Arkea Ultim Challenge: Strong storm coming, Caudrelier takes refuge in Azores


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Gitana sailing in winds over 30 knots

The record around the world is now out of reach, but the Arkea Ultim Challenge looks like it could deliver a finale with a few surprises. Charles Caudrelier, who has been in the lead since the early days of this race reserved for Ultim maxi trimarans, is now about 48 hours away from arriving in Brest, but the weather seems to have different ideas for him than a smooth finish. A huge depression will in fact enter the Bay of Biscay making it stormy and impassable, and with the record now gone for Caudrelier the most important thing is to get his Gitana Edmond de Rotschild to the finish line safely, and possibly in first place.

For this reason, Caudrelier decided to make a technical stopover in the Azores, where he will be on standby about 24 hours to assess the best weather window to cover the last 1,200 miles. The rivals are far behind at the moment, but watch out because Thomas Coville with Sodebo, who is 2,000 miles behind Caudrelier for now, will go almost half as far. It may not be enough to engage in a final duel, but certainly at that point the leader cannot afford any more missteps.

Ultim – What trimarans!

Let’s start with a firm point: the Ultim are not one-design trimarans, but they do have a class rule that defines the maximum dimensions within which designers can move, namely that 32×23 (length and width), which is the upper limit beyond which you cannot go. Smaller trimarans are also recognized in the class, such as former MOD 70s like Maserati, which is almost 2 meters smaller than the latest generation ultimates.

The class was born in 2014, and there are currently 16 Ultim in the world in operation, many of them in France. A watershed regatta for the class was the 2018 Route du Rhum, where the first real foils appeared, initially adopted only by Edmond de Rotschild and Banque Populaire.


To follow all the new Ultim were equipped with foils, that have made these flying boats, in fact, a somewhat complex exercise to do in the Ocean, and not without risk, not surprisingly in the first experiments there were numerous failures and only now do the Ultim guarantee full reliability on the foils. The original appendages were almost straight, then came the C-shape drifts, but it is since the introduction of L-shape foils that mileage averages have increased dramatically, even comfortably topping 700 miles in 24 hours.

Ultim – What regattas do they participate in

Ultim are eligible for the French transatlantic classics such as the Route du Rhum and the Transat Jacques Vabre, but they can also participate, for example, in regattas such as the Fastnet where they are often present. Then there are records dedicated to them, such as that of the Jules Verne Trophy, the fastest time around the world, currently held by Francois Gabart solo (42 days) and Francis Joyon crewed (40 days).



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