The close-fought three-way battle for victory among the giant Ultimes in the 2022 Route du Rhum saw a new course record and win for Charles Caudrelier on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

Charles Caudrelier sailing his Ultime trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was first to cross the finish line of the 2022 Route du Rhum race this morning in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe in a time of 6 days 19 hours 47 minutes and 25 seconds.

This is a new (yet to be ratified) course record for the Route du Rhum with Caudrelier beating the previous best set in the last race by Francis Joyon of 7 days 14 hours 21 minutes and 47 seconds, despite early conditions being far from favourable.

After the line an emotional Caudrelier said: “I’m not even tired. The first 24 hours were hard.”

The Gitana campaign is one of the most long-standing and committed sponsorships in sailing. Caudrelier took over the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, also known as Gitana 17, as solo skipper last year, having previously co-skippered with Franck Cammas for double-handed and crewed campaigns.

He continued: “I so wanted to win the race for the team. I’ve been dreaming of it since I was young. It’s for the family Rothschild. It seemed like a crazy idea, building a boat that could fly. It’s for Franck Cammas, as he had the experience. Without him I wouldn’t be here. He left me the place for the Rhum. He could have won it himself.

“It’s a Formula 1 team and I just drive in the race. This is a team effort and there’s Guillaume Verdier, the designer. I recently lost my mother and she isn’t here to share this moment. Thanks to everyone for believing in me.”

Maxi Edmond de Rothschild shortly before winning the 2022 Route du Rhum. Photo: Alexis Courcoux / Route du Rhum

It has been an impressively close battle between the top three Ultime trimarans (Gitana, Sodebo and SVR-Lazartigue Ultime) throughout much of the 3,542-mile race. Caudrelier led the fleet from the start but has not had things all his own way.

Initially the race committee called Gitana as was one of several boats over the starline, which would have required Caudrelier to stop for a mandatory four hour penalty. However, the Gitana race team were able to provide a significant amount of GPS data to the race officials to show that he was actually 50m behind the startline at the gun and the penalty was dropped.

Although Gitana led out of the start and at the finish, the lead swapped between Caudrelier and François Gabart (sailing SVR-Lazartigue Ultime) on a number of occasions as the huge foiling multihulls navigated several complex light wind transitions. But is was Caudrelier in the lead most of the time, with his gap to Gabart remaining around 40nm for much of the Atlantic crossing with a maximum gap to second of a little over 100nm.

Gabart is set to finish shortly, picking up his second consecutive 2nd place in the Route du Rhum, having lost victory to Francis Joyon in the final minutes of the 2018 edition of the Route du Rhum.

Thomas Coville on Sodebo Ultim 3 also remained in close contention with the lead two boats throughout this year’s Route du Rhum and was close enough to be consistently putting pressure on Gabart in second. This morning, however, his team reported he had caught a fishing net on his final approach to Guadaloupe.

Four years of improvement

Most significantly, this Route du Rhum resolved many questions of reliability for the giant Ultimes, with no significant incidents after Armel le Cleac’h on the Maxi Banque Populaire XI incurred foil damage at the start (he was able to repair and restart later).

It is a significant contrast to the 2018 Route du Rhum, which saw the previous Banque Populaire capsize and break up, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had a whole bow section ripped clean off, the previous Sodebo suffered structural issues, while Gabart’s Macif limped to the finish missing two of its newly retrofitted foils.

This time around the Ultime skippers consistently managed 30-plus knot speeds and periods of headwinds and large swells, without capsize or serious damage. The reality of these giant 100ft trimarans racing around the world solo has got a step closer.

Route du Rhum still close for the other fleets

Further back, in the middle of the Atlantic, Charlie Dalin (Apivia) remains the clear leader of the IMOCA 60 fleet – a position he has held since the fleet sailed out of the English channel shortly after the start of the race. But a singnificant lead for Dalin has been reduced as he was the first to hit a lighter weather front allowing the rest of the fleet to close on him.

This gateway to the trade winds is very narrow and keeps changing for the IMOCA 60 fleet and is causing headaches for those in the tight pack immediately behind Dalin. “As long as we haven’t slipped under the area of high pressure and crossed the ridge, it’s going to be complicated,” commented Jérémie Beyou (Charal) early in the morning on Wednesday 16th November.

Jeremie Beyou is in a close fight for second in the IMOCA 60. Photo: Eloi Stichelbaut

The winds are light and variable going from 6 to 13 knots. “I’m getting passed by Thomas (Ruyant). He is two miles above me, but I can’t find the wind here… It’s complicated with a lot of people around me, but that does offer the advantage of indicating where the wind is. Losing or gaining places happens very quickly, when it’s close like this.” His lead of ten miles over Paul Meilhat (Biotherm) and Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) has quickly vanished.

There is a similar situation with the Ocean Fifty boats with the gaps narrowing between the three frontrunners, Quentin Vlamynck (Arkema), Erwan Le Roux (Koesio) and Sébastien Rogues (Primonial). Eighty miles separated the three yesterday, but now the gap is down to less than 25.

Things are slightly different for the Class40 boats with Yoann Richomme, skipper of Paprec Arkea leading the fleet since Monday afternoon. He continues to extend his lead and is now thirty miles ahead of Corentin Douguet (Quéguiner – Innoveo). “I’m trying to sail well and keep cool. There is another front moving in from the west. We have to get in the right place to deal with it. I’ll be trying to cross it where there is the smallest risk. The weather changes very quickly. I’ll try to avoid the calms, as it would be a pity to get stuck in there. We have to remain on it. The gateway is narrow and changing all the time. This is a critical and crucial moment in the race,” concluded Yoann Richomme.

Follow all the latest Route du Rhum updates here.

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