the 42 year old who also counts The Ocean Race, Ocean Fifty and IMOCA on his extensive CV, wanted to test himself and set a new high level challenge.

“I have always wanted to take on challenges and racing around the world in an Ultim is one of them,” he told us before the start.

Last summer, he took over the Ultim which was previously Actual and started its life in 2001 as Oliver de Kersauson’s Geromino and was substantially updated by Thomas Coville in 2014. And from there he worked tirelessly to find the funding finally landing headline sponsorship from French aparthotel chain Adagio.

He only validated his qualification in November whilst his rivals were sailing back from the Transat Jacques Vabre. So Péron beat the odds to be at the start. In the final pre-start days his mantra was “I just want to finish the race”.

On start day he is the first to board his ULTIM. After so many weeks of fighting against just about everything, living under reduced hours of sleep and the high stress of managing his project on a small budget, the emotions surface as he leaves Brest.

Aboard his non-foiling, more traditional boat he knows that his passage round the world will be so very different from that of other skippers. But he finds his rhythm, albeit losing miles steadily to the boats in front by Madeira and the Canaries.

But then he suffered an impact on his starboard rudder. Like Tom Laperche and Anthony Marchand, the he has to make a technical stop into Cape Town of just over 24 hours.

“Thank you to my team for being so dedicated, I couldn’t have dreamed of better,” he says, moved as he leaves.

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Armel Le Cléac'h, winner of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe, has finished on the podium in all three of his solo round-the-world races. He recently completed the Ultim Challenge solo multihull race round the world race, taking third place sailing the ULTIM Banque Populaire XI. Le Cléac'h's elapsed time for the course was 56 days, 8 hours, 1 minute, and 31 seconds. He finished 5 days, 12 hours, and 53 minutes after winner Charles Caudrelier.

Le Cléac'h's resilience, stamina, and determination earned him third place this time, rather than his proven abilities, which include sustaining high average speeds, wily weather strategies, and a deep desire to win. When he crossed the finish line, he punched the air and smiled broadly, relieved to have completed the 22,640 nautical miles course.

Le Cléac'h faced several frustrating technical problems during the race, which marred his performance. He was forced to make two technical stops, and just a few days ago, he had to repair a major leak on the foredeck of his boat, which had filled the main hull with water. Despite these setbacks, Le Cléac'h remained determined and satisfied that his technical team had helped him overcome these challenges.

Armel Le Cléac'h faced several frustrating technical problems during the Ultim Challenge race on board the ULTIM Banque Populaire X Photo: Jeremie LecaudeyArmel Le Cléac'h faced several frustrating technical problems during the Ultim Challenge race on board the ULTIM Banque Populaire X Photo: Jeremie Lecaudey

Le Cléac'h started the race with high hopes and expectations of success. He and co-skipper Seb Josse won last November's Transat Jaques Vabre race from Le Havre across the Atlantic to Martinique, unveiling a new significant speed edge downwind. Although Banque Populaire XI showed signs of potential in the early days of the race, the first technical stop left Le Cléac'h way behind eventual winner Charles Caudrelier and Thomas Coville.

Le Cléac'h was more than 1500 miles behind Coville when he passed the Cape of Good Hope, but he caught up and passed Sodebo Ultim 3 when Coville had to pitstop into Hobart. However, the second pitstop ended Le Cléac'h's hopes of second place. Despite the setbacks, Le Cléac'h set the fastest 24-hour distance of the race at 842 miles, just short of the 851 miles record held by François Gabart.

After a tough climb up the South Atlantic, Le Cléac'h was forced to make a second technical stopover in Rio de Janeiro. He had built a margin of over 500 miles over Coville, but then he suffered two successive blows, one to his main rudder and the other to his port float rudder, losing the use of both. The compromised performance of his ULTIM and unfavourable weather conditions tested Le Cléach's patience and strength of character. But he remained resolute and determined until the end.

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The day after second placed Thomas Coville’s finished in the Ultim Challenge round the world race, attention is now focused on the Maxi Banque Populaire XI which is expected to finish on Sunday. In the South Atlantic, Anthony Marchand (4th) and Éric Péron (5th) are still battling in very light winds.

Now there are two masts protruding proudly above the Quai du Commandant Malbert in Brest, those of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and Sodebo Ultim 3. And the next should be that of Armel Le Cléac'h’s Maxi Edmond de Rothschild.

