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Poor get richer in Brest Atlantiques

Published on November 19th, 2019

(November 19, 2019; Day 15) – After two weeks at sea, it’s now becoming extremely close on the 14,000nm Brest Atlantiques as the fleet of four 32m maxi trimarans race towards the next mark off Cape Town. The duos bringing up the rear have been able to take advantage of favorable conditions, now that the Saint Helena High has moved north.

This was not the case for Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Franck Cammas/Charles Caudrelier), currently leading the race, which had to make six gybes and is expected to arrive in Cape Town tomorrow evening. This will be the second and final race mark, and where the fourth trimaran, Sodebo Ultim 3, is expected to stop about ten hours later.

Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias will stop to take a closer look at the damage to their starboard rudder before sailing round Robben Island. They’ll leave the island on the port side before attacking the return route to the finish in Brittany.

Spirits are high on Actual Leader, despite Yves Le Blevec and Alex Pella struggling after Rio when they had to battle through strong winds and turbulent seas for three days. This put a lot of strain on their trimaran, which is less streamlined than the others. The second phase of the South Atlantic, however, will be much smoother. On each position report, they seem to be edging closer and closer to the leaders of the fleet.

What’s the reason for this? Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, the first to arrive at the Ice Exclusion Zone, found themselves caught under the Saint Helena high, and this forced them to tack with a light wind behind them. This afternoon, the two skippers were making their fifth gybe, while behind them MACIF (François Gabart/Gwénolé Gahinet), in second position by 135 miles, made two gybes. Thanks to the gradual move northwards of the high, Actual Leader and Sodebo Ultim 3 were able to sail straight ahead without gybing at all!

Yves Le Blevec and Alex Pella, who are taking advantage of the current conditions, are going the fastest they have since leaving Brest (31.25 knots between 8am and 4pm). They also benefited from the forced delay of Sodebo Ultim 3 to take third place.

“Obviously, we’re satisfied with our current position, as we’ve been able to maintain a decent pace and keep up with our competitors, taking advantage of every opportunity,” said Yves Le Blevec. “We’ve been following this strategy since the beginning.”

The two skippers had to fight hard at the beginning of the Rio-Cape Town crossing, but their determination has paid off. Even so, the skipper from La Trinité-sur-Mer spoke of “not being too complacent”, adding: “We still have a long way to go, the game is still anyone’s and so we can’t get ahead of ourselves at this stage.”

François Gabart shares this opinion, as he told the Macif team today: “The situation benefited us compared to Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. We don’t want to speak too soon, but there is still a lot to do. In any case, it’s a very tight race. Actual Leader are 200 miles behind us, so it’s a pleasant surprise after 15 days at sea.”

Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is expected to arrive at the turning mark by Wednesday evening.

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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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