Route du Rhum: Caudrelier first to finish
Published on November 16th, 2022
(November 16, 2022; Day 8) – In the dark of a Caribbean night to a typically rapturous welcome, French solo skipper Charles Caudrelier on the Ultim 32/32 Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crossed the line off Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe at 05:02:05hrs local time (09:02:05 UTC) this morning.
His was the first boat to finish the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe, the legendary 3,542 nautical mile solo Transatlantic race, which started off Saint-Malo, northern Brittany last Wednesday at 1415hrs.
Caudrelier, a 48-year-old two-time winner of the crewed Volvo Ocean Race, first as crew in the 2011/12 race and then skipper in 2017/18, set a new record for the course with an elapsed time of 6 days 19 hours 47 minutes and 25 seconds, bettering the 7 days 14 hours 21 minutes benchmark set by veteran Francis Joyon in 2018 by 18 hours 34 minutes and 22 seconds.
Upon crossing the line, Caudrelier paid tribute to his team and family, “I’m not even tired. The first 24 hours were hard. I so wanted to win the race for the team. I’ve been dreaming of it since I was young. It’s for the family Rothschild. It seemed like a crazy idea, building a boat that could fly. It’s for Franck Cammas, as he had the experience. Without him I wouldn’t be here.
“He left me the place for the Rhum. He could have won it himself. It’s a Formula 1 team and I just drive in the race. This is a team effort and there’s also Guillaume Verdier, the designer. I recently lost my mother and she isn’t here to share this moment. Thanks to everyone for believing in me.”
Racing his first ever solo multihull race on a giant Ultim 32/23, the hugely experienced Caudrelier held his cool through a nervous final night on the course, during which he spent long periods slowed to two or three knots as he negotiated calms in the lee of Gaudeloupe’s volcanic Basse Terre island.
The 2017 launched Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is the flagship of the French banking family’s Gitana team, and is acknowledged as the most evolved and reliable boat in the Ultim 32/23 class. Caudrelier now adds the highly coveted Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe title to a winning record across all the major Ultim 32/23 offshore and ocean races.
Charles Caudrelier and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild were the pre-race favorites since long before arriving in Saint Malo for the start. The Guillaume Verdier designed Ultim is the class’s most optimized and proven craft. It was the first Ultim 32/23 to fully fly on hydrofoils and since it was launched in 2017 has constantly been updated. Consequently it has remained unbeaten on all the major Ultim races whether single-handed or double handed (Caudrelier with Franck Cammas).
In the earliest hours of the 3542 miles course the support team’s first challenge, after their skipper’s food poisoning, was proving that Caudrelier had not jumped the start gun. Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was one of 17 boats which were judged to have been over the line when the race started off Saint Malo at 1415hrs on Wednesday, November 9th.
By using their on board positioning historic data compared to the precise GPS positioning of the start line buoys Caudrelier’s team proved that Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was 50 meters behind the line when the gun fired. And in the hours of the morning, Caudrelier had confirmation from the International Jury he had no penalty.
With four perfectly placed tacks out past the Pointe de Bretagne, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild left the Bay of Biscay and quickly built a lead in the brisk upwind conditions. A four-way match at the front of the Ultim 32/23 fleet was reduced to three on day two when Armel Le Cléac’h announced he had broken a daggerboard on Maxi Banque Populaire XI and had to pitstop into Lorient.
The Verdier design is known to be very efficient upwind and Caudrelier lost no time in proving it so. He sailed higher and faster and after 30 hours of racing had a 30 miles lead. He was the first through the first stationary cold front which had little wind behind it and so did not offer the usual chance to tack south.
A second front brought 30-35 knots winds with big seas. As he passed the Azores, Caudrelier and his weather routing cell made their only mistake of the race, one which allowed rival François Gabart (SVR-Lazartigue) to get right back into the match.
“We made a little mistake before the front, yesterday. Francois is back. He went straight, I couldn’t. I had to tack four five times which required a considerable amount of energy from me,” said Caudrelier. And for two rankings, on November 12, Gabart was in the lead.
But Caudrelier fought back hard immediately, going north of the islands of Sao Miguel in the Azores archipelago a more direct route than Gabart. Almost immediately he regained the lead and as the wind angles opened to become a fast reaching leg, he made 30 miles back flying at more than 35 knots despite the rough, unruly seas.
At the Azores high pressure system, a light winds hurdle standing before the trade winds, Caudrelier profited when in theory the lighter SVR Lazartigue (Gabart) could have prevailed. But the leader Caudrelier timed his five gybes well and was into the easier, faster final 1000 miles trade winds sprint to Gaudeloupe with a lead of 116 nautical miles. Exhausted he reported, “I’m so tired that I can’t sleep anymore.”