Armel Le Cléac’h has had it tough recently having faced a leak in the main hull. He had to work all night from Wednesday to Friday to get going again and was back up to speeds of around twenty knots. Armel’s average has been 24.4 knots over the last 24 hours and at 29.4 knots at 0800hrs UTC morning.

“Armel is maintaining consistent speeds and continues to get past the Azores anticyclone,” explains Pierre Hays, assistant race director. “For him there is a south westerly wind at the moment. This weekend, it will be more of a sustained northwest flow with 20 to 25 knots to reach Brest.”

The Marchand-Péron match continues

In the south Atlantic it is still just as complicated for Anthony Marchand and Éric Péron. Marchand is on the Brazilian coast, Péron is offshore to the East but both have very little wind.

“Actual Ultim 3 takes advantage of the effects of the coastal breezes to progress but it is pretty random and irregular,” explains Hays. “The trade winds are just not getting there and the calm should last until the end of Sunday.” As for the ULTIM ADAGIO, “ Eric has a weak wind corridor and he should find a little easterly wind as the day progresses”. The match continues between the two skippers who are only 370 miles apart in terms of distance to the finish, but Antho’ is 450 miles further north in terms of latitude.

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Early yesterday evening, Armel Le Cléac'h, skipper of the Maxi Banque Populaire XI, reported that he had sustained damage of the foredeck of the boat which led to an ingress of water. After spending the night fixing the problem Armel is back up to higher speeds this Thursday morning. The Vendée Globe winner should finish the Ultim Challenge Race on Sunday in Brest whilst next in will be second placed Thomas Coville, due today around 1300hrs UTC/1400hrs local HF.

It has been a long night of fixing for Armel Le Cléac’h. Around 1700hrs last night, he told his team that he had this leak in the main hull.

“He spent a large part of the night working to plug the gaps and evacuate as much water as possible,” says assistant race director Pierre Hays. Maxi Banque Populaire XI was slow or stopped. Earlier this morning, his team informed race management that he had managed to repair the problem. And so, having been at 2.5 knots for part of the night, he is moving again at 23.4 knots at 0800hrs this morning.

In the meantime, Thomas Coville is expected to close on the finish around 1400hrs local time in Brest.

The two skippers still in the South Atlantic, Anthony Marchand (4th) and Éric Péron, face the same problem: areas of calm. Marchand on Actual Ultim 3 is closer to the coast and ULTIM ADAGIO is further offshore, both are progressing slowly and these calms should last between 24 and 48 hours.

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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

This Monday morning the Ultim Challenge leader Charles Caudrelier, the solo skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, has about 455 miles to the finish line. But the conditions remain tough all the way to Brest and the leader is staying cautious and careful. But the winds look set to ease back slightly from tonight into tomorrow morning.

But what time will he finish? That remains the big question…

“It’s getting closer,” smiles Pierre Hays, assistant race director. “Normally, he will arrive between midnight and noon.”

Since his leaving the Azores on Saturday, Caudrelier has had it tough, as was expected.

“There have been relatively challenging conditions with a fairly strong weather system approaching Brest, throughout the Bay of Biscay and up to the north of Ireland. He has had strong winds and heavy seas.” Hays explains, “Charles decided he wanted to be behind this big depression. He is looking to take the fewest risks and finish this round the world race in the most favourable conditions”.

Caudrelier held back his speed to less than 20 knots during the last 24 hours.

From now on, he is trying to find the right time to head for Brest when the wind and the sea have died down a little.

“His approach to the finish seems more favourable from the start of the night until tomorrow. At the moment, there are strong winds near Brest, around 35 to 40 knots,” explains Hays.

The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is already sailing towards Brest and should remain on a long port tack until the finish line.

On land, the race management and the Gitana teams are working together to finalize the finish procedures. Race management have asked anyone looking to follow the finish on the water to be very cautious. “Really we recommend everyone to follow the finish from on land.” Says Hays

Behind Caudrelier progress continues

And second placed Thomas Coville has just under 2,000 miles to go on the direct route. The skipper of Sodebo Ultim 3, which is sailing on the starboard tack has been moving at around thirty knots since the middle of the night. He will continue to move north before turning eastward within 24 hours.

1,300 miles further south, third-placed Armel Le Cléac’h is at the latitude of Cape Verde. “He is progressing on starboard tack with an easterly wind at a good speed (22.7 knots in the last 24 hours).” Reports Hays, “He has a well-established Easterly wind which is allowing him to go correctly.”

