At the gateway to the South Atlantic
After a little over six days of racing, the head of the Arkea Ultim Challenge Brest fleet will leave the North Atlantic in their wake over the coming hours and start making headway in the southern hemisphere. Charles Caudrelier and Tom Laperche are continuing to stretch away from their pursuers and are still leading the way as they approach the north coast of Brazil. They’ve benefited from fairly inactive doldrums to rapidly gain southing this Saturday and are due to cross the equator midway through this evening. Over 200 miles astern, their closest rivals are beginning to suffer the vagaries of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone as evidenced by a significant drop in their average speed.
Fairly inactive doldrums     

In offshore races, which pass from one hemisphere to the other, as is the case in a round the world of course, the sailors have to traverse the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone to make the switch from the North Atlantic to the South Atlantic. It’s worth noting that this random meteorological zone, which hovers around the equator is the result of the NE’ly trade wind of the northern hemisphere encountering the SE’ly trade wind of the southern hemisphere. Renowned for its unpredictability, this area commonly referred to by sailors as the doldrums is always dreaded, especially by solo sailors. This Saturday though, the wind gods have been gentle with Charles Caudrelier and Tom Laperche, the first competitors in the Arkea Ultim Challenge – Brest to navigate the zone with their giants. Positioned further over to the west, SVR- Lazartigue has proven to be a tad quicker and has made the most of the situation to claw back a few miles at the 16:00 UTC ranking.   

The skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild shared with us a first picture postcard of the scene midway through the afternoon: “Things are going rather well for this passage through the doldrums. Since this morning, we’ve barely even stalled. We’ve had breeze the whole time. It’s been a fairly simple passage, much easier than a few weeks ago in the Transat Jacques Vabre! It’s an advantage to negotiate it by day too, because if there’s a lot of storm activity at night, you can’t see the squalls rolling in and expanding and, back on land, our routers don’t have such accurate satellite images. We’ll cross the equator over the coming hours, which equates to a little over 6 days. 6 days and a few hours single-handed, with the rather unfavourable conditions we’ve had for this descent, is not too bad at all!”   

Duelling leaders   

Charles has made no secret of his admiration for the youngster of the race, Tom Laperche. The two sailors have both studied at the demanding Figaro school, and they have each secured victory in the series’ main event: the Solitaire du Figaro. In the Arkea Ultim Challenge, their descent of the Atlantic has seen them embroiled in a fierce duel since midway through the week when the front rolled through. The skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and his fellow rival have since gained an edge, opening up a sizeable lead of over 200 miles ahead of the chasing pack this Saturday.     

“Tom and I have a good old battle on our hands! We’re very close. There’s really nothing in it given the scale of what lies ahead. This duel is rather nice. It livens up the race, adds some intensity, motivates us and encourages us to trim our boats better, so it’s keeping us occupied… We’ve been chatting over VHF for the past few days.”         

Ranking at the 16:00 UTC 

1) SVR Lazartigue - Tom Laperche     
2) Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - Charles Caudrelier – 23.2 miles behind the leader   
3) Maxi Banque Populaire XI - Armel Le Cléac'h - 264 miles behind the leader 
 4) Sodebo Ultim 3 - Thomas Coville - 278 miles behind the leader   
5) Actual Ultim 3 - Anthony Marchand – 751.3 miles behind the leader   
6) Ultim Adagio - Eric Peron - 1,019 miles behind the leader       

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