Sodebo Ultim 3, the only boat to have abandoned the race after stopping in Cape Town, arrived back in Lorient this morning, bringing the very first Brest Atlantiques race comes to a close. Maxi Edmond de Rothschild took first place, ahead of MACIF in second and Actual Leader in third. Now the race is over, we had the chance to speak with Emmanuel Bachellerie, Director of Brest Ultim Sailing, the organizing authority of Brest Atlantiques.
What is your sporting assessment of Brest Atlantiques?
The race was very exciting to follow, with a number of technical pitstops that kept the game alive. It was a great sporting event in terms of what these boats are capable of, not to mention the skippers at the helm! With three out of the four boats managing to finish, and just one stopping a little short, we’re pretty satisfied with the end results and feel like the objectives of the race were met.
There were some doubts about the Ultim Class 32/23 following the Route du Rhum, have these now been cleared with the success of Brest Atlantiques?
Yes, lots of questions were asked following the Route du Rhum, but let's also look at the whole story: the Ultim Collectif, which later became the Ultim Class 32/23, was created at the end of 2013, and in six years the fleet has only really had one hiccup: the Route du Rhum 2018. It’s as if this race completely overshadowed the previous four years: the brilliant victory of Loïck Peyron on Banque Populaire VII on the Route du Rhum 2014; François Gabart and MACIF winning the Transat Jacques Vabre in November 2015, only a few months after launching the boat, and The Transat, their first solo transatlantic race, after a fantastic battle out at sea with Thomas Coville. Coville himself was crowned the winner of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Trophy at the end of 2016, in just 49 days and 3 hours. Then we had The Bridge in 2017 where we saw a magnificent match between MACIF and Idec Sport, before the end of that year François Gabart winning the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Trophy in 42 days. The teams have worked hard to ensure that the boats continue to advance and develop, and Brest Atlantiques will definitely have contributed to this progression.
All the sailors remarked on the difficulty of the race, was it important for Brest Atlantiques to be challenging enough to really test the boats?
The race was developed together with the sailors, some of whom fought hard to make sure the course would be suitably difficult for the boats. The idea was to have a big long demanding course with tough conditions, and I think we managed just that. Just before abandoning the race, Thomas Coville said: “We knew that Brest Atlantiques would be a very tough race, and we weren't disappointed!” These boats are designed to sail around the world. Here, they have gone more than halfway around the world, which is very positive.
What about the attendance at the race village and the entertainment that was organised there, do you think it was an overall success?
I think we had a pretty good turnout: We welcomed 60,000 visitors despite the pretty terrible weather, with a lot of rain and very strong winds which forced us to close the village on the second Saturday for safety reasons. Luckily, we had two great days on the two Sundays, during which we welcomed more than 20,000 people. So, taking into account the episodes of bad weather, we’re pretty satisfied with this level of attendance. Apart from the number of visitors, what we really wanted was for people to be able to find out lots of information about the boats and the sailors. From the feedback we received, everyone seems to have found the village really interesting, the highlights being the team presentations, which allowed the general public to interact directly with the sailors and the media men.
This was the first time that Brest has hosted an ocean race of this size, how do you think this partnership turned out?
Well, for years Brest has welcomed the arrival of skippers attempting to make new sailing records, so it’s certainly not the first time this city has taken an interest in the open sea! But after Brest Atlantiques, I am convinced that Brest will become a key location for offshore racing not only in France, but also internationally. The city has everything you need: an ideal location on the French coast, an exceptional natural setting, with the Rade, the Goulet and the Avant-Goulet, good infrastructures, and an enthusiastic public…We are therefore delighted to have laid these first foundations. We couldn’t have done it of course without the support of the regions of Finistère and Brittany, the Naval Group, Eiffage, Suez, Edf, all the owners, our official partners and suppliers, as well as all the media who have been following the race. And lastly, a final mention for the charities we have supported through the race: Innovéo and the Fondation Action Enfance.
Let's finish with reviewing the media around Brest Atlantiques, and in particular the novelty of having a media man on board each boat…
We don't have the final figures yet, but what we can already announce is that we have received more than 300,000 unique visitors on the website, 5.5 million page views, more than 2 million video views on our own platforms (website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube), just over 1,600 media clippings (print and web) to date, and 52,000 people who have played on the Virtual Regatta. For the first race of its kind, with four boats, and a delay to the departure that forced us to cancel two and a half hours of live TV on Sunday, November 3rd, the results are good. As for the media men, I think it’s been extremely positive, both in terms of the quality and variety of the content produced. We’re glad that we allowed each team to choose their own media man and didn’t impose any editorial guidelines. We were lucky to have very different profiles on each of the four boats, with, in turn, different ways of recording and telling the stories on board.
Will there be a second edition of Brest Atlantiques?
Taking into account everything we’ve discussed, I am convinced that Brest Atlantiques has everything it takes to become a classic. Time will tell!