Finally, the reality is slightly different for the two skippers progressing in the South Atlantic. Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3, 4th) has relatively weak, variable winds. And Éric Péron (ULTIM ADAGIO, 5th) is a little faster. He too has light winds, the situation is slightly more favorable for him.

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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.

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Not much has changed since yesterday on the Ultim Challenge Race Leader Charles Caudrelier continues to make steady progress in the North Atlantic. He is 300 miles south of the Azores archipelago, and he has been moving at around twenty knots in the last 24 hours. Faced with depression near the finish area, Charles seems likely to slow. “It is probable that he will make his decision by tomorrow morning,” considers Guillaume Rottee, race director. “The skipper of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has been very cautious in recent days, which supports the idea of a “safer” route.”

Behind, off the Brazilian coast, now more than 800 miles separates second-placed Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3) from Armel Le Cléac’h (Maxi Banque Populaire XI). Note that Armel is having some difficulty getting out of a windless zone. “He is having trouble finding stable and regular wind,” explains Rottee. “Actually it’s difficult to know at the moment when he will regain speed.”

For the two skippers in the Pacific, Cape Horn is coming up. Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3) is 380 miles from reaching the Horn. “It will be a deliverance,” he said yesterday. “He should cross it tonight (between 10 p.m. and midnight UTC in a WNW’ly flow with 25 knots of wind and slightly rough seas,” adds Rottee. Over the last two days, Péron has gained 150 miles on Actual Ultim 3. Yesterday, the skipper of ULTIM ADAGIO boasted of having a boat “almost in 100% working order”. He is expected at Cape Horn tomorrow late morning.

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After a little more than 48 hours of technical stopover in Rio de Janeiro, Ultim Challenge skipper Armel Le Cléac'h and his ULTIM Maxi Banque Populaire XI have returned to the race track. He docked out from Rio at a little after 1630hrs UTC and resumed racing in third place at 1738hrs UTC.

Thanks to great cooperation from the authorities in France and Brazil the Banque Populaire XI technical team were able to replace the two rudders damaged in the South Atlantic. On leaving the dock Le Cléac’h said his only ambition is to get to the race's finish line.

The Banque Populaire XI technical team were able to replace the two rudders damaged in the South AtlanticPhoto: Marin Le Roux / PolaRYSE / Paprec ArkéaThe Banque Populaire XI technical team were able to replace the two rudders damaged in the South AtlanticPhoto: Marin Le Roux / PolaRYSE / Paprec Arkéa

“It has been an incredible logistical feat,” explained Le Cléac'h, “An important chain of solidarity was put in place and allowed us to leave as quickly as possible.”

Le Cléac'h’s technical stopover lasted a little more than two days since it began on Friday, in the bay of Rio de Janeiro at 1417hrs on Friday. On site they had five members of the technical team who were already waiting for Armel Le Cléac’h.

“The team first carried out a technical assessment to evaluate all the damage,” explained the skipper. They had to make good two damages, one which occurred last Tuesday following a collision with the port float rudder, the second hit was on Thursday on the central rudder. “

The two replacement rudders were transported from France and were received on site at 3 am today (local time, 7 a.m. in France)

“We were fortunate to be helped by many people, at the French embassy in Brazil, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and even Brazilian customs. All of them allowed us to have the rudders available so quickly,” explains Le Cléac'h. “ I would like to share my warmest appreciation for those who helped us over the last two days.”

The assembly of the rudders therefore was completed this morning, Sunday.

“The team remained 100% focused on optimising the repair as much as possible and allowing me to return to sea.”

Although he helped where he could with the repairs, Armel also took the opportunity to rest. “It’s been more than 40 days since I’ve been able to sleep a full night or take a shower. I was able to rest well.” However, there is no question for Armel of any relief from the pressure. “I didn’t have time to really take time off, I stayed on the boat a lot and I didn’t switch off from race mode at all.”

Having lost second place to Coville again last night Le Cléac'h said today, “I don’t want to look ahead but we absolutely know that everything is still possible in this round the world race. All the boats are tired, the sailors are tired and this race is extraordinary, destiny can change in a fraction of seconds. All I want to do is get to the finish line, I want to go to the end to be able to finish this extraordinary adventure”.

Published in Ultim Challenge

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.