Trouble in the Brest Atlantiques

Published on November 14th, 2019

(November 14, 2019; Day 10) – It was a hectic day for the four doublehanded maxi trimarans of the Ultim Class competing in the 14,000nm Brest Atlantiques.

With the focus on the turning mark off Rio de Janeiro, leading maxi trimaran MACIF (François Gabart/Gwénolé Gahinet) made the turn before beginning a 19-hour technical stopover in the Bay of Rio to replace their broken central rudder. Taking over the lead was Sodebo Ultim 3 (Thomas Coville/Jean-Luc Nélias), which began a southeasterly course toward the next turn off South Africa.

Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Franck Cammas/Charles Caudrelier), which had earlier endured a pitstop in Salvador de Bahia to replace its daggerboard, was third at the mark but now in second due to MACIF’s stop, with MACIF returning to the course in time to remain in front of Actual Leader (Yves Le Blévec/Alex Pella).

However, with Sodebo Ultim 3 holding a 200 mile margin over Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, the leading duo suddenly changed course, turning toward Rio, deciding the weather was too rough for the Atlantic crossing.

“They’re now looking at the best route to Cape Town, one that is a compromise between safety and performance,” their team explained. Race director Jacques Caraës added: “They felt that the conditions were too rough to continue in a southeasterly direction. Thomas chose to alter their course in order to protect the boat; they will now lie low before setting off again.”

So what exactly were the conditions like?

“The route that was becoming obvious would mean encountering a depression that was heading southeast,” explains Christian Dumard, weather consultant for Brest Atlantiques. “The boat would have had to maintain high average speeds in these conditions, to avoid getting caught upwind between the depression and the sea ice drift areas. They probably decided not to take the risk in order to protect the boat.”

The three remaining duos are taking a more easterly course than had been chosen by Sodebo Ultim 3, but this has them sailing nearly upwind, with the risk of that course taking them toward the famously fickle winds of the St. Helena High which resides in the South Atlantic.

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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

Source: BREST ULTIM SAILING

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