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Mixed fortunes befall the Ultim solo around-the-world skippers

Arkea Ultim Challenge

Yacht Racing Podcast

We are now roughly two and a half weeks into the Arkea Ultim Challenge and there is a contrasting mix of fortunes for the six skippers racing single handed around the world in their 100-foot foiling trimarans.

At the head of the fleet Charles Caudrelier aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild continues his breathtaking performance that earlier this week saw him pass South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to lead the fleet into the Southern Ocean by a considerable distance.

So sparkling has his progress been that the French skipper looks certain to set a new benchmark time for the passage from Ushant to Australia’s Cape Leeuwin.

The current record holder is François Gabart who in 2017 took 19 days, 14 hours, and 10 minutes to pass the Cape Leeuwin longitude. Caudrelier is on track to cross that line later this evening in a new record time – roughly a full day faster than Gabart.

Caudrelier, who has so far managed to avoid the boat damage and breakdowns, had to gybe up to 13 times along the northern edge of a race management-imposed ice exclusion zone – a gruelling workout for a solo skipper on such a massive multihull.

Arkea Ultim Challenge
Image © Yann Riou – polaRYSE – GITANA SA

Caudrelier’s nearest rival is fellow French skipper Thomas Coville on Sodebo Ultim 3 who at 1800 UTC today lay 1,600 nautical miles astern. Armel Le Cléac’h (also French) on Maxi Banque Populaire XI was in third, almost a further 1,000 nm adrift.

Meanwhile, having been forced to stop in Cape Town to make a damage assessment after a daggerboard collision with an unidentified floating object (UFO) on Wednesday while 1300 miles from the Cape of Good Hope and battling Caudrelier for the lead, SVR-Lazartigue skipper Tom Laperche has reported that there was only a small possibility of him rejoining the race.

“There is the small possibility to continue,” reported a disappointed Laperche in Cape Town. “Otherwise, either return the boat by cargo ship or repair it quickly with a kind of bandage to make the boat watertight and bring it back by sea at reduced speed without daggerboard.”

Actual Ultim skipper Anthony Marchand was also the victim of a high speed UFO collision that damaged the boat’s port foil (see above). The incident happened at 0723 UTC on Tuesday morning south of the Cape of Good Hope while Marchand was racing in fourth place.

Arkea Ultim Challenge

The foil remains in place but is badly damaged. Marchand is well and the boat is safe and – after some deliberation about attempting repairs at sea – the team has decided to take a technical stopover in Cape Town, where the boat is expected to arrive on Thursday evening.

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