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Arkea Ultim Challenge – Brest: Welcome to the land of the giants!

When the giant Ultims arrived on cue today, taking centre stage in the port of Brest at the heart of the ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE – Brest race village, the French public turned out in their thousands to welcome the giant multihulls and their intrepid skippers.

As if to order the winds dropped and a watery winter sun appeared. The 11, 000 square metres exhibition village on the Quai Malbert came alive and thereupon started the seasonal festivities which will run for nine days before the start of this first ever solo Ultim race round the world.

The Arkea Ultim Challenge © Ronan Gladu

As the Ultims docked one-by-one at the pontoon and legions of eager visitors took to the exhibition halls, an important moment arrived, the first stage of a long time shared vision was realised. Brest, for so long the historic start and finish port for dozens of oceanic sailing records, now has its own global sailing race. And the Ultim class has a showcase solo round-the-world event which will be followed by all who appreciate the potential of the world’s fastest ocean going sailing boats and their unique band of pioneering skippers.

The race village was inaugurated late this afternoon by Julien Carmona, President of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa, and François Cuillandre who is the Mayor of Brest and the President of Brest Métropole. At the same time, five Ultims entered the port, locally based Éric Péron (ULTIM ADAGIO) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Maxi Banque Populaire XI) were first to arrive in the afternoon and were warmly greeted with applause and big cheers.

For the hundreds of families who wandered through the village after it opened at 1000hrs this morning, a great day of learning and enthralling adventures began They immersed themselves in the huge interactive exhibition, ‘L’Atelier des Géants’, where they could learn all there is to know about the challenge which faces the skippers, the history of their boats, this epic race around the world in a multihull and also, of course, the impressive trophy which one sailor will lift, which is expected to be in about two months time.

“Here we are, twenty years after having first dreamed of this,” smiled François Cuillandre, Mayor of Brest and President of Brest Métropole.

“The passion of the skippers and the technological innovations we see really resonate with our own values,” underlined Julien Carmona, the President of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa and Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne.

Arkea Ultim Challenge – photo © Vincent Olivaud

And as the skippers arrived their impending adventure took on the new dimension of reality, not least knowing the next time they untie their respective Ultims on the morning of Sunday 7th January they will be heading very much into the unknown.

Some, like eight times round the world ace Sodebo’s Thomas Coville, know well certain elements all too well, like the loneliness and unending stress of sailing solo at very high speeds in the big south. On the other hand Maxi Edmond de Rothschild’s Charles Caudrélier, now nearly 50, has won two crewed races round the world but has never been solo in the Southern Ocean unlike Banque Populaire XI’s Armel Le Cléac’h who has completed three solo Vendée Globe races.

They docked during the afternoon. Five of the six skippers spoke to the public, thanking them for the welcome (SVR-Lazartigue should arrive within a few days) moored in the afternoon. Before enjoying the Brest atmosphere, everyone took the time to reflect on their current state of mind.

Boat Arrivals

  • Adagio: 2:30 p.m. (entrance to the narrows), 3:15 p.m. (entrance to the port)
  • Maxi Banque Populaire XI: 3:30 p.m. (entrance to the gully), 4:15 p.m. (entrance to the port)
  • Maxi Edmond de Rothschild: 4:15 p.m. (entrance to the narrows), 5 p.m. (entrance to the port)
  • Actual Ultim 3: 5 p.m. (entrance to the narrows), 5:45 p.m. (entrance to the port)
  • Sodebo Ultim 3: 5:30 p.m. (entrance to the narrows), 6:15 p.m. (entrance to the port)

What the skippers said:

