Transat Jacques Vabre, final straight before the call of the open ocean
Moored in the Bassin de l’Eure at the heart of Le Havre in north-east France since last Thursday, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is patiently awaiting the green light alongside four more ULTIMs, which make up the fleet of giants in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023. For its 30th anniversary, tickets to compete in the Coffee Route are all sold out with more than ninety-five duos entered into four classes, which equates to nearly two hundred sailors setting sail for Martinique, where the finish of this major transatlantic race is now decided. A triple event champion since his notable victory in ULTIM in 2021 alongside Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier is defending his title at the helm of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. This year, he’ll be accompanied by Erwan Israël, Gitana Team’s talented navigator and router, who will make his double-handed transatlantic debut in a few days.
Epic boat, epic course

A multi-class transatlantic par excellence, with every category celebrating its winner, the Transat Jacques Vabre has conjured up four different courses, with a respective route for each registered class.

The ULTIMs with their XXL dimensions, 32 metres long by 23 metres wide, will benefit from a course on a par with their performance capabilities: 7,500 nautical miles to cover from the North to the South Atlantic, which is the equivalent of two transatlantic passages! The 2023 course is likely to be as comprehensive as it is demanding: after setting sail from Le Havre and the famous exit from the English Channel, the duos will link straight onto a classic yet tricky descent of the North Atlantic, at which point they’ll make their first passage through the doldrums punctuated by the constraint of a course mark at the São Paulo e São Pedro archipelago. From there, they’ll quickly switch across to the southern hemisphere bound for Ascension Island, which will mark the turning point for the ULTIMs as they sprint for the finish. However, there will still be a long way to go with a second passage through the inter-tropical convergence zone and a lengthy tack along the northern coast of Latin America before the duos can finally savour a finish in Fort-de-France, at the foot of Mount Pelée.

“The Transat Jacques Vabre is one of my favourite races! This is the event where I first got into offshore racing, on a monohull initially, then a multihull, and where I’ve secured some of my finest victories. The course and the double-handed format enable us to really get the true potential out of our machines, which always gives rise to some hotly disputed races. The first section of the course will have a particularly special flavour because in a few months’ or indeed weeks’ time, I’ll be sailing in the same area single-handed in the Arkea Ultim Challenge,”explains Charles Caudrelier.

A lively start on the horizon?

With five days until the race sets sail, at 13:05 hours local time on 29 October for the front runners, the sailors are still making the most of their last few moments on land and responding to media requests, but already the weather and scrutiny of its developments are taking up a large part of the sailors’ head space. “It’s not shaping up to be a classic configuration, but for now the weather models are not in agreement. It’s moving around a lot over Europe and in the North Atlantic so we’ll have to wait a bit longer for things to settle down and become more refined,”admitted Charles Caudrelier. Despite all that, there does seem to be a trend emerging for the start of the race: “It will be unsettled to very unsettled,” which translates as potentially boisterous conditions in the opening miles. “The Azores High is not in her usual position, leaving trains of depressions to roll around the North Atlantic, whilst pushing back the trade wind quite far south. It promises to be an interesting configuration in terms of route choices.”

The Edmond de Rothschild duo

A very familiar face on the start line of the Transat Jacques Vabre, with three wins out of six participations (2009 in Imoca, 2013 in Multi70 and 2021 in ULTIM), Charles Caudrelier is delighted to be back on the pontoons of Normandy. For Erwan Israël, his co-skipper in this 16th Coffee Route, it is a whole new journey of discovery. Not only has the sailor never participated in this race before, it is also his first major transatlantic, in double-handed format, and in ULTIM.

“I’m really happy to being doing this race with Erwan! He’s very calm, very chilled whatever the circumstances, whilst I’m a little more tense… that creates a good balance. We have the same way of trimming the boats and we have the same vision of the tempo required on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. With Erwan, it’s a different way of working than the way I had with Franck. This is more of an exchange of ideas and the decision making may well be debated a little less,” says Charles Caudrelier smiling.

Charles Caudrelier

Skipper, 7th participation

Since 2019, Charles Caudrelier has been the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. At the helm of this revolutionary flying maxi-trimaran, the sailor with one of the finest track records in offshore racing has won it all, culminating in the winner’s crown and the event record in last November’s Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe 2022 after 6 days 19 hours 47 min 25 seconds of racing. A brilliant victory, it showcased the sailor’s massive talent and treated Gitana Team to a double event win after its victory in this legendary race in 2006. Over the next few months, the skipper will take on another extraordinary challenge: the first single-handed round the world race for large offshore flying trimarans. An amazing and unprecedented sporting and human challenge Charles is due to set sail on 7 January 2024.

Extracts from the major victories in his track record

- 1 x Solitaire du Figaro 2004
- 3 x Transat Jacques Vabres (2009, 2013, 2021)
- 2 x Volvo Ocean Races (2011-2012 // 2017-2018)
- 1 x Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe (2022)
- Sailor of the year 2018

  Aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

- Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 and 2021
- Brest Atlantiques 2019
- Drheam Cup 2020
- Transat Jacques Vabre 2021
- Finistère Atlantique – Challenge - Action Enfance 2022
- 24H Ultim
- Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe 2022

Erwan Israël

Co-skipper, Transat Jacques Vabre debut

Trained at the Olympic school in the south of France (Laser), Erwan Israël boasts an eclectic career and track record: cruiser-racing, match racing, Figaro, circumnavigations of the globe, records… his experience is diverse and extensive! Dabbling in everything, this discreet sailor is also a formidable competitor. A fine tactician, an extraordinary trimmer and a seasoned helmsman, Erwan Israël has managed to carve out a niche for himself among the very best, both on the water and on shore. Indeed, for several years, he’s specialised in navigation and weather routing, to the point that he’s become one of the great experts in the domain. Since 2019, as part of Gitana Team, when he’s not at sea racing as a crew, Erwan Israël routes the skippers of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild for victory, as was the case in 2021 in the Transat Jacques Vabre and last year’s Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe of course. The Coffee Route 2023 will be his very first double-handed transatlantic race.

Extracts from his track record

-       World No.2 in Match Racing (2008)

-       Tour de France à la Voile: 3 victories, in the amateur category (2001) and overall (2005 and 2007 with TPM COYCH)

-       3rd rookie in the Solitaire du Figaro (2006)

-       World No.2 in Match Racing (2008)

-       Winner of the Volvo Ocean Race (2011-2012 with Groupama)

-       New Discovery Route record with Spindrift 2 (2013) in 6 days 14h

-       3rd fastest time in history in the Jules Verne Trophy with Spindrift 2 in 47 days 10h 59 min (2015 / 2016) // unbeaten record

-       Winner of the Bol d’Or Mirabaud (2016 in D35 and 2021 in TF35)

Victories aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

- Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 and 2021

- Finistère Atlantique – Challenge - Action Enfance 2022

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