Ultims – Damage to Armel Le Cléac’h’s Maxi Banque Populaire XI

ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE – Brest race leader Charles Caudrelier should cross the Equator tomorrow. In second, 200 miles due south of Rio, Armel Le Cléac’h announced this morning he has damage to his main rudder.

Le Cléac’h is heading for a Brazilian port this afternoon whilst some 400 miles behind, Thomas Coville is still very slow in a high pressure, light winds area. In the Pacific still are Anthony Marchand in fourth and Éric Péron in fifth.

On the eve of the 40th day of racing since leaving Brest on Sunday 7th January, there are some 6,600 miles between Caudrelier and Péron, more than twice the distance the leader has to make to the finish line back in Brest.

The contrast between first and fifth is striking. In miserable grey of the Pacific in the ‘furious fifties’ Éric Péron, smartphone fixed on a pole is in his foul weather gear, emerging from the cabin of ULTIM ADAGIO to film a grey, murky panorama and a dark sea. In the Atlantic doldrums Charles Caudrelier, shirtless, occasionally wearing sunglasses has to cover his cockpit to protect himself from the sun.

Multiple shades of grey
In the Pacific, down where Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3) and Éric Péron are racing there are “huge breakers, foam, grey, dismal conditions and rain,” according to Marchand on Tuesday. The temperature is plunging and you really need to get some warm clothes on… or avoid going outside as much as possible. Woolly hats and fleeces are required. The thermometer indicates a range between 6°C and 11°C. Even if Péron is sailing ahead of a warm front, he still needs to wrap up, which we saw recently in a video, when he filmed the view 360 degrees around ADAGIO ULTIM. Down there, we are into fifty shades of grey with no hint of sunlight to cheer him up. 

In the South Atlantic on the other hand, the atmosphere is completely different. “We’re well away from the Ice Zone and conditions are now very different,” said Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3, 3rd). “I haven’t really seen the Sun since the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.” He is excited about catching sight of his first flying fish, meaning that the seas are warming up. He also talked about the light. “Down here, light is very intense, very strong, and perfect for photos.” Armel Le Cléac’h, who is around 750 miles ahead of him is also enjoying “getting towards something better, some sunshine and warmth.” However, the progress of the skipper aboard Maxi Banque Populaire XI suddenly slowed this morning, when he suffered damage to his central rudder. 

Aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, life in a camping-car 
In terms of the temperature, Thomas Coville, who is approaching the  latitude of Buenos Aires, has around twenty degrees, while Armel Le Cléac’h, not far from Rio de Janeiro is close to 26°C. The leader, Charles Caudrelier, passed the latitude of Recife on the NE tip of Brazil, where temperatures are close to 30°C. So Charles filmed himself with no shirt on, when he gave us his news. He has everything in place to protect himself from the heat: buckets of cold water that he can pour over his head on deck, things to shut off the inside of the boat, “like in a camping-car,” explained the skipper of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. “I’m really suffering from the heat during the day,” he added a couple days ago. “It wears you down and I can feel cramps coming on… But we’re in the Tropics, so that’s great!”  

In these summer temperatures, Charles needs to keep an eye on his food store. “I took 45 days of food, but I still have ten days of racing left,” he explained yesterday. “So it was time I took stock of things. I think Thomas (Coville) took enough for 42 days, so I shouldn’t grumble.”  Éric Péron, who is due to reach the Horn in a week from now (Thursday 22nd February), is “looking forward to climbing back up the Atlantic to have a look at how things are going in terms of supplies.” He added with a smile, “I may have eaten some dishes I like more than others… I’m not worried, but I may end up trying to eat my fingers.” 

LAST MINUTE – Armel Le Cléac’h towards a new stopover

At the end of the morning, the Banque Populaire team announced that its skipper had “damage to the central foil”. Consequently, the Maxi Banque Populaire XI is heading to a Brazilian port. The team assures us that “several options are being studied in order to diagnose the incident and think about the rest of the race”. Armel Le Cléac’h had already had to stop in Brazil on the 16th January during the descent of the Atlantic after the breakage of the front pulpit, the gennaker tack and a hydraulic problem on the starboard foil. He then started the race again and has held second place in the race since crossing the Pacific Ocean.

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