Superfast World Tour: Caudrelier will win, but he’s already lost (to Gabart)

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Gitana by Charles Caudrelier

The super challenge between mega trimarans, the Arkea Ultim Challenge, is now in its final throes, at least as far as first position is concerned. Charles Caudrelier with Gitana Edmond de Rothschild is now a few hundred miles from Brest, on the 50th day of sailing, and will end the challenge in first position. Behind him, but detached by 2,000 miles, is Thomas Coville, followed by Armel Le Cleac’h.

The difference with François Gabart‘s time in 2017, which set the circumnavigation record in 42 days, immediately jumps out. It’s been 7 years, with the related technological developments, but in this Arkea Ultim Challenge the first one’s time is significantly worse than the 2017 record, not to mention the other competitors much further behind.

Record sailing and Ultim, what has changed since 2017?

Making a clear-cut comparison between Gabart’s record and the 2024 Arkea Ultim would be misleading, because it is difficult if not impossible for the weather conditions of two different attempts to overlap. Gabart with Macif in 2017 encountered optimal conditions for much of the course, so much so that he even set a 24-hour record with 818 miles traveled.

The same cannot be said of Arkea; Caudrelier had to slow down at Cape Horn because of a major depression, and then stop at the Azores to avoid another. in general, however, even before Cape Horn, it seemed really difficult to be able to aspire to Gabart’s 42 days. Yet in 2017 foils for flying in the Ocean were only at the very first version, and then came many evolutions. Maybe too many?

The feeling is that these giants have become really fragile in trying to do 100% foiling in the Ocean. This makes it difficult to express their full potential when the weather becomes harsh, while they perform best in trade wind conditions. The top speeds of today’s Ultim are higher than those of 2017, but it is the consistency over a round-the-world trip, or nearly 30,000 miles, that makes the difference, and thus especially the reliability. For a class that represents the technological frontier of the ocean sailing movement, making such a far cry from 2017 times dictates at least some reflection.

Mauro Giuffrè

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