19-10-2022 - News

The Ultim 32/23, the real battle of the giants


Eight solo skippers will race the upcoming Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe in the Ultim class, sailing on the huge multihulls which are over 30 meters long. The latest innovations and technological advances allow the most recent Ultims to not only to fly but also to stay flying for sustained, long periods. And considering the intensity of the battle between the skippers and their flying machines it seems likely that the record  - held for four years by Francis Joyon (7 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes) – will be broken. 

Theirs is in effect a battle flying over the water, only their foils scything through the oceans on an incredible sprint, solo across the Atlantic, a confrontation between the fastest and most efficient sailing boats in ocean racing each 32 meters long and 23 meters wide. 

And the big Ultim 32/23 show opens even before the start gun. These giants of the seas will be moored for the first time in the basins in Saint Malo alongside all of the other participating boats. They will also take part in a big parade, scheduled for Tuesday, October 25, alongside the Ocean Fifty.

A very open match

From the start, Sunday, November 6, the Ultim32/23 will set the pace for a "match within the match" which promises to be fast and furious. Four years after the duel was narrowly won by Francis Joyon (IDEC) in a close match at the finish up against François Gabart. And this time the game promises to be particularly open between the contenders for the final victory. Charles Caudrelier (48) will compete in his first solo transatlantic race aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, his maxi-trimaran has been carefully tested and made very reliable whilst always delivering convincing results.  He won the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre (November 2021) and also won crewed races this summer (July 2022) and solo during the key warm up race in early October.

During the Finistère Atlantique, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had a long battle with Armel Le Cléac'h on the new Maxi Banque Populaire XI which was second placed only 26 minutes after Caudrelier more than 3,100 miles covered. After two years in build and a launch in April 2021, Armel Le Cléac'h has already completed the equivalent of a world tour, including a 3rd place in the Transat Jacques Vabre (2021). Four years after capsizing on the last Route du Rhum Armel Le Cléac'h is once again one of the favorites for the event.

Among the favourites is François Gabart, who is of course already won the Route du Rhum in the IMOCA in 2014 and was 2nd behind Joyon in the last edition. He races SVR-Lazartigue. Launched in July 2021, 2nd in the Transat Jacques Vabre, Gabart set a new Mediterranean record this summer. He has done his best to fine-tune his boat and himself but has actually not competed in a single-handed race since the last Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe.

Different profiles and different approaches

The defending champion, Francis Joyon, is also back. Aboard a boat, IDEC, a remarkable boat which has won all of the last three editions, (in 2014 under the colors of Banque Populaire and in 2010 with Groupama), veteran Joyon takes up the incredible challenge of taking a second consecutive victory. Only Laurent Bourgnon has succeeded in a multihull before him (1992, 1998). “I know I have a slim chance of winning, even though this is the 17th year for my boat,” smiles Francis Joyon.

Meantime Thomas Coville is preparing to compete in the legendary transatlantic for the 7th time. The skipper of Sodebo is not lacking in ambition. On the recent 24H Ultim, he won the speed runs and finished 3rd (1h 38 min behind Charles Caudrelier). And Yves Le Blevec (Actual Ultim 3) presents himself with a certain serenity on the starting line. In addition to a classic preparation, he has just done ten days of cycling (140 km daily) in order to perfect his physical condition and his mind.

And aboard the ex-Actual, renamed Mieux, Arthur Le Vaillant steps up to the Ultim 32/23 after racing in Class40 and Ocean Fifty. He wants to complete the race and to enjoy making it to the finish. At 34, Arthur wants to take the opportunity to pass on messages that are close to his heart in terms of respect for the environment. That approach is shared by Romain Pilliard (Use it Again! By Extia) who is promoting the circular economy. 

They said

Armel Le Cléac’h (Maxi Banque Populaire XI): “The Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe is a mythical race that has made me dream since I was a kid. The Banque Populaire Team has put a lot of effort into designing the Maxi Banque Populaire XI, preparing it, testing it and making it reliable. Since its launch in April 2021, we have covered the equivalent of a world tour. The last two editions of the Route du Rhum have been painful for me (withdrawal in 2014, retirement in 2018) but we know that we have to be persistent, to fight and never give up. In recent months, we have been committed, on each and every sail we have done, taking care of every detail and gaining confidence on board. This will be necessary before tackling the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe while being as well equipped as possible."

François Gabart (SVR-Lazartigue):My last solo race was on the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe 2018. But I had the chance to sail quite a bit solo in previous years on The Transat in 2016 ( winner with MACIF), around the world in 2017 (record in 42 days 16h40'35'') and the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe in 2018 (2nd). Despite this experience and these many miles in the Ultim 32/23, it's still a very demanding thing to do. Everything is always changing, you always have to progress and it's exciting. It is a challenge that is both physical and mental and the two are inseparable, it is my vision of the search for excellence and performance. It remains an extraordinary privilege to sail solo on these boats. So you have to take each single-handed sail as a gift and enjoy being able to make a childhood dream come true."

Yves Le Blevec (Actual Ultim 3):I grew up with the Route du Rhum. I was 13 during the first edition and I lived it day by day. It was the first French transatlantic, there was a big fleet at the start and then the finish was completely legendary. The Route du Rhum has become legendary. And participating in it is also a way of entering into this legend. I had the privilege and the pleasure of taking the start twice in the Multi50. Even if I managed to go to the end both times, it remains a big regret because nothing had gone as planned. Today, I'm going there with a boat capable of winning. I'm certainly not the only one, but it's possible: the boat is cut out for it, the team too, me too. Inevitably, this edition takes on a very special flavor."

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