The Kerguelen Islands astern
This fifteenth day at sea for Charles Caudrelier in the Arkea Ultim Challenge Brest has been punctuated by the rounding of the Kerguelen Islands, as well as a delightful encounter offshore of the French archipelago, which makes up one of the five administrative districts of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF). At the latest ranking this evening, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is continuing to go it alone in the Indian Ocean and now boasts a lead of more than 1,400 miles over closest rival, Thomas Coville.
Magical austral encounter   

Late in the evening in Europe, whilst the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was powered up making over 30 knots at 51° South approaching the Kerguelen Islands, the skipper was contacted over VHF by a French fishing boat from SAPMER. The Mascareignes III is a longline fishing boat active in the Southern Ocean and it passed within a few boat lengths of the 32-metre giant. Aboard her, Niels Gins, a scientist and inspector from the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF), a major operator in the offshore racing domain and hence addicted to the cartography for the Arkea Ultim Challenge, immortalises the moment: Gitana 17 flying amongst the albatrosses!   “Being a sailor myself, it was an absolute pleasure to cross tacks with Gitana! I monitor the cartography every 2/3hrs, but I didn’t think she’d pass so close,” raved the young scientist.     

On board every fishing vessel operating in the waters of the Austral Islands, a fisheries inspector, representing the prefect as the senior TAAF administrator, ensures that the regulatory measures are being applied and collects essential data for scientific monitoring of the fishery. As part of his duties, the inspector is also responsible for filming and photographing any marine fauna and shipping observed, including any illegal fishing vessels, in a bid to counter ‘pirate fishing’, as well as recording special or rare sightings, such as the passage of an ocean-racing yacht.     

Thank you to Niels Gins, to the crew of the Mascareignes III and to the TAAF’s Fisheries Department for this lovely gift from the Deep South.     

Charles Caudrelier, on 22 January 

“It was fantastic to come across the fishing boat this morning offshore of Kerguelen and have a chat with them, even though I was fairly focused on getting my boat making headway as it was mid-gybe for us, close to the Kerguelen cetacean exclusion zone.   I’ve been in the Southern Ocean for three days now and I’m gradually getting into the swing of it. My race has inevitably changed since Tom (Laperche, editor’s note) came to a stop, but ultimately it’s pretty exhilarating, even if it’s quite special now. I’ve gone from spending all my time getting the boat making faster headway than the others around the world, where every mile counted, to trying to limit my speed to 35 knots and come up with solutions to go where the seas aren’t so heavy. I’m prepared to lose 150 miles in the process… My lead helps me manage my race, whilst preserving the boat as much as possible. That’s really the biggest challenge of all and I’m proud to have managed to find this mode in me as this is the right one for now. I’m in an easier phase at the moment because I’m at the head of the race, so I can only be in good spirits. On top of that, sea conditions are easy for now and time isn’t dragging yet. There are some lengthy passages, but I’m not getting bored. As soon as I find the time, either I sleep, I do some odd jobs on the boat, I check everything, I tidy up or I clean.   I’ve begun listening to one or two podcasts, but I find it hard to get my head out of the race as I’m really immersed in it…”   

Ranking at the 18:00 UTC position report     

 1) Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - Charles Caudrelier 
 2) Sodebo Ultim 3 - Thomas Coville – 1,437.2 miles behind the leader   
3) SVR Lazartigue - Tom Laperche – 2,554.1 miles behind the leader  (victim of serious damage, newly arrived in Cape Town) 
4) Maxi Banque Populaire XI - Armel Le Cleac’h – 2,655.5 miles behind the leader   
5) Actual Ultim 3 - Anthony Marchand – 2,690.8 miles behind the leader     
6) Ultim Adagio - Eric Peron – 4,168.1 miles behind the leader         

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