Ultims – Unexpected Meetings

At Point Nemo or at Constitution Dock, Hobart skippers on the ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE – Brest benefit from some unexpected, impromptu meetings.

Just at the place where he probably least expected it, in fact very, very close to Point Nemo the most inaccessible point on the world’s oceans, ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE – Brest leader Charles Caudrelier’s AIS went off last night as his Maxi Edmond de Rothschild ULTIM scythed eastwards at 30kts. The alarm showed up a racing boat in the close vicinity.

Caudrelier reported today “It was in the middle of the night, it’s so improbable: my AIS alarm, which works by VHF waves, sounds: it’s a boat! A boat racing. AIS is a collision alarm and our courses cross In the end she doesn’t pass far from me.” 

It turns out to be a South African flagged Swan 53 Sterna which is racing on the Ocean Globe Race, a round-the-world race based on original Whitbread race ideals, and run in the traditional way with the bare minimum in terms of electronic navigation tools.

Edmond de Rothschild was racing at 30 knots towards from Cape Horn. Having left Auckland on January 14, the starting point of the 3rd stage, the Swan 53 should reach Punte del Este between February 9 and 18, says their race website. Where will racer leader Caudrelier be when the South African boat reaches land? Due at Cape Horn between Sunday and Monday, on the 9th Caudrelier will be well up the South Atlantic, by the 18th – whisper it – he could well be finished in Brest. And if present modelling holds true Caudrelier is on course to set a new record between Ushant and Cape Horn. 

“A pit stop is part of the strategy”
In Hobart today Thomas Coville met up with his technical team, an unexpected, necessary but nonetheless unwelcome reunion as he pitstops with Sodebo ULTIM 3 for repairs. “Here I am completely on the other side of the world,” says the skipper in a poignant video, “And here I am meeting up with my team with whom I work with all year round. The emotion was enormous.” 
He added “In terms of security, it was no longer viable. The bow pulpit had separated from the hull and meant that the front net was not useful. That’s really what made me decide to stop. Beyond the performance, the repair of the foils that I managed to do, this need for of safety is too important to put it aside. There are plenty of motor sports where pit stopping is part of the strategy. And now we know this race is down to reliability.”

In his video today Coville said, “Just a few hours ago, I was all alone out at sea in a very heavy swell and strong winds. Two deep low pressure systems were moving in. This was really the Big South. A horrible atmosphere. This morning, as I rounded the SE tip of Tasmania and entered Hobart Bay, I understood that our solo round the world voyage, the Arkea Ultim Challenge, was taking a different turn. We have entered what is more of an adventure.”
“I wasn’t expecting this pit stop. It wasn’t planned and we hadn’t even considered that. We’re on the other side of the world. Completely the other side of the world.”

“Seeing the team turn up, with people I have worked with throughout the year, was highly emotional. In terms of safety, it just wasn’t possible. The pulpit had broken away from the hull, so the forward net could not be used. That’s what really led me to this decision to stop. More than performance and more than repairing the foils, which I managed to do. The question of safety is too important to leave to one side. We are going to try to make the most of this time to give the boat a good check up for the second half of the round the world voyage.

“There are lots of mechanical sports where a pit stop or what some people call a box-box, is part of the race and strategy. That’s the case for the Le Mans 24-Hour Race whether in a car or on a motorbike or F1. In the end, it is also a matter of strategy so that we can set off on the second half of the voyage in the same condition we set off from Brest.  We know now that it is all a question of reliability.”

Speaking of the race leader Coville is effusive in his praise. “What Charles has managed to achieve is maybe something that puts him beyond reach. We were neck and neck with Armel, so that is what we have to play for. We’re trying to adopt the attitude of telling ourselves we are still racing and stay in the mindset of the Arkea Ultim Challenge. We’ll be taking advantage of this pit stop in Tasmania to be able to deal with what lies ahead in the race with all its ups and downs. The race will continue to offer everyone laughter, tears, joy. Obviously I would prefer to be out there speeding along at 35 knots. I am after all a competitor. But sometimes the competitor has to adapt and make the most of the situation. There is bound to be a touch of bitterness. We wonder what if… But it is not a moment of sorrow or pain. We’re certainly not giving up.”

Meantime Armel Le Cléac’h made his own momentary pause off the east coast of Australia, offshore of Eden, he slowed Maxi Banque Populaire XI to three or four knots for a couple of hours to – we are told by his team – make checks on his boat. He arrived at the point at 32 knots and left at similar speeds heading eastwards towards New Zealand. His most direct and fastest routing is through the Cook Strait. All things being equal he seems set to round Cape Horn around a week after Caudrelier. 

Text Credits: ARKEA Ultim Challenge

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