Charles Caudrelier – “43-45kts was a little bit too fast for the start of a round the world race!”

Tuesday’s ARKÉA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest skipper interview is with Charles Caudrelier who has led the six boat fleet of ULTIMs since the first night. He has maintained that small margin continuously, working hard to benefit from the smallest changes in the breeze and this afternoon was starting to prepare mentally and physically for the first big blow of this first ever solo non-stop around the world race on ULTIMs. And this afternoon it takes three attempts to get the Route du Rhum winning skipper to pick up the phone….

“I’m coming out of my nap,” Caudrelier admits quickly restoring his equilibrium to his usual level of lucidity and high motivation.

How do you summarise your start to the race?
It’s a round the world,  we’re not in “Route du Rhum” mode. We had a hard time on the Bay of Biscay, I had to steer the boat well and I didn’t sleep much the first night. But I managed to rest yesterday and slept well last night. It’s so important to stay in shape. I try to sail my course without worrying too much about the others. We’re not going to have much wind in the next few hours, then a whole load quite soon afterwards, like tomorrow.

Are you impressed by the pace from the start?
For sure there is a definite, noticeable intensity between us, that’s for sure, even a little too much sometimes. I calmed things down in the breeze for the boat, especially after I was hitting 45, 46 knots. That really felt a bit quick for what is, after all, the start of a round the world race. We started out fast but I think in time everyone will find their rhythm and it will all settle down little by little, especially as things get serious tomorrow with the first depression. But it’s nice to see that we’re all stuck close together.

So, today you are slowed by an anticyclonic bubble that you are trying to avoid being stuck in, what are the priorities right now?
We have to manage to get under it. The closer you pass the centre the better angle you get, a good shift earlier but you have less wind. It’s a bit of a balance between shift and pressure. We are not seeing the result right away. I’m the first to get in so everyone will come back at me. That is all part of the game!

Tomorrow afternoon, there is this first depression. What is your strategy, have you determined a course, a plan with your routing cell?
Well it is evolving a bit, It’s changing a little but overall we don’t really have much of a choice. We will have to find the right balance between “not too much wind” and “not too much sea”. Of course, the course is better if you go through it but the risk is greater. And at the start of our round the world we don’t really want to play with fire. We have to be able to set the cursor in the right place.

And where should it be placed?
We know that the more we get to the South and east, the safer. You obviously lose a little time on the optimum route but it’s still early in the round the world, you have to be prudent, I admit that I haven’t focused too much on it yet. The medium and long term, I leave it to the routers. I concentrate on the coming hours just setting up the day well, managing it well.

Can that still create bigger gaps between you?
Yes, it can help to spread the fleet out a bit. No one is really going to pass it at the exact same place, no one will have the same performance and then there are a lot of manoeuvres to be done, which can also create gaps. In the anticyclone, everything is a bit random right now and the perfect position is never easy to find. But there is a brick wall in front of us so the gaps can also be reduced to nothing.

Is being in the lead, even in such a tight fleet, a bonus?
I don’t think about the ranking at all. I know if I start thinking about it, I quickly get obsessed with it. I go my way without thinking too much about others. When I talk about others, I get brought to heel by my routers (laughing). It’s good, we are in the lead but that doesn’t mean anything.

Are you feeling good, though?
Yes I’m happy. I slept well, I can eat well and it’s really great. Maybe I’ll take another nap but that’s okay!

RACE UPDATE. From tomorrow afternoon, “it’s going to be pretty tough.”
“In this anticyclone, everything is random,” evaluates Charles Caudrelier. The leading posse of five  have been getting through it since this morning. The skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild holds  the lead as they turn towards the West.

“In terms of conditions, it will become very light” confided Will Oxley from Thomas Coville’s routing cell (Sodebo Ultim 3) now we are trying to position ourselves to get underneath the approaching weak HP. It looks like it will be pretty light. How close do we dare to go to get the shift with a classic “gull wing” move?

Meantime  Le Cléac’h’s more southern strategy is looking to a shift in the east a little earlier.

This afternoon with the wind less than 7 knots, the skipper of the Maxi Banque Populaire XI was the only one to be making more than 10 knots. But all eyes are on this depression which stretches from Ireland to Cape Verde. “ It is a wall to cross with winds around 40 knots and waves of at least 4 to 6 meters. The southerly wind will gradually come back in and things will start to get tougher,” underlines Guillaume Rotte, the race director. “Starting tomorrow afternoon they will really get into the heart of the matter.”

For more information on ARKÉA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest, please click HERE.

JPK August 2023
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