Ultims – The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild heads for shelter in the Azores

Wednesday February 21, 2024 – In early February, Charles Caudrelier, already the firm leader of the Arkea Ultim Challenge, had to put his race on hold for 48 hours right in the middle of the Pacific to let a violent storm roll through on the road to Cape Horn. This Wednesday, after 44 days at sea, with the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild just 1,200 miles from the finish, it is a case of history repeating. A low-pressure system currently lying to the south of Iceland, is filling in over the coming hours as it shifts across to the east, making the Bay of Biscay impracticable over the next 72 hours. Seeking shelter, the skipper of Gitana Team has opted to make a pit stop in the Azores, to leeward of the island of Faial, in Horta, as permitted by the Arkea Ultim Challenge rules.

“We’re currently sailing to the north-west of the Azores High and we crossed the ridge of high pressure last night. Unfortunately, a big depression is blocking the way to Brest. 40 knots of established wind, gusting to over 50, and 8 to 9-metre seas… We’ve been patiently waiting and hoping conditions would improve but that is not the case. It is out of the question to take the slightest risk, all the more so considering the lead we have over our rivals,” explained Benjamin Schwartz, one of Gitana Team’s routers. 

Faced with this situation, which calls for at least 24 hours off the racetrack, and given his position in immediate proximity to the Azores, Charles Caudrelier has finally decided to envisage a pit stop. Indeed, with the added challenge of circumnavigating the globe non-stop in solo format playing on his mind, for a long while the skipper’s preference was to sit offshore, as he did in the Pacific. However, the shipping in the area, the weather forecast and the especially heavy seas in the potential waiting area ended up convincing him otherwise. 

The leader of the Arkea Ultim Challenge will be joined this morning by some members of his shore crew to assist him during this stopover, which he hopes will be as short as possible.

The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild’s routing cell is already on the case to plan the next stage and enable Charles Caudrelier to make Brest as quickly as he can. From tomorrow, 22 February, once the regulatory 24-hour minimum stoppage time has elapsed for the pit stop, the five-arrow giant should be able to head offshore again. The last few miles of the race are shaping up to be very boisterous and the skipper of Gitana Team made no secret of the fact that he had hoped for a calmer scenario to return home to ‘his Brittany’. However, at the end of all this, he has his sights on a mighty dream!

Gitana Team

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