“I think we’ve all come a long way in four years, but we’re still struggling with feet of clay.“Explains Thomas Coville to AFP. On board his Sodebo Ultim 3, he is one of the favorites in the famous solo transatlantic race.
This year, eight out of the 138 skippers at the start set sail aboard these sailboats, the stars of the cruise, which can reach up to fifty knots on the water (93 km/h). In 2018″ the class had been fairly dismissed after the injury that struck some competitors. Of course we have been through ups and downs “Acknowledges Coville.
Of the five candidates, Francis Joyon (Idec Sport) had won the race on the wire ahead of François Gabart’s Macif. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) had capsized and lost his boat, while Sebastien Josse (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) and Coville had been damaged. A mixed record for boats whose construction costs exceed ten million euros.
The unknown Gabart
But in four years, these ultra-modern sailboats, which can rise above the water thanks to side hangers (foils), have become more resilient, according to the skippers.
“This capsize was a source of knowledge. We worked a lot on safety, the reliability of the structure. We can fly and maintain a stability that we didn’t necessarily have before“, explains Le Cléa’ch.
Transat Jacques Vabre 2021 and Finistère Atlantique 2022 proved that these giants of the sea could finish races in good condition. “ We are no longer exploring. There are many years of settings on the clock says Charles Caudrelier, winner of these two competitions at the helm of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, the most proven trimaran on the net.
You can fly and maintain a stability that you didn’t necessarily have before.
On the eve of the start, François Gabart cannot say the same. It will be the first time the 39-year-old skipper will run a major solo race on his SVR-Lazartigue, launched in July 2021. We’re still getting to know each other, it’s still in the reliability phase he says.
In addition, the navigator has almost never measured himself against the other three favorites in the class, because the two camps are in conflict about the conformity of his boat.
After a soap opera of several months, Gabart was finally allowed to participate by justice. On the pontoons of Saint-Malo we now want to focus on the race, the best opportunity to shine in the public eye for these multihulls when the Vendée Globe is reserved for Imoca monohulls.
Measure around the world
“This Route du Rhum is an opportunity to give way to competition” says Patricia Brochard, president of the Ultim class. A competition that first hinted at the possibility of establishing, for one of these sailors, the record for crossing the Atlantic, held since 2018 by Francis Joyon in 7 days 14 hours 21 minutes.
But the weather forecast, especially “ muscular from Monday, appears to have dampened the skippers’ hopes. “ These are not favorable conditions… Let’s just say that if I were to try for the record, I wouldn’t start on Sunday “Summaries Gabart.
“We have a certainty of bad weather (…) the boats must be ready to face the weather. But the chance to have a good run is always there“, according to Joyon.
After the Route du Rhum, the giants of the seas will have a new goal: a solo race around the world, announced from Brest at the end of 2023.
Five favorites among Ultims
1. Charles Caudrelier in good form
For his first participation, the skipper of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is the big favourite. The 48-year-old Breton has won almost everything since 2019, including the prestigious Transat Jacques Vabre last year with Franck Cammas. It has one of the fastest and most proven boats on the board, launched in 2017.
2. Armel Le Cléac’h in ambush
In recent races, the Maxi Banque Populaire XI managed by Armel Le Cléac’h has often followed Caudrelier. Only the Route du Rhum is missing from the list of prizes for the 45-year-old skipper from Finistère. But his last attempt in 2018 ended in a violent shipwreck two days after the start.
3. François Gabart what a surprise
It will be the first time that François Gabart, 39, takes part in a major solo race on his SVR-Lazartigue, launched in July 2021. His boat is the most modern of the eight maxi trimarans on the starting line. and one of the fastest.
4. Thomas Coville as regular man
Great connoisseur of Route du Rhum – this will be his 7the participation – the 54-year-old Rennais readily admits that Charles Caudrelier leaves with “a small advantage»on the other competitors. Her Maxi Sodebo Ultim 3 experienced some backlash after her launch in March 2019, but “the boat has progressed enormouslysince then, he claimed.
5. Francis Joyon the Insatiable
2018 surprise winner Francis Joyon, 66, can he do it again? His sailboat does not reach the top speeds of the other Ultims, but it is reliable and withstands bad weather well.