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Arkéa Ultim Challenge - Brest: Charles Caudrelier's win deciphered

by Arkéa Ultim Challenge-Brest 29 Feb 07:57 PST 29 February 2024

From his duel with Tom Laperche in the South Atlantic to his finish and the overall victory on the inaugural ARKÉA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest, French skipper Charles Caudrelier has delivered an outstanding allround performance aboard a boat, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, that had previously not made it further east on a round -the-world attempt than Cape Agulhas.

One of the team's routers and Caudrelier's co-skipper on the Transat Jacques Vabre, Erwan Israël, looks back at the key moments of a magical win composed of equal parts control, management and composure.

The duel with Tom Laperche. "After the start, the first transition took place at Madeira. Charles didn't make any mistakes, he was quite calm and we knew with the weather that the breeze was heading. In fact, it was thanks to that shift that he and Tom got away with them. It was tense off the coast of Brazil where SVR-Lazartigue was just a little faster than us. Charles was putting the pressure on: he was worried that Tom would get away with it by being the first to benefit from a front that they both eventually took. At one point in the South Atlantic, Tom decided to gybe to get a little more wind and Charles stayed a little more north. We were already in the mindset of not pushing the boat to 150%, but of managing a round the world race. And Charles took advantage of this to take the lead before the damage to SVR-Lazartigue."

The charge in the Southern Ocean "Charles had ideal conditions all the way to the middle of the Pacific. A depression took him from Brazil to the Indian Ocean and then another from Tasmania to Point Nemo. These are just dream conditions: there is no sea and the wind is stable, the route is easy to set, you can sail easy miles fast. In the Southern Ocean, apart from a small area of light winds between the AEZ and the Kerguelen Islands, and then a slightly hollow depression in Australia, Charles had fairly easy conditions that allowed him not to draw on too much energy. We knew that behind him, the other skippers must have been envious of him!"

Rounding Cape Horn. "From Point Nemo onwards, things went from bad to worse. What caused us to have to slow down as he approached Cape Horn were several depressions that merged into an explosive set of low-pressure systems. We didn't want to be a prisoner to them and we knew that had Charles had been in contact with a possible opponent, that this decision would have been just as necessary. And the passage of the Horn was also made difficult by the detection of the ice and this was also the case at the time of the passage of the Falklands, which we would have liked to have gone to the east. It is often said that the Horn is a deliverance but the two days that followed were the most complicated of the race."

The tortuous ascent of the South Atlantic. "Along Uruguay and Brazil, Charles had light winds. Strategically it wasn't difficult because there were no other options, we just had to play with the northerly wind to the west of the high. But it was difficult for Charles. The weather was then more favourable for Armel, who was catching up thanks to a depression. We were pushing Charles to get busy to stay ahead, north of a ridge and keep an easterly trade wind. If he was 50 to 100 miles behind, he would have found himself completely entangled. If Armel hadn't had his rudder problems, he could have come right back into it."

The stop in the Azores. "It wasn't an easy choice, there are always uncertainties in the models, we could have waited to see if the weather developed to be more favourable. But the choice to make a stopover came a lot from Charles. Even if he would have preferred not to stop, he wanted to minimize as much as possible the risk of breakage and therefore losing the round-the-world race. Once we were on land, it was the second system that bothered us the most. We preferred to wait for the right moment so that Charles could arrive safely."

"Charles has unlimited energy"

A team win. "It's a long job being a router on a round-the-world race (laughs)! We thought it was going to be a bit less intense than a transatlantic race, that there would have been periods which were a little quieter, but in reality it was often very intense! One of the keys to success in keeping on it during stressful and tough times is the good understanding between everyone in the routing cell with Benjamin Schwartz and Julien Villion, who are both very talented."

One man's win. "Charles is just like the nickname he's been given, he's just a machine. In any race, he's not going to give up, he's always at 100%, as soon as he has to fix things he gets to work right away. It's fascinating it feels like it has unlimited energy! Sometimes we have to rein him in a little, remind him that he needs to sleep a little more, that he is drawing a little too much on his reserves. He's a very impressive sailor. And yesterday his finish, flying on a fast reach, at sunrise, will remain a beautiful moment I will never forget."

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