SVR Lazartigue fought back and got to within about sixty miles of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild but although Caudrelier spent long periods slowed to two knots at times on the final circuit of Basse Terre through the dark of the final night he held his nerve and crossed the finish line to earn an historic victory for the French De Rothschild banking and finance family’s Gitana team.
A two times winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, once with friend and mentor Cammas as skipper and in 2018 as skipper, Caudrelier cut his teeth in the Figaro one design class winning La Solitaire du Figaro in 2004. He enjoyed and learned from his experiences in the ‘Anglo Saxon’ world of the crewed Volvo Ocean Race before being appointed Maxi Edmond de Rothschild co-skipper in 2019 along with Cammas.
Tired but clearly with adrenalin still racing through his veins, Charles Caudrelier delivered his winning thoughts like machine gun fire, responding rapidly, comprehensively and factually to all the questions which came his way from minutes after the finish gun until the end of his Press Conference.
Caudrelier paid tribute to his weather routing cell dream team – Erwan Israel and long time friend, mentor and co-skipper Franck Cammas – who both have tens of thousands of miles of experience sailing on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, American uber-brain Stan Honey who routed Cammas and Caudrelier to a big Transat Jacques Vabre win last year, and Figaro and IMOCA ace Morgan Lagraviere who replaced Cammas as co-skipper and was lined up as replacement skipper.
He also acknowledged the hard work of the whole Gitana team – a complete operation of 20- 25 members – especially in optimising the Verdier design and making the boat reliable, again paying tribute to Cammas technical expertise and eye for detail. Here is the best of what was said.
Erwan Israel, weather router and navigator, “Charles was often very tired. He didn’t follow and understand all of the fine detail of the weather and left himself to be guided, even if he didn’t understand all the choices. In terms of strategy, it was complicated. There were two options but no one wanted to go into 50 knots of wind. So the multihulls opted to go south, but it wasn’t an easy choice.
“Charles was so fast during our training that we didn’t want to give any opportunity to the others. That’s why we were keen off the start line to keep SVR and Sodebo in check. But then, the time came when we needed to tackle the second front and we were pleased with our route to windward of Sao Miguel, which gave us an advantage.”
Franck Cammas on his role and Caudrelier’s win, “It’s only fitting. Experiencing the race ashore or at sea isn’t the same thing. He helped me win the race by routing for me (in 2010). When you’re ashore doing this, I have discovered you don’t get much sleep either and it’s very complicated. But we have more information and can take our time talking it over ashore with Erwan and Stan, which really was a great experience for me. This is a team effort and we lived it as if we were aboard.”
Team Director Cyril Dardashian said, “It’s a great moment for everyone. The result of many years of work. Four years ago we thought the boat could win the Route du Rhum, but her bow broke. Charles has shown us now that it was possible. It’s down to everyone involved in this project and down to Charles’s rigor and concentration.”
Caudrelier on winning added, “It’s a race that means a lot to me. I was lucky that three years ago when I was told I could take part. Winning the Rhum aboard a multihullis a great moment for a sailor. Pictures of Laurent Bourgnon and this Rhum race always inspired me. More than the Vendée Globe. It was such a battle with the boat to begin with because of the weather and the size of these boats. Then, the battle with François as he sailed so well.
“I managed to eat well and found the right rhythm, but at the start I had cramps in my arms and that stomach upset or allergy. With these boats, it’s a sprint, rather than a long race. I haven’t had to get the toolkit out. The boat was so well prepared. I’m just the Sunday driver. And I associate this victory with Franck. Without him, we wouldn’t have this win. We share this win.”
Regarding the new record Caudrelier said, “This boat is completely different from Francis’ boat which is ten years old, so beating his record doesn’t mean much.”
“I never get the timing right. I could have finished at 8 in the evening. I regret not finishing during the day. A fantastic start in Saint-Malo and now a fantastic welcome in Guadeloupe. This is the pinnacle of my sailing career. An incredible battle with François Gabart who kept the pace up. I hadn’t realized how hard we would push. I’ve never seen anything like it sailing solo.
“I didn’t really do much with the weather. I left that to the routers. I could see François was fast, so I just kept on it and it was very tiring. I didn’t think he would push his new boat so hard. At the start my arms were sore with the effort and I had cramps, but I never felt completely exhausted and I just couldn’t get to sleep.
“The boat is so much bigger than an IMOCA or Class 40 and the physical dimension that much more important. But, winning the Solitaire was my biggest achievement. You are alone doing everything. This was a team effort, but being out on the boat alone. Here I’m proud to have got 100% out of the boat.”
“There was one moment when I was grabbing some rest in 25 knots of wind, when the autopilot failed. I had to leap out and correct things. That was when I saw that the wind was up to 33. The race could have finished there.”
