Ultims – Big bad Louis is holding up proceedings

ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest race leader Charles Caudrelier and the ULTIM Maxi Edmond de Rothschild have been in the Azores port of Horta since Wednesday morning waiting for storm Louis to leave the Bay of Biscay and a weather window to open to allow him to complete the final 1200 miles of the 24,400 nautical miles solo multihull race around the world which started on January 7th

Louis is the name given to a very large active Atlantic depression which is currently sweeping Europe, from the south of Ireland to Lisbon. Louis is more 1000 miles wide and almost 2000 miles from west to east. The leading edge of the depression has been buffeting Finistère, Morbihan and inland Brittany while Louis’ tail is still smacking the coasts of Greenland.  Winds are averaging 35-45kts at the front of the system – more like 45-55 towards its centre and the waves are between nine and 13 metres.

Accompanied by members of the Gitana technical team in the Azores, Caudrelier summed up the situation “The problem was I already had a big sea of 8-9 meters from the North-West, but it was quite long and quite beautiful. So we thought about going on – at 8-9 meters it’s not so very serious, especially if there are gaps between the waves.  The problem was that I couldn’t go fast enough to stay in front of the second depression, I had to go at more than 30 knots and we weren’t sure I could do it in these sea conditions. So that means that if I was caught by the other depression. That would mean the wind would change, changing direction 180° and could really, really build. This is often what causes the big storms we can have. It creates a very strong wind against the sea, situation with two seas crossing each other, and that is very dangerous for boats.”

Caudrelier concludes,  “And so we are moving more towards a consensus, a great wisdom even – even if we are all impatient – to wait for Saturday, when we have the completely right window. We can afford to wait because we obviously looked at (second placed) Sodebo and the boats behind, and the weather situation means that they will be behind us, not very far, but between Thomas and me there still will be an anticyclone so there is no possibility that he can overtake me in terms of boat speed performance.”

And so the expectation is now that Caudrelier aboard his Maxi Edmond de Rothschild could set of sometime Saturday again to finish in Brest on Monday, 26th February, one day before his 50th birthday.

Thomas Coville, who has got out of the Doldrums, is now just 1830 miles from the leader, sailing upwind in weak trade winds, forcing him to sail quite some way west to enable the Maxi Sodebo Ultim 3 to advance at around fifteen knots this afternoon (Thursday). 500 miles further back, Armel Le Cléac’h is leaving the Doldrums behind. They have spread out, but should enable the skipper of the Maxi Banque Populaire XI to get away fast. Both of these chasing skippers are obviously looking at the leader, who has stopped. How much ground will they make up during his stopover?

With 5200 and 5500 miles left to go to Horta, where Charles Caudrelier is currently moored up, Anthony Marchand and Éric Péron are on their way back up the coast of South America. The skipper of Actual Ultim 3 sailing to the North of the Falklands moved offshore today, while the skipper on Adagio just North of the Falklands, is moving closer to the coast of South America. He hopes to progress towards an area of high pressure, where on the edge, he should be able to speed northwards up to Brazil.

To keep up to date with ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE, please visit https://www.arkeaultimchallengebrest.com follow on:


Jeanneau SO380
Jeanneau SO380
M.O.S.S Australia
Race Yachts