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French sailor Caudrelier wins first round-the-world multi-hull race

Battered but still skimming the waves, French sailor Charles Caudrelier crossed the line in Brest in the west of France on Tuesday to win the Ultim Challenge, the first solo round-the-world race for multi-hull boats.

Caudrelier, in the trimaran Gitana-Edmond de Rothschild, outdistanced the other survivors from the six-boat fleet as he covered more than 28,000 miles (51,000 km) in 50 days. He became just the eighth sailor to sail round the world in a multi-hull.

The boat, launched in 2017, was the first Ultim designed to ‘fly’ by rising out of the water on her foils as the boats swept down the Atlantic and then circled the globe passing south of the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin in Australia and finally Cape Horn. 

“I had the impression of becoming a machine, a robot connected to performance, a kind of killer who doesn’t give up a nautical mile,” Caudrelier told AFP during the race, saying he became “totally connected” to his boat. 

The ‘Ultim’ multi-hulls are big and fast. Edmond de Rothschild is 32 metres (105 feet) long by 23 metres wide.  

“To sail solo around the planet in a multi-hull at an average speed of 28 knots (51 km/h) is mind-boggling”, said Olivier de Kersauson, who was the third man to complete a solo circumnavigation on a multihull in 1988.

The boats are also fragile.

Tom Laperche, in SVR Lazartigue, retired after duelling at the front with Caudrelier for 20 days. 

The two sailors closest to Caudrelier both lost time when their boats suffered damage forcing them to make stopovers.

Thomas Coville, who was running second in Sodebo, the boat in which in 2016 he became one of four sailors to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation in a multi-hull. Armel Le Cleac’h in Banque Populaire was lying third.

Delayed arrival –

Eric Peron in Adagio and Anthony Marchand in Actual, the oldest Ultims in the fleet, quickly fell behind, but were still battling up the South Atlantic on Tuesday. 

Only Caudrelier managed to complete the crossing without any major mishaps although he suffered a cut arm.

He nearly flipped his boat in the South Atlantic in what he described as “a moment of inattention”. 

“The boat went up on its edge, but the safety systems saved me and (the boat) fell flat again.”

Caudrelier had enough of a lead to take that he was able to play safe and delay his arrival in Brest. With a storm threatening as he neared home, Caudrelier took shelter for three days in the Azores, before sailing for home on Monday, his 50th birthday, and arriving on Tuesday morning.

“It was special, strange, but I always felt like I was in the race,” he said. “The weather has been on my mind a lot over the last few days…. I really wanted to find a hole to go home in.”

Colville was amused.

“It’s a funny race when the leader has the opportunity to go to a hotel while waiting for a good window to finish and, like a good sailor, leave at just the right time,” he said.

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