The four Ultim 32/23 Class trimarans took off on Tuesday 5th November at 11am on the Brest Atlantiques race, a new 14,000 mile double-handed race that will take them non-stop to Rio and then Cape Town, before heading back to Brest.
After five hours of racing at an average speed of 30 knots, the Trimaran Macif (François Gabart/Gwénolé Gahinet) and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Franck Cammas/Charles Caudrelier) are in the lead.
A white and frothing sea, average winds of 28/30 knots, gusts a little below 40, clear skies and a beautiful autumnal light, these were the conditions for the grand departure of the Brest Atlantiques today at 11am at the foot of the Chaussée de Sein – the perfect send off for these gigantic trimarans in the Ultimate Class 32/23.
The day before, given the harsh weather forecast, the eight sailors involved had announced their intention not to "do anything stupid", to use the expression of Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild), while Yves Le Blevec (Actual Leader) talked of the "skilful balance between safe seafaring and competition". They kept their word, with all of them setting off near the Western Seine, on the starboard tack under a reduced mainsail and rolled headsails.
This did not prevent them, however, from crossing the 2.5 mile line, from which they set off at nearly 30 knots, which is proof of the power of these 32m by 23m trimarans, before lengthening their stride an hour later once the J3 (small headsail) had been furled.
"We're leaving for a month at sea, there's no point in breaking everything now, but at the same time, we don't want to stop, because we all want to go as fast as possible, it's the eternal dilemma of ocean racing," were the words of François Gabart (Trimaran Macif) three hours earlier when leaving the Malbert quay. Now it’s the Trimaran Macif up against the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild at the head of the fleet, after four hours racing at an average speed of 30 knots.
The four trimarans should finish between 11pm and midnight with this dreaded Bay of Biscay, before setting upon "a fabulous ride towards Brazil", to use the expression of Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3) as he was leaving Brest.
"Cape Finisterre will already be a big step forward, it's crazy to think that we'll be in Spain tonight. Afterwards, it's going to be a little more relaxing and we're really going to be able to get into the performance, it's going to be great," said Gwénolé Gahinet, while Franck Cammas added: "I can't wait for tonight! We'll try to get out unharmed in Cape Finisterre, then we can attack more."
In the words of the Race Director Jacques Caraës: "The sea was delicate at Chaussée de Sein, so the four boats all set off under mainsail alone. The Trimaran Macif was the most northwards at the very beginning of the race, but after one hour, she unfurled her J3 and flunked towards the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild which, with only two reefs (compared to three for the other three boats), was a little more covered. These departure conditions were in line with the previous day's briefing, and in 12 hours, the first ones will be at Cape Finisterre. They will have to set up one or two gybes before heading due south, with the route continuing to allow the fastest boats to cross the equator in 4.5 days.”
Patricia Brochard (President of the Ultim Class 32/23): "The departure days are always very moving, there is both tension and a certain sense of liberation; it is rather paradoxical. We know they're going to have twelve hard hours to start with, with heavy seas and wind, that obviously adds a little to the emotion. So there’s always a bit of a pinch in your heart, but you also have the pleasure of seeing them leave doing what they dream of. It is also a great joy to have these four boats facing each other on this first race just as we really wanted; the fact that we’ve succeeded in doing this event, which is a first in such a short time, is a great satisfaction.”
François Cuillandre, Mayor of Brest, said: "Until now, Brest has been more of a record setting port; we had wanted to get back into ocean racing for some time, so it is a great pleasure and privelege for Brest to see the Brest Atlantiques race set off today. The village here has been extraordinary, it has been extremely busy despite the rainy weather, with many people coming to see these magnificent boats, the most beautiful and fastest in the world, led by extraordinary sailors. I think there will still be many people arriving over the course of the next thirty days.”