Charles Caudrelier has won the Arkea Ultim Challenge Brest, the first ever solo around the world race for 100ft foiling trimarans, on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild Ultim

Solo skipper Charles Caudrelier has won the Arkea Ultim Challenge Brest, the first ever solo around the world race in multihulls, on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild giant foiling trimaran.

Caudrelier crossed the finish line off Brest, northern France this morning, Tuesday 27 February, at 0837 after 50 days and 19 hours of racing.

The Arkea Ultim Challenge Brest is the first time giant multihulls have ever been raced solo around the world head-to-head. Caudrelier is the first person ever to sail a foiling Ultim around the world solo, and in fact only the eighth ever to complete a solo circumnavigation on a multihull.

Charles Cauderlier and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild win the Arkea Ultim Challenge Brest solo round the world race. Photo: Vincent Olivaud/Arkea Ultim Challenge

Though the race is ‘non-stop’, in the sense it has no scheduled stopovers, by the North Atlantic Caudrelier was the only skipper not to have made a technical stop for repairs. But with potentially ‘impassable’ conditions in the Bay of Biscay forecast of 7-10m waves and 50 knot winds due to Storm Louis, Caudrelier took a four-day pause in the Azores before cautiously sailing the remaining 1,200 miles to Brest to take the race win.

Caudrelier was able to stop in the Azores having built up an unassailable lead since his nearest rival Tom Laperche on SVR Lazartigue had to retire into Cape Town after a collision with an underwater object. Caudrelier and his Gitana-backed Ultim consolidated their position as front runners since January 17, at one point extending his lead to over 2,500 miles from second placed Thomas Coville on Sodebo.

The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild in Faial, Horta -t he damaged front starboard beam is visible. Photo: M. Le Roux/Polaryse/Gitana SA

Throughout the race Caudrelier revealed little about any technical problems he had experienced on the ground-breaking, and highly complex 100ft foiling trimaran. However, when he put into Faial in the Azores it became obvious that his boat had incurred damage early on, after a front section of one crossbeam had been ripped off by a wave. The solo skipper had cut a spare mainsail batten in order to rig a repair, tying it together with straps.

Cauderlier’s first round the world

Remarkably, this is Caudrelier’s first ever solo around the world race. Though Caudrelier – who turned 50 yesterday – had early ambitions to compete in a Vendée Globe, he instead began working with many top offshore teams, including joining Franck Cammas’s winning Volvo Ocean Race entry Groupama 4 as a navigator and helmsman. He then stepped up to skipper his own entry in back to back races for the Chinese Dongfeng team, winning – by the race’s closest ever margin – in 2018.

Photo: Vincent Olivaud/Arkea Ultim Challenge

In 2019 he joined the Gitana stable as co-skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothchild trimaran with Franck Cammas, with a long-term plan that he would skipper the enormous machine solo for each single-handed event.

With one of the longest running Ultim campaigns, a well-resourced team encompassing some of the best in the business, and a focus on banking as much sailing time as possible, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has long been the boat to beat. Cauderlier skippered or co-skippered the Ultim to major wins in the Brest Atlantiques, back to back Rolex Fastnet Races, Transat Jacques Vabre, and an emotional 2022 win in the Route du Rhum

Though he did not set a solo round the world record on this race, he did set a new benchmark for a solo Indian Ocean crossing, covering the 6,113 miles between Cape Agulhas (South Africa) and the Cape Leeuwin (Australia) in 8 days 8 hours 20 minutes and 36 seconds, at an incredible average speed of 30.7 knots.

We’ll have a full report, with the skippers’ first-hand tales from this incredible race, in the May issue of Yachting World.

If you enjoyed this….

Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.
Build your knowledge with a subscription delivered to your door. See our latest offers and save at least 30% off the cover price.