Slaloming across the Indian
The sixteenth day at sea for the solo sailors competing in the Arkea Ultim Challenge Brest began early afternoon this Tuesday. For Charles Caudrelier, the firm leader of this round the world, the atmosphere is studious on the deck of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Now navigating the stormy tail of a depression, the sailor is having to contend with 20-25-knot WSWly wind and 3-4-metre waves as he links together a series of gybes just shy of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. In the wake of the five-arrow giant, another solo sailor has entered the Indian Ocean. Indeed, since midday Armel Le Cléac’h has joined the club of 3 with Thomas Coville and Charles Caudrelier. Despite damage to his port foil, Anthony Marchand is set to join them very soon. The progress of the skipper of Actual Ultim 3 has slowed and one can imagine that his maxi-trimaran is no longer able to exploit her true potential, but no pit stop is envisaged at this stage.
Betwixt the AEZ and the high pressure


AEZ is the acronym for the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. This virtual line has been put in place by Race Management in the Arkea Ultim Challenge – Brest for safety reasons and to prevent the competitors from venturing too far south into the ice zone. It is a barrier where heavy penalties will be incurred if crossed. The AEZ is a major part of the race strategy then, since its boundary is currently forcing Charles Caudrelier to slalom his way across the Indian Ocean. “48 hours ago, the depression we were managing to stay ahead of in the South Atlantic, passed to the south of us. It made good its escape and we weren’t able to follow it due to the AEZ. That’s the name of the game. For the past two days, we’ve switched to a different wind system – from a N’ly breeze ahead of a front to a WSW’ly breeze with more difficult seas – and our trajectory has curved round under an anticyclone to our north. That is forcing Charles to put in quite a few manoeuvres, but within the next thirty hours or so, it will change again with the arrival of another depression. The NW’ly breeze associated with that will carry us along with it for a bit, giving us a nice ride eastwards to the next passage point of Cape Leeuwin,”explains Julien Villion, one of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild’s three weather routers.


Charles Caudrelier, on 23 January

“We’re in the Indian good and proper now! The sea is unpleasant without too much breeze. We’re dead downwind, so we’re having to slalom along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone with a series of gybes! I don’t have a huge amount of breeze – between 20 and 25 knots - but there is still more than forecast on the grib files. As a result, I’m always on the limit of two sails, between 1 reef or no reef, so it’s busy on deck. It’s been that way for 24 hours. It’s not so nice… It’s a rocky ride. I still have 36 hours where conditions are a bit heavy-going and then things should get better.

It's a studious atmosphere aboard. I’m trying to rest between what are pretty tiring manoeuvres and get the boat making headway without her suffering too much. That’s the major challenge of leading as you try to maintain a good speed to stay in the same weather system, but without going too fast either, so I’m constantly trying to balance out the brake and the accelerator: that’s what my days involve… I’m also taking a lot of care with the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Giving her an overhaul, checking 2 or 3 things when I get the chance. The shore team sent me a detailed list after the passage of Good Hope and each day I set myself a little mission to go and check a part of the boat. All’s well for now, which is pretty good. We’ve found some minor issues, that I’ve repaired, small details like tightening certain elements, but nothing serious so far.”


Ranking at the 18:00 UTC position report      

1) Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - Charles Caudrelier 

2) Sodebo Ultim 3 - Thomas Coville - 1,500.9 behind the leader 

3) Maxi Banque Populaire XI – Armel Le Cleac’h – miles 2,632.3 behind the leader 

4) Actual Ultim 3 - Anthony Marchand - 2,857.8 miles behind the leader 

5) SVR Lazartigue - Tom Laperche – 3,149.1 miles behind the leader  (victim of serious damage, on a pit stop in Cape Town)

6) Ultim Adagio - Eric Peron - 4,437 miles behind the leader 


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