This week’s compelling high-speed open ocean match race between the two leaders of the Arkea Ultim Challenge around-the-world race came to an unfortunate end overnight when second-placed Tom Laperche on the blue liveried SVR Lazartigue trimaran collided with an unidentified floating object (UFO).
The impact was described as ‘damaging the boat’s daggerboard case’ and led to ‘significant’ water ingress.
Laperche slowed to 14 knots after the incident and has been able to stem the flow of water into the boat using pumps after closing the affected area with watertight doors.
Laperche (26) had been battling hard for the lead in this first ever solo Ultim race around the world with fellow Frenchman Charles Caudrelier aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild.
Just seven miles had separated the two boats at times as the pair led the six-boat fleet downwind around the St Helena high pressure system on the way to Cape Horn.
According to the race tracker both boats were travelling at close to 35 knots when SVR Lazartigue hit the UFO at 0430 UTC while 90 nautical miles astern of Caudrelier.
There has been no signs of Caudrelier taking his foot off the gas since the incident as he pushes into the Southern Ocean at high average speeds that put him tantalisingly close to breaking the 851 nm record set by Francois Gabart back in 2017. At 0600 UTC today he had clocked 835 miles in the previous 24 hour period.
Laperche is now sailing in safety mode as he and his support team assess their options. It seems highly unlikely he will be able to continue the race without repairs so a stop in Cape Town, South Africa to make a full damage assessment seems the most likely next move.
With Laperche out of contention, Caudrelier’s nearest rival is now Thomas Coville on Sodebo Ultim 3 who at 0900 UTC was 583 nm behind.
Meanwhile, another pre-race favourite, Armel Le Cléac’h on Maxi Banque Populaire XI returned to racing yesterday after a 27-hour pitstop for repairs in the Brazilian port of Recife.
At 0900 UTC today Le Cléac’h was in fifth place, close to 2,000 nm behind Caudrelier. That’s a huge delta to overcome, but with close to 20,000 nm still to go in this first ever Ultim race around the world anything is still possible.
Main image © Guillaume Gatefait