A bold and mature victory
In the golden glow of early morning in Brest, Charles Caudrelier was finally able to let his joy burst forth after 50 days, 19 hours, 7 minutes and 42 seconds of brilliantly controlled racing. By securing victory in the Arkea Ultim Challenge, he becomes the first sailor to sail around the world aboard a flying multihull. It is a victory synonymous with maturity: that of a talented sailor, who patiently waited for the right time to bag himself this magnificent win. And that of a team who some 10 years ago, dared to launch into a bold architectural adventure, thus perpetuating the long Gitana saga.

Majestic, albeit with a few battle scars* from the past month and a half spent in the most formidable seas on the planet, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crossed the finish line in Brest under full sail. For her skipper, it is the end of a courageous epic, a demonstration of strength, a moment of relief and sheer delight. On the trampoline of the five-arrow giant, the embraces between Charles, his children, his family and his entire team are joyful and intense. A sincere joy, shared with the local public in Brest who came out to see him being crowned champion. “It is magical to experience that! I wanted to win this race for myself, but also for my team, because without them, I am nobody. The emotion comes from that point there,” declares Charles after holding the Arkea Ultim Challenge trophy aloft.

Extracts from his declarations at the finish, dockside in Brest and at the press conference:

Review of his race, his first sentiments, his emotion

“It’s very special. I feel as if it has been a very long time and yet very quick at the same time. I still remember the dazzling start, everyone in close contact, and then the first very lively section of the race with Tom (Laperche), in a duel that was a bit extreme. I am grateful to him because it is thanks to him and our clash that I was quickly able to open up a lead ahead of the others. After his retirement, I switched to another universe, and it became a real adventure: managing the boat, the bad weather, the problems. I had some tough times but not as many as all that. It was psychological above all, because physically I was in good shape, I had a lot of energy because I was in front. I felt really settled in this race, very at ease. Right now, the emotions are running high. It is a single-handed race, but there is so much teamwork behind that! It may be that element which made a difference today: the duration, the collective commitment around this project. Since 2019, I have been sailing on this boat with the same people, getting her to progress, and I know her by heart. I knew it was difficult for these boats to circumnavigate the globe having already had two attempts at it. Having broken everything before the others, that enabled us to have a boat that could withstand the shocks.”

His career, the missed appointments, the learning curve, the successes

“It took a while for me to flesh out my track record. After my victory in Figaro, I wasn’t able to make my Vendée Globe dream come to fruition. That meant years of frustration, but at the same time I was a part of all these great projects: Safran, Groupama, Banque Populaire. I never stopped raising my game in contact with the best. Then at 40, I became the skipper of Dongfeng in the Volvo Ocean Race. At 45, I won the race for the second time, but when I completed the crewed round the world race, I had nothing on the back of it, no projects. I didn’t know where I was heading. Then I got a phone call asking me if I wanted to apply for the role of skipper of Gitana. The rest is history…”

Paying homage to Gitana Team and to its owners

“With Gitana, I found myself in a team for the long haul for the very first time. That enabled me to put all my experience at the service of the project. I immediately felt that I had real support around me. Franck (Cammas) also supported me a great deal and taught me how to fly. That is what’s great, it’s an incredible collective story. We’re lucky to have an owner who has trusted in us from the start. The strength of this team lies in the fact that we have taken the time to do things right. The strength of this team also lies in its make-up: a hard core of talent which has been working together for a long time, with youngsters coming up through the ranks. We have absolute trust in one another.”

The energy to win

“Up till now, I hadn’t achieved my personal sporting objectives and I didn’t think I would achieve that. However, when this round the world in Ultim came up, it was an absolute must for me. Just 15 days before the start though, I was no longer sure I’d be able to set sail for personal reasons. I won’t go into all that, but everything worked out in the end and everyone supported me. As such, I set off with an incredible desire to get down to it. That energy stayed with me throughout. I knew I had all the weapons at my disposal. I had my experience and I had confidence in myself, which is not absolute, but it is definitely there.”

The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, an exceptional boat

“This boat is both crazy and beautiful. And she got me home! I had to trust her. I’ve known her virtually her whole life and part of my remit was to be sparing with her. She’s a boat that will mark my life, which has marked our team and our owner, because she’s an exceptional boat. She deserves to go down in legend, be part of the history books.”


“I was never frightened, other than retrospectively, like for example when I disappeared up to my waist in a hole in the cockpit sole (the result of his pod pulling out). When I came close to capsizing after the Horn, I didn’t have time to be frightened either. I was more apprehensive about the potential for breakage, of making a silly mistake which can have serious consequences. That’s why I never really managed to disconnect from the boat. Added to that, in 6/7 years, this boat has never let me down. You get used to the speed and the risk of capsize is lower than on other multihulls. I try to be pragmatic. I reckon that aboard this boat, I take ten times fewer risks than a courier in Paris.”

Flying in the open ocean

“This race of pioneers involved stepping into the unknown. We said to ourselves that there may not be any competitors at the finish. Seven years ago we weren’t yet flying. Today, with 15 knots of breeze, we’re able to make 35 knots of boat speed! It’s crazy and this is just the beginning. We will make boats which perform even better and we’ll circumnavigate the globe even faster than that. That said, perhaps we need to make sturdier machines and not sacrifice everything to save weight because I feel as if I’ve spent a lot of my time making repairs and, ultimately, we were routing with our performance at only 80/85%.

A touch of pride

If I look at the lines that make up my track record, I think they read well. Perhaps they read better than I would have imagined. I can’t have any regrets about anything I’ve done. It takes work and luck to be in the right place and at the right time, but they are opportunities that I’ve created. And all of that began with my victory in the Solitaire du Figaro.

Future goals

I’ve kind of promised my kids and their mother that I would calm things down. The next objective is the birth of a new boat, G18. I’m keen to be a part of this wonderful challenge and perhaps defend my title in the Route du Rhum. In the meantime, it’s time for a holiday beside the water with the kids and then I’ll get back to the routine of normal life on land.”

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