ARKEA ULTIM CHALLENGE - Brest: first solo round-the-world race aboard an Ultim 32/23!

The most extreme challenge ever in racing: a round-the-world race aboard the Ultim 32/23

A demanding race


There will potentially be seven ‘Giants of the seas’ setting sail from Brest, helmed by a lone skipper, who will attempt an eastbound circumnavigation of the globe via the 3 capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn). It is a human and technological challenge taken on by the sailors who make up the Ultim 32/23 Class, supported by their operators and partners.

There are a handful of sailors who have already completed the course singlehanded on a multihull, including Francis Joyon, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Thomas Coville, and François Gabart, predominantly within the context of singlehanded round the world record campaigns under sail, but nobody has ever done so in a race!

Alone, aboard their giant multihulls, for 40 to 50 days, the skippers will come up against extreme variations in weather conditions, where they will have to contend with the wind, the waves, the swell and the ice. Anticyclonic systems with little breeze, as well as depressions which are often the source of strong winds, will punctuate the sailors’ lives throughout the race and colour the trajectory strategies they adopt.

The race is due to set sail from Brest, on the north-west tip of Brittany, in late 2023. The exact date will be unveiled shortly. The boats should make it back to the same point after around forty days at sea, if we refer to the current record set by François Gabart in 2017 (42 days 16 hours). The weather will likely be complicated. On the outward and return leg, the skippers will have to negotiate the Bay of Biscay and with it the threat of harsh winter depressions synonymous with the North Atlantic. Up next, the calms of the doldrums and the pitfalls of the Saint Helena High will serve as Justices of the Peace before plunging into the infernal Roaring Forties and even the Furious Fifties as far as Cape Horn. As is always the case in circumnavigations of the globe, the slog northwards and the vagaries of the weather along the coast of South America could well reshuffle the cards as the fleet makes its return to the northern hemisphere and the finish in Brest narrows. However, the real challenge for the solo sailors will be managing to complete the 21,600 nautical miles (the equivalent of 40,000 kilometres on land) that make up this round the world race without hitting any obstacles, submerged containers or marine mammals. A big ask given how difficult it is for the latter to sidestep the bows of these monster boats, capable of hurtling across the ocean at over 40 knots! 

To date, five Ultim racing stables have confirmed their participation: Actual (Yves Le Blévec), Gitana (Charles Caudrelier), Sodebo (Thomas Coville), Banque Populaire (Armel Le Cléac’h) and Ultim Sailing (skipper TBC). Alongside them on the start line we hope to see the inexhaustible Francis Joyon, arguably the most experienced sailor of them all in this type of exercise, and François Gabart’s SVR Lazartigue.

Five to seven giant trimarans then, helmed by as many prestigious solo sailors, competing in a race around the planet, which promises to be a fantastic maritime epic, the likes of which would have been unimaginable thirty years ago when large oceanic multihulls made their debut appearance!


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Brest Métropole
Région Bretagne
Département du Finistère