Strapped to an ocean-crossing rocketship

Published on October 19th, 2022

The IMOCA is the elite offshore monohull class, and now with foiling blades, the 60-footer attracts a lot of attention in the shorthanded world. However, it lives in the shade of the Ultim 32/23 Class, an enormous multihull that unfathomably is sailed by just one person.

At 32m long and 23m wide, and also foiling, the Ultim skipper is strapped to an ocean-crossing rocketship.

It is not a stretch to say France is the undisputed leader in shorthanded sailing, so it is not a shock to see French skippers on all eight Ultim 32/23 entrants for the 2022 Route du Rhum to start November 6. Theirs is in effect a battle flying over the water, only their foils scything through the oceans on an incredible sprint across the Atlantic.

Spanning the transatlantic from France to Guadeloupe, this 3543nm course is held every four years and is a massive event in the shorthanded calendar. With the most recent Ultims maintaining flight for sustained, long periods, it is likely the record, set in the previous race by Francis Joyon (7 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes), will be broken.

Among the six competing classes, the Ultim 32/23 will set the pace among the contenders for the final victory. Four years ago, after Francis Joyon narrowly beat François Gabart, the two skippers return again for battle. Gabart likes his chance this time, now racing SVR-Lazartigue which was launched in July 2021 with good results.

“My last solo race was on the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe 2018,” admits Gabart. “It is a challenge that is both physical and mental and the two are inseparable, it is my vision of the search for excellence and performance. It remains an extraordinary privilege to sail solo on these boats.”

The defending champion Joyon returns with IDEC, a remarkable boat which has won all of the last three editions (in 2014 under the colors of Banque Populaire and in 2010 with Groupama). The veteran Joyon takes up the incredible challenge of taking a second consecutive victory, a feat that only Laurent Bourgnon has succeeded in a multihull before him (1992, 1998).

“I know I have a slim chance of winning, even though this is the 17th year for my boat,” smiles Francis Joyon.

To watch a video about the Ultim 32/23, click here.

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