François Gabart, the runner up in 2018 who had victory wrested from his grasp by Joyon in the final miles of the race, was on course to finish second and was around 30 miles behind when Caudrelier crossed the finish line.
Gabart took second place in the Ultim 32/23 class on the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe when he brought his SVR Lazartigue through the Pointe-à-Pitre finish line at 12:18:15hrs UTC today (08:18:15hrs local). He finished in an elapsed time of 6 days, 23 hours, 3 minutes and 15 seconds, 3 hours 15 minutes and 50 seconds after class winner Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild).
It is the second time in successive races that the French ocean racing star has finished runner up on the classic solo Transatlantic. In 2018 he was denied victory by Francis Joyon who won the 3542 nautical miles course by seven minutes after 7 days and 14 hours of racing.
Sodebo Ultim 3, skippered by Thomas Coville, finished in third place completing the Ultim podium at 19 52 25hrs TU (15 25 25hrs local) after 7 days 6hrs 37 mins and 25 secs, Coville finished third for the fourth time in a multihull (third in ORMA in 2006, third in Ultim in both 2010 and 2018). He won won the event in a monohull in 2002.
Coville is inherently a little slower than the two leaders but Sodebo Ultim 3 was still in the match, to the delight of its skipper. He was not very comfortable upwind at the start of the race and had some excellent downwind spells but was just not able to keep up the very high averages of the first two, Caudrelier and Gabart.
Coville was 180 miles from Caudrelier when the winner docked at the victory pontoon this morning but Sodebo Ultim 3 caught a fishing net when racing down the east of the island and had to battle for more than two hours to get free. He had to stop the boat completely but he was rewarded with a full blast finish at more than 30kts in the Gaudeloupe sunshine and tradewinds.
Tragically, as the first boat was finishing in Guadeloupe’s bay of Pointe-à-Pitre, a motor boat which was carrying 11 people capsized. The circumstances surrounding the accident are still undetermined, but it caused the tragic deaths of two people who were on board, both employees of OC Sport Pen Duick, the company which organizes the four-yearly transatlantic sailing race from Saint-Malo to Gaudeloupe.
“All our thoughts go out to the families of our two employees and to all of the profoundly affected members of our teams,” said Hervé Favre, President of OC Sport Pen Duick.
OC Sport Pen Duick’s teams, the main partners of the event – the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, the city of Saint-Malo and Saint-Malo Agglomeration, Brittany Region, the CIC – and all the stakeholders of the organisation, share the immense pain of the families and send them their deepest and sincere condolences.
• Skippers that have retired: Sam Goodchild (Leyton – Ocean Fifty) after being injured during the pre-start phase, Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG Mori Global One – IMOCA) following a collision off Cape Fréhel, Oren Nataf (Rayon Vert – Rhum Multi) with a ripped mainsail, Antoine Magré (E.Leclerc Ville-La-Grand – Class40) after hitting the rocks off the island of Batz, Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil – IMOCA), Victor Jost (Caisses Reunionnaises Complementaires – Class 40), Martin Louchart (Randstad-Ausy – Class40), Geoffrey Matacyznski (Fortissimo – Class 40), Laurent Camprubi (Glaces Romane – Class40), Thibaut Vauchel-camus (Solidaires En Peloton – ARSEP – Ocean Fifty), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallee – IMOCA), Fabrice Amedeo (Nexans – Art & Fenêtres – IMOCA) after a fire broke out aboard his Imoca, Amelie Grassi (La Boulangere Bio – Class40), François Jambou, (A l’Aveugle – Trim Control – Class40) after dismasting, Aurelien Ducroz (Crosscall – Class40), Jean-Pierre Balmes (FullSave – Class40) due to problems with his ballast tanks and staysail hook, Brieuc Maisonneuve (CMA Ide-de-france 60 000 Rebonds – Rhum Multi), Ivica Kostelic (ACI – Class40) due to technical problems, including the loss of his wind gear.
In the 44 year history of the Route du Rhum, there has never been so many solo skippers planning to start November 6 (now delayed) as in 2022. On this 12th edition, 138 solo racers with compete on the classic race which leaves Saint-Malo, France and heads across the Atlantic to Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe.
Six divisions will compete, beginning with the eight entries in the Ultims and eight in the Ocean Fifty division. Thirty-seven IMOCAs will be there, 55 Class40s as well as 16 in the Rhum Multi (64-feet and less) category and 14 in Rhum Mono (39+ feet) fleets.
Among the competitors, 5% (7) are women across the IMOCA, Class40, and Rhum Mono. Fourteen nationalities will be represented, including Japanese and Chinese skippers. In total, 20% of the participants are from outside France. Half of the French skippers are either residents or natives of Brittany where the race starts from, while there are also 6% Guadeloupeans among the competitors.
Source: OC Sport Pen Duick