Charles Caudrelier, first single-handed round the world race for a debut!
Skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild since 2019, the date he joined the Gitana racing stable, today Charles Caudrelier boasts one of the finest track records in French offshore racing. And yet, the man who put in his first tacks in the bay of Port-la-Forêt, in Brittany, fuelled by his father’s passion for the sport, and who will celebrate his 50th birthday on 26 February, will this Sunday set sail on his very first single-handed round the world race. For this unprecedented and epic maritime adventure the flying ULTIMs have never before competed on this 22,000-mile course there will be six sailors. A limited line-up, the quality is a guarantee of an incredibly intense 45 to 50-day race on a planetary scale. A rookie in this Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest, Charles Caudrelier remains one of the favourites. A title he fulfilled very successfully in November 2022 in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe.
An incredible opportunity to be at the beginning of the story”

In three days, the competitors in the Arkea Ultim Challenge will set sail from Brest. The first edition of the single-handed round the world race on ULTIMs is the main event that kicks off 2024, a stellar vintage for both sport and sailing as a whole. Dockside in Brest, on the Quai du Commandant Malbert, which usually hosts La Recouvrance, a celebrated gaff-rigged schooner and the Abeille Bourbon high seas tug, there is a party atmosphere with five of the six large flying multihulls alongside since Friday. The only one missing is Tom Laperche’s giant, which suffered beam damage at the end of the Transat Jacques Vabre and was relaunched in nearby Concarneau this Thursday. She’s due into Brest this Saturday on the eve of the race start on Sunday at 12:30 UTC.

Alone at the helm, this round the world race is something that has coloured Charles Caudrelier’s hopes and dreams for a great many years. 

Following his victory in the Solitaire du Figaro in 2004, like a lot of his rivals the sailor only had eyes for the Vendée Globe. Despite his immense talent however, he has never had the opportunity to achieve his goal of a planetary adventure. His peers are in absolutely no doubt about his abilities though and he is snapped up as a top-quality crew member. A series of projects ensue and inevitably his journey takes him across all the seas of the globe. This results in multiple victories, most notable of which are the Transat Jacques Vabre 2009 alongside Marc Guillemot in Imoca and the Volvo Ocean Race 2012 as part of Franck Cammas’ crew. The latter prompts him to head up his own project with the Chinese team of Dongfeng Race Team. In 2018, after two consecutive campaigns and two more crewed round the world races, Charles bags another win in the Volvo Ocean Race, his finest of them all.

Paired with Franck Cammas, his arrival at the helm of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild heralds a new turning point in his rather atypical career. In their three years together, they win every race they participate in: Brest Atlantiques, Rolex Fastnet Race, Transat Jacques Vabre… However, the initial contract is clear. The two sailors agree to the terms. The single-handed races and the Route du Rhum in particular are for Charles. This is the race which made him want to become an offshore racer and he pulls out all the stops to access this holy grail, which has always been at the back of his mind. On 16 November 2022, after 6 days 19 hours 47 minutes, the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is crowned champion overnight in Guadeloupe. Upon his arrival, he confides that this first major single-handed victory on a multihull is all the finer given that it has been such a long time in coming in his career.

On Sunday, at 49 years of age, Charles Caudrelier will finally take the start of his first single-handed round the world race and, as he says, it will be at the helm of one of the finest multihulls!


Charles Caudrelier, interview about debuts

Your first single-handed race
“It was the Twenty’s Cup! I must have been 18 and it was my first single-handed race. It was the first time I’d helmed a boat in a race in fact, because prior to that I was part of a crew. The solo sailing worked like a charm straightaway. I reached the final. That first experience convinced me that I was cut out for solo sailing, for this rather special exercise. It was important for my choices going forward.”

Your first single-handed victory
“I won a Twenty’s Cup leg! I would have to say though that the most striking win for me was a leg victory in the Solitaire du Figaro in Gijon, Spain, in 2002 and of course the outright victory in the event in 2004. I was 30 years old and it was my 5th participation in the Solitaire and my memories of that are incredible.”

Your first round the world
“With Groupama in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012. I completely changed style with a very extensive crewed sea passage. Before setting sail, I remember that I wasn’t apprehensive about doing the Round the World, rather I was apprehensive about competing in such a long race – 9 months – with one leg after another. It was the extremely high pace that worried me… and it was very hard (laughs). That Volvo – even though I loved the adventure – really brought home the fact that I was suited to solo sailing. In fact, at the start, I didn’t feel at ease and I got a bit bored as I found it difficult to concentrate solely on one task and one precise role, until I realised that my job was to fulfil my task as best I could rather than trying to be on top of everything. It went against the grain but it was very rewarding to go through that. Prior to that race I was hardwired as a solo sailor. As such, on my return I got into the habit of driving boats at a more elevated pace with a lot of sail changes… I had to go about things the other way round.”

Your first single-handed round the world
“This is it! I can’t wait to be on Sunday’s start line and to get going on this adventure. I believe that the biggest questions relate to myself. How I’m going to handle being alone for 45 days and more, the fatigue, the stress, the tough times, as there are sure to be a lot of those and it’ll be important to ride the storms. This race is a very substantial personal challenge. It’s a very special exercise we’re preparing to take on. I think there are people who are really cut out for that, but you don’t know until you do it. I’ll be able to answer that in around fifty days’ time hopefully. The circumnavigation of the globe also involves the Southern Ocean. We have to spend around twenty isolated days there in the cold. It’s not the highlight, but given the speed of our boats, it remains a relatively short period. In any case, a round the world, especially so single-handed and on a multihull, needs to be handled differently. I would say that the bond the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and I share is even more crucial. We will do this journey together.”

The ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE - Brest: a debut!

The first single-handed round the world race in ULTIM, the ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE - Brest groups together a line-up of six sailors: Anthony Marchand (Actual Ultim 3), Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3), Tom Laperche (Trimaran SVR - Lazartigue), Armel Le Cléac’h (Maxi Banque Populaire XI), Eric Peron (Ultim Adagio) and Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild).

To complete this eastbound round the world via the three main iconic capes (Good Hope in South Africa, Leeuwin in Australia and the Horn at the extreme south of Latin America), the ULTIMs must cover nearly 22,000 theoretical miles (around 40,000 km). The course time is estimated to be between 45 and 50 days, which equates to a return to Brest Harbour on around 20 February.

The race will start on 7 January at 12:30 UTC. 

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