Still four for four in Brest Atlantiques

Published on November 6th, 2019

(November 6, 2019; Day 2) – Thirty hours into racing and all four of the maxi trimarans competing on the 14,000nm Brest Atlantiques race have already reached the latitudes of Gibraltar, most of them averaging around 30 knots with top speeds of at over 40. Ahead lies one gybe to be taken between the Azores and Madeira before a fast surf down to the equator.

After their start yesterday in very rough seas, the four trimarans have now let out reefs in their mainsail as well as raised headsails, taking advantage of favourable wind angles (north-west) and a gradually calming seas, conducive to very fast sailing.

Whilst all raced with care at the start up to the point that two of the four boats, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Franck Cammas/Charles Caudrelier) and Actual Leader (Yves Le Blevec/Alex Pella), chose inshore routes in the Bay of Biscay and a passage east of the DST (traffic separation zone) of Cape Finisterre, they have now all switched to full racing mode, particularly the leaders Trimaran Macif (François Gabart/Gwénolé Gahinet) and Maxi Edmond de Rothschild who have been at full pelt throughout this afternoon, averaging 28-29 knots of boat speed.

Just behind, sailing on a the latitude of Gibraltar (908 miles covered in all by the Trimaran Macif in the 4pm ranking), Sodebo Ultim 3 (Thomas Coville/Jean-Luc Nélias) is not letting go of the leaders, just 54 miles behind, while Actual Leader, who slowed down passing Cape Finisterre in an area of lighter breeze, is now 162 miles away.

“We started flying last night, now we’re surfing at 40 knots, we’re in the lead, it’s cool. We managed not to break anything in the Bay of Biscay and found the right compromise between speed and boat preservation,” said Gabart.

Routing specialist Christian Dumard, who works with the race director, reports how the fleet is currently finishing rounding the Azores high from the south in a sea that has calmed down. “This is what we call a seagull’s wing, then they will gybe, probably at night, between Madeira and the Azores, and head south towards Rio where the first are expected in about 7 days.”

This morning, with the wind irregular in strength and direction, Actual Leader hit a big soft spot, but since then, it’s quite stable and sustained and whilst not very fast, they’ve been making a heading of 220 degrees, averaging 30 knots.

“We have not received any calls, proof that the boats and the sailors are fine,” shared race director Jacques Caraës. “The next challenge for them is to plan for their gybe before heading south. Despite the seas having calmed, things must be shaking around quite a bit on board, they are hitting 40 knots quite often. The fatigue must be setting in as they would not have got much sleep last night and when it shakes around that much, it is hard to get any form of rest.”

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The race sends these doublehanded speedsters on a course from Brest that will turn at Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Cape Town (South Africa) before returning to Brest. The Ultim Class is for trimarans with a maximum length of 32 meters and a maximum width of 23 meters.

The turning marks will see the boats leave to port the chain of Cagarras Islands, in front of the famous Ipanema beach in the Bay of Rio and Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

It is an unprecedented course, lined with several weather traps, especially along The Cape, a route almost never taken in offshore racing.

Each entry will be skippered by four fantastic pairs and accompanied by a media man who is not allowed to take an active role in the performance of the boat. The teams are:

• Actual leader: Yves Le Blévec/Alex Pella
• Maxi Edmond de Rothschild: Franck Cammas/Charles Caudrelier
• Trimaran Macif: François Gabart/Gwénolé Gahinet
• Sodebo Ultim 3: Thomas Coville/Jean-Luc Nélias


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