Boisterous start for the Ultim fleet
The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and her three rivals in the Brest Atlantiques set sail from Brest in NW Brittany this Tuesday 5 November bang on 10:00 UTC. It was a discreet start with a line positioned 20 miles offshore, not far off the Chaussée de Sein, but a start that will go down in history due to its particularly boisterous weather conditions. The four 32-metre giants, carrying solely a reefed mainsail (no headsail), yet powered up to speeds bordering on 30 knots in raging seas of nearly 5 metres provided a rather unique backdrop. After a cautious start to the race, midway through the afternoon the Cammas / Caudrelier duo were positioned in 2nd place, just a few miles shy of Macif, which was sailing more aggressively over the first few miles en route to Cape Finisterre.
48 hours down the track
The four crews competing in the 1st edition of the Brest Atlantiques made no secret of their eagerness to cast off after the 48-hour delay imposed on them by the passage of storm Amelie along the Atlantic seaboard. “We've been waiting for it for a long while, so it's time to get going with it now” explained Charles Caudrelier, focused but relaxed on his arrival aboard the boat in the early hours. Franck Cammas followed close behind, just as happy to finally be able to get his teeth into this race.
At the head of the pontoon at Quai Malbert, the crew on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was logically the first to bid farewell to the public from 06:30 UTC this morning and head out to sea, quickly followed by Actual Leader, Sodebo Ultim and Macif. However, it was not the time for a parade as the conditions expected outside Brest harbour called for the utmost vigilance and concentration from the sailors. But no matter, it's offshore, very much in their element, that the maxi-multihulls put on a showstopping spectacle with a fast and furious start. Though the images speak for themselves, conjuring up a whole plethora of superlatives, witnessing such machines setting sail on a 14,000-mile race under reefed mainsail alone remains a particularly stressful moment, as much for the sailors aboard the boats as for the teams who have been working flat out to fine-tune and prepare these jewels of technology that are the latest generation Ultims.
Hunkering down as far as Finisterre
Marcel Van Triest is the weather router for the men on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and, permanently connected to the crew throughout the race, he sets the scene at the race start as the giant with five arrows sits patiently off the Chaussée de Sein: “For 10:00 UTC, the grib files are still giving us 27-30 knots of breeze at 340 degrees, gusting to 35 knots. On the start zone, the seas will be 4 to 4.5 metres. Very soon after the start though, around thirty minutes, conditions will become tougher with around 30-33 knots of breeze, gusting to over 40 knots, and waves potentially reaching 6 metres. It's a tricky moment for this race start, where managing the gear will be a priority.”
“We're going to need to be cautious, there's fairly tough weather in store in the Bay of Biscay. It's not so much the wind as the sea that will be uncomfortable for us in the opening hours of racing. In the Route du Rhum, when the boats broke, there was 4.5-metre seas and here we're talking about 6 metres... Once we've negotiated this section, we have a very fine weather window ahead of us with some very fast conditions at least as far as the equator. As such, we need to be reasonable in the first few hours. It's a very long race and it's not very serious to be a bit behind or a little slower than our playmates in these conditions!” assured Charles Caudrelier.
So you've got it, the objectives for the Cammas / Caudrelier duo couldn't be clearer for the first few hours of the Brest Atlantiques: to extricate themselves from the Bay of Biscay without incident and without damaging their fine steed, so as they are then in a position to exploit the potential of the latest addition to the Gitana fleet as best they can in what is forecast to be a very favourable sequence of weather systems.
At 17:00 UTC, after just seven hours of racing, front runners Macif and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had already covered over 200 miles and are set to round Cape Finisterre, at the NW tip of Spain at around 19:00 UTC.
The Brest Atlantiques has kept us waiting, but this race start is certainly living up to its high expectations.
Order of passage across the start line
- Sodebo Ultim 3
- Maxi Edmond de Rothschild
- Actual Leader
Ranking on Tuesday 5 November 14:30 UTC
- MACIF (François Gabart / Gwenolé Gahinet / Jérémie Eloi) - distance to the goal: 13,611.1 milles - average speed over the last 30 mins: 32 knots
- MAXI EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD (Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier / Yann Riou) - 3.5 miles behind the leader - average speed over the last 30 mins: 30.9 knots
- SODEBO ULTIM 3 (Thomas Coville / Jean-Luc Nelias / Martin Keruzoré) - 11.7 miles behind the leader - average speed over the last 30 mins: 28.7 nœuds
- ACTUAL LEADER (Yves Le Blevec / Alex Pella / Ronan Gladu) - 29.2 miles behind the leader - average speed over the last 30 mins: 21.7 knots