Wednesday, 15 november, 2023, from the Gitana Team – The duo aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild timed their arrival to perfection! Yesterday, on Tuesday 14 November, it was 17:10 hours (local time), 21:10 hours (UTC) when the five-arrow giant entered Fort-de-France Bay, resulting in a sublime passage across the finish line, lit up by the last rays of sunshine. On their arrival dockside, Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël were welcomed by a large crowd of locals, who had come out in force to pay tribute to the sailors’ performance after 16 days 9 hours 5 minutes and 43 seconds at sea and nearly 10,000 miles (18,500 kilometres) covered since the start in Le Havre on 29 October. The men of Gitana Team post the 3rd best performance of the ULTIM fleet in this Coffee Route and complete the podium in an event which saw the brilliant Maxi Banque Populaire XI take victory on Sunday evening.
A maxi-trimaran deprived of her full potential
Winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2021, Charles Caudrelier was keen to defend his title this year. His latest results and in particular his fantastic victory almost a year ago to the day, in the Route du Rhum, logically placed the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild among the favourites in this anniversary edition of the Coffee Route. However, from the opening minutes of the race, Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël suffered some significant technical issues and from then on they had to constantly shift their focus from performance to repairs and managing a boat which was no longer sailing at her true potential. On the list of damage encountered during this race, the most notable includes the steering system, which proved to be a real handicap to the duo throughout the 10,000-mile race, as well as the delamination of the port foil, which was supporting the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild for 70% of the time over the past four days of racing.
“The negotiation of Madeira, when there were three of us within contact of one another, was great. It’s exactly what I’d imagined for this transatlantic race. We were just a few miles away from SVR and we could make out Banque Populaire on the horizon. We were really into an exceptional race mode at that point. That’s exactly what I was after in this event, but in the end, I found myself in a race that was all about managing the boat, which involved repairs to a series of little setbacks. Fortunately, Charles transformed himself into a regular MacGyver. He pulled out all the stops to repair things, which sometimes seemed very complicated, so we were able to remain competitive, even though as time went on there were things that could no longer be repaired,” admitted Erwan Israël. Charles Caudrelier echoed this sentiment: “The damage we suffered meant that the boat’s performance potential was very different and that, together with an unfavourable weather scenario for us at the end of the course, resulted in a big deficit at the finish.”
Indeed, beyond the technical woes, the weather really didn’t play ball for the duo in the closing miles of the race: “There were days where we couldn’t believe what was happening any more, but we continued to work like crazy. We saw SVR-Lazartigueand Banque Populaire hot-foot it out of there, whilst we missed our ride and had to contend with a weather scenario that was a far cry from theirs,” explained the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. In fact, along the north coast of Brazil, whilst the top two boats were finally powering along in a straight-line sprint to the finish, their pursuers had to put in a series of gybes – the men of Gitana Team racked up nearly thirty on this section of the course alone – and traverse the calms synonymous with their second doldrums. “We were expecting to lose a lot of time and see Sodebo come back strong, but in the end the wind kicked back in earlier than forecast. By doing battle with this injured boat, we managed to make some decent average speeds (30 knots) and stay ahead of the game. It’s hugely satisfying to have managed to defend our 3rd place,” confirmed the co-skipper.
A highly instructive third place
Steering clear of waffle, Erwan Israël admitted: “It’s been a frustrating race, as we were never able to get the boat to a point where she needed to be, namely at the front of the pack. What is positive is that despite talk of retiring from the race, which I would have understood given the imminent round the world event, we chose to continue and we secured a podium place in this Transat Jacques Vabre!”
With the same transparency as his co-skipper, Charles Caudrelier cast his mind forward to his next big sporting challenge, the Arkea Ultim Challenge. The first single-handed race around the world for the ULTIMs, the start of which will take place in Brest in a little over 50 days, it’s shaping up to be a truly exceptional event in more ways than one: “Sometimes we learn the most from failures! As such, this race is a fabulous experience prior to the Round the world race and the lessons I’ve learned here will be very important in a few weeks’ time in the Arkea Ultim Challenge. It’s already given us valuable insight into the fact that you really need to be careful with the boat and take care of her every day. This is because we’ve seen that minor damage can very quickly take on a whole new dimension if it’s not repaired immediately,” explained Charles Caudrelier, before going on to discuss the intensity of the racing on the Atlantic over the past couple of weeks: “The race was hard because it was hotly contested. We’ve never experienced such a fantastic battle in the ULTIM category. The line-up has come to maturity and the level is very uniform. The boats are now evenly matched and the slightest mistake or breakage immediately costs dearly. Perhaps the toughest thing about this race is that there was this great match at the head of the fleet and we didn’t hold all the cards to get more involved in it. The round the world promises to be incredible!”
Ranking ULTIM – Transat Jacques Vabre
1) Maxi Banque Populaire XI – Armel Le Cléac’h / Sébastien Josse
2) SVR Lazartigue – François Gabart – Tom Laperche
3) Maxi Edmond de Rothschild – Charles Caudrelier / Erwan Israël
4) Sodebo Ultim 3 – Thomas Coville – Thomas Rouxel
5) Actual Ultim 3 – Anthony Marchand / Thierry Chabagny