As the ARKÉA ULTIM CHALLENGE-Brest rolls into its fifth week of racing, all five skippers are fully engaged in the depths of the Southern Oceans. A press conference was organised today to allow the French media to catch up with some of the racers.
It was not easy to connect with all of them but three, Armel Le Cléac’h (2nd), Thomas Coville (3rd) and Anthony Marchand (4th) – reflected on their state of mind, their personal battles, their sources of inspiration and motivation. Here are the highlights:
Armel Le Cléac’h (Maxi Banque Populaire XI, 2nd): “The race is super intense”
“It feels good to be back down in the 50s, the route is really not bad. Unfortunately, I extended the route but I had no choice. Passing north of New Zealand was the only way to just keep going. Thomas (Coville) is not far behind. His pit stop didn’t cost him that much and we should now go a long way close together to Cape Horn. The race is super intense, especially in very challenging conditions as has been the case in recent days. We get used to it and we adapt.”
He added, “Compared with Charles (Caudrelier) at the head of the race, our stopover in Recife (Brazil) really hurt us because then the weather window closed in front of us but that’s all part of the game. The fact of being neck and neck with Thomas, that will allow us to do see how close we are at Cape Horn. We must hope to have better conditions to pass Cape Horn. The passage is narrow and I have not yet checked the weather forecast for passing it.”
Thomas Coville (Sodebo Ultim 3, 3rd): “We did well to get away again and not hang about.”
“I really have had very challenging conditions since I left Hobart last Friday. The transition under New Zealand was not easy, we were between two very hard systems. We can be happy that we did well with our option. The idea of this stopover was to let another low pressure system pass. And we did well not to delay leaving because a second system was setting up in front of us.
Coville went on “When you have damage, it takes a lot of time and energy to repair it. I spent hours in the float to repair the hook system of my foil. What’s nice is when you manage to solve the problem. Overall these boats are so much more technological than in the past. They are fantastic except that the slightest problem with the appendages causes a lot of work. Speed is something very cool, exhilarating even, that is except when the seas are crossed. When you have 6 to 7 meters of swell, it can become really dangerous. We’re on an adventure aboard flying boats, it’s great!”
He said, “Do I still believe in victory? Yes, like the four other skippers still in the race. The result will be whatever it is, but there is one certainty: the winner will merit it, for sure. It’s a race of elimination but which also depends on setting the right level, adjustments and management. You can believe in victory until the end or also fear losing everything, at any moment. At the moment, I am fighting with Armel Le Cléac’h and it is a privilege to play this “match within a match” with him. We’re aiming for Cape Horn now. It’s always a great moment: you leave a place where everything is hostile to break into the Atlantic. For me, it’s the milestone of Good Deliverance!”
Anthony Marchand: “We live a bit in ‘bear mode'”
Anthony Marchand aboard Actual Ultim 3 during the Arkéa Ultim Challenge – Brest – photo © Anthony Marchand – Actual Ultim 3
“I had a little problem with the gennaker furler and it was quite incredible. I couldn’t use it anymore. I had to lower everything onto the deck while I was moving at more than 30 knots, something had to be changed. I had the impression of being under the wheels of a tractor! But it is a source of great satisfaction every time we manage to solve a problem. We always repeat Michel Desjoyeaux’s phrase – “a trip around the world is one s**tfight a day” – and so it is is the case on board an Ultim. On the other hand, it is bigger, heavier and above all it takes a lot of energy. Now I’m going to take out my headsails and head on a straight line for the next few days.”
“What makes me happy on board? Everything I have with me that reminds me of the comforts of home! So I took a hot water bottle on board: on board, it’s an absolute joy. I also have a good pillow, a duvet. We live a bit in “bear mode” on these boats. And all these details make you happy.”
Onboard video: (in French)
Follow the race tracking on www.arkeaultimchallengebrest.com/en.
Eric Péron aboard Ultim Adagio during the Arkéa Ultim Challenge – Brest – photo © Eric Péron / Ultim Adagio
by Arkea Ultim Challenge – Brest