Route du Rhum: Caudrelier’s dream race

Published on November 17th, 2022

(November 17, 2022; Day 9) – Growing up in Brittany with posters on his wall of winners of the mythical solo Transatlantic race, the dream which French skipper Charles Caudrelier has held since he was a youngster came true yesterday, when the 48-year-old crossed the finish line of the 12th edition of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe first in the early hours of the morning.

Caudrelier brought an immaculately prepared and executed race to a triumphant end when he sailed the De Rothschilds’ Gitana racing team’s Ultim 32/23 Maxi Edmond de Rothschild through the finish line off Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe at 05:02:05hrs local time (09:02:05 UTC).

After starting off Saint-Malo at the head of a record sized fleet of 138 boats in six classes last Wednesday, Caudrelier and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild completed the 3,542 nautical mile course in a new record time of 6 days 19 hours 47 minutes and 25 seconds, bettering the 7 days 14 hours 21 mark set in 2018 by Frances Joyon by 18 hours 34 minutes and 22 seconds.

Armed with what is universally considered to be the benchmark in the rarefied world of no-holds barred giant 32m long Ultim 32/23 class multihulls, Caudrelier added to the boat’s remarkable winning record, one which includes last year’s two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race to Martinique which he won this time last year with long time close friend, mentor and co-skipper Franck Cammas.

Supported by a dream team of weather routers working round the clock ashore – comprising of Cammas and American ace Stan Honey as well as the giant Gitana multi’s usual navigator Erwan Israel and former Figaro and IMOCA racer Morgan Lagraviere – Caudrelier described himself as “just the driver, like in a motor racing team”. He was only momentarily passed, at the Azores, by his nearest rival François Gabart on SVR Lazartigue but responded by passing fast to the north through the island group, opening his lead out to over 110 miles and was never passed again.

In yesterday’s early morning Caribbean sunshine at the victory dock Caudrelier said, “This is a race that means a lot to me. Three years ago, when I was told I would take part as skipper I was thrilled. Winning the Rhum aboard a multihull is a great moment for a sailor. Pictures of Laurent Bourgnon and the Route du Rhum race always inspired me, much more even than the Vendée Globe.”

He expanded, “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 Gabart, 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 a real stomach upset or allergy.”

“With these boats, it’s a sprint, rather than a long race. I haven’t had to get the toolbox 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 together.”

He lived through some nervous moments, as Route du Rhum-Destination Guadleoupe leaders usually do when finishing through the capricious light breezes in the hours of darkness on the lee of the volcanic mountains of Basse Terre. After coming off second in a nail biting final slow motion match race with Joyon in 2018, Gabart could not catch Caudrelier yesterday morning. Even though he cut a 90-mile lead to less than 30, he still finished 3 hours 15 minutes and 50 seconds behind Caudrelier.

Caudrelier won the La Solitaire du Figaro in 2004 a victory he still today described as his most valued pure solo success, saying at the time, “maybe I have finally become a great sailor,” after holding off a sustained attack from Yann Eliès. With his close friend Gildas Morvan, he won the BPE Trophy race between Saint-Nazaire and Dakar in Africa on the Figaro and the Round Brittany Race in 2001.

He also sailed a lot on the 52-foot one-design Veolia Océans boat Bostik which he skippered and tested all the way to New Zealand. And multihull racing from 2004 to 2006, he was part of the crew of Pascal Bidégorry’s ORMA trimaran, Banque Populaire IV and was crew on the giant Banque Populaire V – the world’s largest racing multihull. He registered a first of three Transat Jacques Vabre wins in 2009 in the IMOCA class with Marc Guillemot and won again, in Gitana team colours on the MOD70 with Seb Josse in 2017.

As part of a migration of French elite sailors taken by the challenge of the Volvo Ocean Race, Caudrelier competed on the crewed round the world race three times. He won with Cammas skippering Groupama in 2011 and then finished third on his first time as skipper in 2015 before memorably leading Dongfeng to win the closest ever race in 2017-18.

He paid a tribute to rival Gabart who kept the pace up on a boat he was racing for the first time, saying, “I hadn’t realized how hard we would push. I’ve never seen anything like it sailing solo.”

Recognizing the winning contribution of his weather team he said, “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 though I just couldn’t get to sleep.”

And of the effort required to run these giant Ultims solo he said, “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.”

Sailing at an average speed of 25.42 knots (real speed) and after 7 days 6 hours 37 minutes and 25 seconds, Thomas Coville crossed the finish at 1852hrs UTC to take third place. The skipper of Sodebo Ultim 3 finished ten hours and fifty minutes after the winner, Charles Caudrelier.

Please note, the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe organization is in mourning, after reporting yesterday of the tragic deaths of two people onboard a spectator boat that capsized as the first boat was finishing the 12th Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in Guadeloupe’s bay of Pointe-à-Pitre. Our press service is resuming progressively.

• 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

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