Éric Péron (ULTIM ADAGIO): “I want to leave with a certain peace of mind “

“I want to try to leave with a certain peace of mind, being sure that all the tools are on board, that I have not forgotten anything, even my chocolate bars! We try to predict and plan everything that can be planned. Psychologically, it’s been more than a month since I have been preparing. This final bit is very much with my businessman, my entrepreneur’s hat on. And so really I can’t wait to be on the water. Maybe I’ll feel a bit of emotion in the last days before the start but it’s okay, I’m so lucky to be here, ready to do this. The boat is ready and it is going to be my home for a good few weeks. The technical part is all done. Now I will focus on honoring our appointments with our partners, the press, the public. Afterwards, there will inevitably be a little anxiety because the business manager is going to sea but we try to organize everything to be in the best possible condition to leave. “

Armel Le Cléac’h (Maxi Banque Populaire XI): “The boat is ready, me too “

“We are happy to be here. I’m not surprised to see all these people here, I know the fervor of the people of Brest, of Finistère and of all lovers of the ocean. We know that there will be people here until the start. We have worked hard with the whole team in recent weeks. The boat is ready, me too and we are going to enjoy the fervour here, we are going to share a few good times before the big start on Sunday. This will be my fourth round the world race. I know the route of course but not how it will be on board this type of very demanding machine. And I have been thinking about this race for quite long time now. I’m going to go home for a few days to retain the good energy and return into the bubble by next Sunday. Then it will build up and up to a crescendo I am happy to be on board this boat which was designed for this round-the-world passage, to take on this great challenge. And it would be great to arrive during the second half of February.”

Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild): “I have the impression that we are going to experience something big!”

“I’m happy to be here. It has been quite a big challenge to be here on time because we had a lot of problems during the Transat Jacques Vabre and during the return passage back from Martinique. Everything had to be fixed but the team reacted well, got stuck in and the boat is ready. I can’t wait to go, even if it’s hard to imagine that we’re leaving in less than ten days for a big adventure. It’s really special to be here. And this feels different to other starts, usually I’m stressed, I wonder if the boat is going to go fast. Now this time I’m not worrying how I’m going to perform, I have the impression that we’re all going to do something “big”. I don’t see the others only as competitors but as a group of friends setting off on a big adventure. I have had sone complicated times recently, I asked myself the question if I wanted to go. But as soon as I was querying myself I fully realized that I was attached to this round the world. I’ve always dreamed of this, solo and at 50, I’ve never done it, this is the first time. “

Additional Quotes:

Julien Carmona, President of Crédit Mutuel Arkéa and Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne:

“Although it is a race around the world, it is the Brittany region and its players who will be highlighted during the first edition of the Arkéa Ultim Challenges Brest. It is a real source of pride for our group, a cooperative and regional bank, to be title partner of this race, which is completely unprecedented in sailing. It was also natural to associate ourselves with the Brest Metropolis, the birthplace of our head office. The interest of the general public, the passion of the skippers and the technological innovation of the craft resonate with our own values. And the race is a continuation of our commitment to the maritime sector. “

François Cuillandre, Mayor of Brest and President of Brest Métropole:

“Twenty years after first dreaming of this moment, here we are! I am happy that we are here opening this village today. I invite Brestoises and all sailing enthusiasts to come and discover this village which will showcase Brest, the port of records, the capital of the oceans, and honour these exceptional sailors.”

Non stop records

  • 2017 – 42d 16h 40m 35 François Gabart (FRA) Macif Trimaran 100 ft, Finished 17/12 Still the second fastest outright circumnavigation time.
  • 2016 – 49d 3h 7m 38s, Thomas Coville (FRA) Sodebo Ultim (previously Geronimo) Trimaran 102 ft. Finished on 25/12/2016.
  • 2008 – 57d 13h 34m 06s Francis Joyon (FRA) IDEC 2 Trimaran 97 ft, Finished on 19/12/2008
  • 2005 – 71d 14h 18m 33s Ellen MacArthur (UK), B&Q/Castorama Trimaran 75 ft. Finished 08/02
  • 2004 – 72d 22h 54m 22s Francis Joyon (FRA) IDEC (formerly Poulain) Trimaran
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