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All eyes on the Atlantic Ocean as the holiday season begins

by David Schmidt 26 Nov 2019 08:00 PST November 26, 2019
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - Brest Atlantiques 2019 © Yann Riou / PolaRYSE / GITANA SA

While plenty of Americans are focusing on their Thanksgiving celebrations and deft ways of avoiding the "I" word with mixed-company friends and relatives as the 2019 holiday season swings into view, the international sailing world has its attention firmly riveted to the North and South Atlantic Oceans, where three exciting races are currently unfurling.

The first of these races is the Brest Atlantiques, which is a 14,000 nautical mile showdown involving doublehanded Ultim trimarans racing in a massive figure-eight course that straddles the equator. Four of these massive beasts set out from Brest, France, on November 5, however word broke last week that co-skippers Thomas Colville and Jean-Luc Nelias, along with their media pro, Martin Keruzore, sailing aboard Sodebo Ultim 3, were forced to abandon racing after suffering a collision with an unidentified floating object.

The team initially put into Cape Town, South Africa, for repairs, however further inspection revealed significant damage.

"We started strong, given the tough conditions for a new boat, and in Rio, after MACIF and Maxi Edmond de Rothschild's pitstops, we took the lead," said Colville in an official race press release. "The whole race was going well, until the violent shock that has now put us out of action. It was a very exciting race, and it's greatly frustrating to have to give up. But this is only the start of our journey on these boats. Good luck to all those who continue."

As of this writing, Sodebo Ultim 3 was sailing for Brittany, France, her crew no doubt sad to leave the race but likely happy to be sailing the boat, albeit in delivery mode, for home rather than relying on alternative means of transportation (read: cranes and cargo ships).

For the remaining three boats, however, the race is still an ongoing concern. Co-skippers Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, along with media pro Yann Riou, sailing aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, are currently in the pole position, followed by co-skippers Yves Le Blevec and Alex Pella, along with media pro Ronan Gladu, sailing aboard Actual Leader.

Co-skippers Francois Gabart and Gwenole Gahinet, plus media pro Jeremie Eloy, sailing aboard Trimaran Macif, are currently in third place, some 650 nautical miles (at the time of this writing) astern of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. It should be noted, however, that these perennial favorites also suffered vessel damage that forced them to put into Cape Town for pit-stop repairs.

As of this writing, race leaders Maxi Edmond de Rothschild still have some 3,900 nautical miles to sail, but their current routing and prevailing weather conditions (read: thin and challenging) are translating into some moderately quick sailing for this mighty trimaran. Also, as of this writing, the team averaged some 500 nautical miles over the last 24 hours, however this is expected to change as all three teams prepare to negotiate the Doldrums en route to the finishing line.

Meanwhile, in the North Atlantic, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's (RORC) Transatlantic Race began on Saturday, November 23, outside Marina Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, and will take the seven-strong fleet to a finishing line off of the Camper & Nicholson Port Louise Marina in Grenada.

As of this writing, the Swedish-flagged Volvo Ocean 65 Childhood 1, skippered by Bouwe Bekking, is leading the hunt, followed by the British-flagged Wally 100, Dark Shadow, and Jangada, a JPK 10.10 that also flies the Union Jack. Childhood 1 had some 2,400 nautical miles separating her bow from the finishing line and was sailing at a pace of 7.9 knots, meaning that there's still plenty of chase left in this hunt.

Finally, and in significantly decaffeinated circles compared to these other two races, the cruising-friendly Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) 2019 fleet departed Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, headed for the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Lucia, on Sunday, November 24. This 2,700 nautical mile course is expected to take 18-21 days at sea for most of the ARC's (ballpark) 200 participating boats and crews.

Sail-World wishes all sailors participating in the Brest Atlantiques, the RORC's Transatlantic Race and the ARC 2019 safe and speedy passage, and we also extend our best wishes that Thanksgiving can be a time of celebration and sharing with friends and family members of all political divides.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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