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Anthony Marchand on Actual Ultim 3 finishes fourth in the Arkéa Ultim Challenge - Brest

by Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest 11 Mar 08:05 PDT 11 March 2024

French solo skipper Anthony Marchand took fourth place on the ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE - Brest this afternoon when he sailed the ULTIM Actual Ultim 3 across the finish line off Brest at 14:08:21hrs UTC.

Marchand, who turned 39 years old during this first ever solo multihull race round the world, had to stop twice to make technical repairs, once in Cape Town after losing his port foil and in Dunedin, NZ because of problems with his starboard foil mechanism. Racing the ULTIM which as Francois Gabart's Macif holds the world record for the fastest solo passage round the world, Marchand was deprived of the use of the foils and had adapt to achieve the best performance possible.

In the space of less than two years, 'Antho' has transitioned impressively from being a top competitor in the solo Figaro one design offshore class to first racing half way around the world on the IMOCA Biotherm on The Ocean Race and now completing this solo ULTIM race in an elapsed time of 64 days 1 hour 38 minutes 21 seconds. He finishes 13d 6h 20m after race winner Charles Caudrelier.

When he crossed the finish line this afternoon, to be welcomed by the members of his Actual team, his loved ones and those who support him, Anthony Marchand will no doubt flash back to the standout memory of the moment when team owner and past skipper Yves Le Blevec offered him the helm of the famous giant ULTIM. It was after they had delivered the Actual Ultim 3 back from Guadeloupe and the last Route du Rhum race which Le Blevec had just completed solo. Amazingly that was just over two years ago.

"Yves (Le Blevec) was prepared to entrust me with his boat," he remembers. "It was at that moment that I told myself that I was capable of sailing it around the world. And the day I signed on with Actual, it was a carefully considered 'yes', not a knee jerk response. From then on, racing round the world was my single, clear healthy obsession, there was a year of training, there were three stages of The Ocean Race and still the big jump."

Two stops, two body blows, two new re-starts

The day of the start he had the crowd smiling at how relaxed he first appeared. Asked about his pre-start night before leaving he said "I had time to hang out, chill and eat a good dish of Bolognese pasta," he said then. That said he did shed a few tears when he boarded Actual and left the dock. And he held his pace well on the first few days of a thrilling sprint. 'Antho' has youth on his side, the passion and the tough, hard driving habits of the Solitaire du Figaro. "When it comes time to try and make some moves, I will." And so it was that he stayed in contact with the first four in the Bay of Biscay, as far as Madeira before being the lesser power and speed potential of his boat sees him lose out to the top four ULTIMs - Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, SVR Lazartigue, Banque Populaire XI and Sodebo Ultim.

But 'Antho' isn't alone for long. He overtakes Armel Le Cléac'h who had to stopover in Recife and it they are together struggle down on the long road round the Saint Helena anticyclone and skirt the ZEA. But he has to stop after an impact on the port foil (January 23). His stopover in Cape Town lasts a little over 24 hours, the Actual team achieves a logistical feat, and the skipper leaves with a boat "not 100% but healthy" after removing the stub of the damaged for, to be ready for the Southern Ocean. Alone in the Indian Ocean, the sailor decides to make a new stopover in Tasmania (February 11), as the mechanism which keeps the starboard foil in the down position has failed.

"At the time, it was a huge disappointment, I couldn't hold back my tears." He recalled. But the team is there for him again to repair and the welcome in Dunedin is warm.

'Antho' even takes a surreal trip to buy "fresh food" at the supermarket. "I was out of step with that world there." He confessed admitting he had not washed in weeks and claimed to have remained in racing mode.

Marchand was not spared by the conditions

When he restarted his race, Marchand had to start from scratch. "Without the foil, the floats remain in the water with waves breaking on the forward beams. Each movement makes the boat that much more fragile and the alarms keep going off." He not only saw his speed drop off, but conditions were much less comfortable too. Sailing on a foiler without her foil is something that usually means your nerves are jangling all the time. "There's no point in thinking about it. You have to keep going," he said. Out of view, this was quite a feat. 'Antho' was not exaggerating. He clenched his teeth and sometimes got very angry, but all of that happened away from everyone in the solitude of his cockpit.

Weather conditions meant too that he was not granted a breather. Gusts in excess of 45 knots in the Pacific, but then only rare puffs in the South Atlantic, forced him to manoeuvre like never before up the coast in 3-5m high seas during the final days of the race. Facing every type of sea and wind state imaginable, the conditions guaranteed that he was battling it out in much more than a race and that this was a real adventure. Yves Le Blevec, head of Team Actual, summed this up: "Antho went a long way in terms of commitment and no one gets out of that without feeling something."

Alongside Charles Caudrelier, Thomas Coville and Armel Le Cléac'h, skippers with so much experience, there was a skipper still just about in his thirties (39) who has not yet finished climbing up the steps in the world of ocean racing. He had dreamt of completing a race around the world, but in the end went through just about everything, in terms of conditions, emotions, determination and finished with honours. 'Antho' has developed his talent, his ability to withstand the worst, his calm in the face of adversity and his capacity to push beyond his limits.

In mid-Pacific, he stated, "At sea, there is always a lot of stress. But that is not the same as fear. It's something that is required to get you listening to the wind all the time, watching for a slight puff of air, and remaining alert for an alarm sounding." Marchand thinks like others in his sport, but is no ordinary sailor. He is indeed one of the greatest of his time.

Anthony Marchand's race in numbers:

  • Date and finishing time: Monday 11th March / 15:08:21hrs
  • Elapsed time: 64d 1hr 38m 21s
  • Miles sailed: 29 948,03 miles
  • Real average speed: 19.48kts

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