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Arkéa Ultim Challenge - Brest day 35: The crux of the matter is anticipation

by Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest 10 Feb 11:48 PST 10 February 2024

Loïck Peyron "On these machines, the crux of the matter is anticipation, especially in critical moments."

Every Saturday of the ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE - Brest we speak to world renowned sailors who decipher the race. This time it is Loïck Peyron. He is a genuine icon of French ocean racing, an outstanding sailor as well as a wonderful teller of sea stories. He also has an incredible, long, storied track record. Since 2012 he was the holder of the Jules-Verne trophy for five years, he is a past winner of the Route du Rhum (2014), the English Transat (1992, 1996, 2008), the Transat Jacques Vabre (1999, 2005), and four times world champion in the Orma multihulls. Peyron knows a lot about multihulls of all sizes and about racing around the world. And he loves to share his passion.

We spoke to Loïck as Charles Caudrelier continues his ascent back up the Atlantic.

Now that we are over halfway through the course, how does this race inspire you, Loïck?

Well there have been some great things and a great fight, even if it died off a bit. The start was quite exciting despite the misfortunes of some. The Tom (Laperche) - Charles (Caudrelier) duel was inspiring. What's surprising is seeing everyone's trajectory. Apart from Charles, they have all had difficult conditions, sequences which did not favor comebacks. The differences now are considerable but it is not surprising as the boats are so fast. The problem with high speed is precisely that the gaps grow quickly to become significant gaps.

Charles Caudrelier has dominated the race continuously since January 17. Are you impressed by his race round the world?

He has very good control, a lot of talent and a measure of luck too, everything which adds upto allowing him to overcome a lot of pitfalls and build a considerable lead. Stopping or having to abandon does not take away from the talents of the skippers who have had to: at this level of competition, there are nothing but good sailors. But mechanically, the misfortunes of others have rather favored him. The partnership he has with his machine is the longest terms and the most proven. Charles knows his boat perfectly and he has the luxury of being able to slow down, of not being forced to push too hard.

Franck Cammas also talked about the importance of luck

Yes, it is sometimes the only key parameter, certainly with OFNIs in any case. The OFNIs need also to be lucky, because sometimes they are living beings. But luck is one of the parameters which is totally unmanageable, the primary worry on the these boats, an imponderable which is part of the game

Are there any trajectories or tactical choices that have surprised you?

To put it in the most simple terms we must remember that when a route is linear, that means that it is easy on board. As soon as there is a change of course, however, it involves maneuvers and a very demanding physical commitment. What was surprising was the fact of passing North of New Zealand by Armel Le Cléac'h. This is a logical choice but it's the first time we've seen this on a round the world race. These are such fast boats that they can afford to move away from the worst conditions and especially the very rough seas to find more safety. Furthermore, the ZEA is so north that it limits the options a little, it requires you to take a longer route and sometimes away from places that you want to avoid. Now we just no longer see ice. That was exciting in its day but it was also scary!

Sailors give the impression of holding out well, of dealing with the monotony and the stress well?

These are not rookies. They know the routes, the conditions, the forecasts, they know when to make the effort and raise their game and prepare for it each time. On these machines, the crux of the matter is anticipation, especially in critical moments. But above all they do remain relatively comfortable and "safe" boats. When everything is going well in the Pacific, there is time to rest between two maneuvers. Too bad the Starlink connection (which allows Internet access) is too bad in the South to watch films.

Tom Laperche (SVR-Lazartigue) is the only skipper to have retired... Were you impressed by his start to the race?

We already knew he was a great sailor, a contender, he had proven that for some time already. He has been one of the shining stars of this sport, for a long time now and will be for a long time to come. Clearly, Tom is amazing! He took the start with a boat re-launched only a few days before the start, he set off on his first ever round the world and maintained a fabulous pace. And the partnership he forms with his boat is impressive!

Even if Charles Caudrelier does not beat the round-the-world record, what mark will his performance and this first edition make in the world of ocean racing?

Well, first things first, there is the fact that what is new is the fact that it is a race, for the first time. For Charles, the primary motivation is to win the race, to finish before the second placed skipper, he did not go out to break a record. But more and more we face the paradox of the normalization of challenges. Getting very used to seeing sailors sail solo around the world somehow seems to diminish the public perception of the performance. Now, what these sailors are doing is a major feat. Very few people are capable of driving such large machines solo, around the world and at this considerable speed.

How can we help the general public realize this?

This is the whole problem of the situation in France where we have a public which has been well fed on maritime adventures for over half a century. There is a tendency to trivialize it and become blasé. We like it when there is little difference between them on the race course, that there is fighting and perhaps that we are a little less passionate about pure seamanship and management. However, this does not take away from the qualities necessary to be one of these sailors. Perhaps it will take several editions of this race to become more anchored in people's minds, even if I do already believe it is already a popular success.

You have already crossed Cape Horn, like Armel (Le Cléac'h) and Thomas (Coville) this weekend. Beyond the myth and the history that surrounds the Horn do you feel anything special when crossing it?

Yes of course because the symbolism is obvious, we all follow in the wake of many, many ships that have preceded us for several centuries. There is a historical and geographical reality that makes this 'left turn' unique. It marks the end of a maritime desert, the end of a type of hell. Even if we can find very harsh conditions in the South Atlantic, like those that Charles has crossed, there is the impression of returning to a back yard that we know, of seeing land after weeks in the heart of the Pacific. In short, we are returning back to civilization a little.

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