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Arkea Ultim Challenge – Caudrelier scorches across Indian Ocean

Yacht Racing Podcast

Charles Caudrelier, leader of the Arkea Ultim Challenge, is passing the NE corner of the Kerguelen Islands exclusion zone, racing on a south easterly course at around 35 knots as he plunges towards the ice exclusion zone. The skipper of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is expected to pass Cape Leeuwin on Wednesday and Tasmania, gateway to the Pacific on Thursday or Friday.

Some of the skippers have already seen their first albatross, indeed the extraordinary shots of race leader Charles Caudrelier on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild near the Kerguelens, taken yesterday by a French fishing vessel, show he is in good company in more ways than one. But today, as he descends into the Indian Ocean some 1400 miles to the west of Caudrelier, second placed Thomas Coville was given to reflect on his love of the albatross and their comforting presence.

Today’s image of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild in the Indian Ocean is exceptional. It was taken by Niels Gins, a scientist and controller of the TAAF (Ed note Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises) who is a controller aboard a fishing boat from the French seafood company Sapmer. Gins looks after the regulatory measures and collects essential data for the scientific monitoring of deep ocean fishing down in these low latitudes. He is also responsible for capturing images of marine wildlife, observed vessels, including possible illegal fishing vessels “pirate fishing” and he occasionally captures the odd passing, ULTIM doing more than 30kts.

Coville back in his element

” He’s up there. He revolves around me, and he is what I’ve been looking for. I see it as a first reunion And probably it is less poetic for him.” Coville is in a contemplative and intimate mood as took the time to record an audio message, to detail his first encounter with an albatross on this new passage into the big south on this, his ninth circuit of the globe. The Cape of Good Hope is well behind him now and his Sodebo Ultim 3 is already carving its way into the Indian Ocean, still pretty much pacing the leader Caudrelier – indeed in the 24hrs to 1700hrs this evening Coville sailed 16 miles further.

Coville : “When you pass the Cape of Good Hope, you enter the world of albatrosses. This is their world, not ours. It’s rather like entering a ring-fenced area. It’s a very special moment. I would like to offer this moment to everyone involved in the project and in particular, the team members that have been supporting me. Just like the albatrosses, they are there without being seen. Somewhere in the background circling me, watching what’s going on, looking for an idea, a kind word, someone to show them some attention. In our work, there is a lot to overcome, but also a lot of being with others and feeling that human warmth. The albatross flies in that spirit. It may sound a bit odd, but that is what is going on for me and it is very emotional.”

In fourth and fifth Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire XI) and Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim) are getting closer the south after a long, circuitous detour round the west of the Saint Helena High. Marchand skipper on Actual Ultim 3 told us earlier today, “We are in a small strip of wind with the ice exclusion zone not that far away and with Armel just ahead. We are finally heading East with the Cape of Good Hope coming up ahead soon, and it will be nice to get that left it behind us. It’s starting to get colder and colder. The nights are very short, which is great.”

In sixth Eric Péron told us about his situation on Sunday evening. “It’s been a busy week with lots of things to do aboard the boat. Lots of odds and ends, plenty of work to do, and that all takes time. My route crossing the South Atlantic means that we can be faster on our trajectory towards the Cape of Good Hope, but there isn’t much wind. The boat is doing well and I have managed to get some rest. It’s good that there are times when we can ease off. This is a long race and we need to keep at it.”

Arriving off Cape Town very early this morning, Tom Laperche was met by a wall of winds gusting to 50 to 60 knots along the coast. It was impossible to consider any kind of access the port. So SVR – Lazartigue had to stay on standby, hove too into the wind, waiting for better conditions.

The wind eventually died down enough for four members of the team to board the giant ULTIM later in the morning. Securing the boat and analysing the damage are their two missions at the moment. Laperche was sent ashore so that he could rest and recover with some good sleep. With the wind still blowing heavily, though, the technical team has not yet been able to bring the giant multi into the port of Cape Town.

Main image © Niels Gins / TAAF