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Arkea Ultim Challenge-Brest: A new reference time and a change of ocean for Charles Caudrelier

by Gitana Team 26 Jan 10:16 PST 26 January 2024
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - Arkea Ultim Challenge-Brest © Niels Gins / TAAF

This Friday 26 January, Charles Caudrelier is beginning his 20th day at sea, half of which has been spent at the head of the Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest fleet.

Late yesterday, European time, the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, at the south-west tip of the Australian continent after 18 days 5 hours 44 minutes and 5 seconds. A cracking time, it has enabled the sailor of Gitana Team to set a new solo reference time between the north-west tip of Brittany and the second iconic cape of the round the world. Like a metronome, the Caudrelier / Gitana 17 pairing is really setting the pace for this race, even with their closest rivals relegated to over 1,700 and 2,500 miles astern. After two days of transition under Australia in a meaty breeze and heavy seas, tomorrow evening the leader is set to pass Tasmania and the South East Cape, which marks the end of the Indian and the entry into the Pacific Ocean. The curtain will then rise on Act III of this first solo round the world race for ULTIMs.

A new solo reference time to Leeuwin

Yesterday, Thursday 25 January, Charles Caudrelier and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, at the south-west tip of Australia at 18:14:05 UTC after 18 days 5 hours 44 minutes and 5 seconds of racing.

In the mindset of a round the world race rather than a record attempt, the leader of the Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest reiterates the fact that the numbers are of little importance and that the ranking is all that counts. For all that, thanks to his incredible sailing, the skipper of Gitana Team has treated himself to the best new solo reference time between Ushant and Cape Leeuwin. It's worth noting that François Gabart covered this section of the course in 19 days 14 hours and 10 minutes, which means that Charles Caudrelier was 1 day 8 hours and nearly 25 minutes faster.

On passing Leeuwin yesterday evening, the Verdier design had actually covered 13,007 miles over the ground since setting sail from Brest on 7 January 2024, which equates to an average speed of 29.54 knots. This impressive figure testifies to the epic pace set by Charles Caudrelier over what is more than 18 days at sea now.

Approaching the Pacific

With a busy weekend on the cards, Erwan Israël, one of the key pieces in Gitana Team's routing cell, gives us more of an insight into the ongoing situation to the south of Australia: "For the past 24 hours we've been putting some northing into our course, accepting that we'll fall off the optimal route a little, in order to let the worst of the depression roll through to our south. We've gybed again now towards the south-east and conditions are set to become calmer by tonight. Charles is sailing in 30-35 knots of breeze with 5-6-metre waves, which is already quite sufficient. Up next, we'll be playing with a WSW'ly wind in a ridge of high pressure awaiting the arrival of the next depression. As soon as we are under the influence of this new system, we'll be able to reap the benefits of a NW'ly breeze ahead of the front."

The skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is making the most of these final hours in the Indian Ocean because tomorrow evening, Saturday 27 January, he's due to make his grand entrance into the Pacific once he passes the South East Cape, the southernmost tip of Tasmania.

Discreet by nature, Charles Caudrelier is not the most voluble sailor of the fleet and he's clearly sticking to routine in this round the world. Unaffected and straight-talking in his exchanges with those on land, he often apologises for his behaviour, whilst fulfilling his profile as an insatiable competitor to a T: "Sorry, I didn't celebrate Cape Leeuwin. I was exhausted from all the manoeuvring over the past few days along the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. I had some minor technical issues to sort out. I had to take a winch apart and I didn't get much sleep. As a result, I tried to devote the slightly quieter moments to some rest phases and there weren't many of those. Not surprisingly, I've been feeling a bit sluggish over the past 24 hours, with a bad headache. I thought it was down to not drinking enough water but ultimately, I think it was the lack of sleep and all the exertion. I've had the chance to recuperate now and I feel much better," said the sailor reassuringly.

This sequence of manoeuvres Charles Caudrelier is referencing equates to nineteen gybes in three days, between Monday morning, with the rounding of the Kerguelen Islands, and yesterday morning. Not to mention the hours of trimming associated with these changes of direction, the whole lot skirting the edge of the AEZ with the considerable additional stress of breaching the 'forbidden' line looming over him all day long.

Already, all eyes are on the next ocean now and the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild shared with us his vision of what is to come: "It's good to have passed Leeuwin, but my goal is to exit the Indian, which should be tomorrow evening in principle, on passing Tasmania. Tomorrow also means the end of the heat. I'm still sailing in a fleece here. I'm attacking the 'North face' of the race. I'll be a very, very long way south, often between 55 and 57 degrees south, which is the latitude of Cape Horn. I've rarely navigated these latitudes for such a long period. This will be a first! I'm expecting cold weather and 7-8 fairly harsh days but Cape Horn lies at the end of that!"

Ranking on Friday 26 January at the 17:00 UTC position report

1) Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - Charles Caudrelier
2) Sodebo Ultim 3 - Thomas Coville - at 1,765 miles of the leader
3) Maxi Banque Populaire XI - Armel Le Cléac'h - at 2,590.3 miles of the leader

On a pit stop in Cape Town
4) SVR Lazartigue - Tom Laperche - at 4,753.2 miles of the leader
5) Actual Ultim 3 - Anthony Marchand - at 4,753.2 miles of the leader
6) Ultim Adagio - Eric Peron - at 4,773.9 miles of the leader

Track the fleet here

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