Gitana Ultim

Ultim, Class40: who will win the Route du Rhum?

As in every major event, Tip & Shaft has mustered a panel of experts to analyse field in each class for the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe which starts this Wednesday November 9. For this second part now looking at the Ultims and Class40s, we have coaches Tanguy Leglatin and Etienne Saïz, designer Vincent Lauriot Prévost, co-founder of VPLP, Gildas Morvan, ex Figarist who was race director this year for the Finistère Atlantique and the 24h Ultim, sailors Achille Nebout and Pascal Bidégorry, as well as Didier Ravon, journalist for Voiles & Voiliers and Liberation.



Four years after an edition of the Route du Rhum which hit the Ultims hard – thee was the abandonment of Armel Le Cléac’h (lost his boat) and of Sébastien Josse, a long pit stop for Thomas Coville -, the fleet in Saint Malo offers much more certainty. “We did our calculations and between the Azimut solo last year and the 24h Ultim at the beginning of October, the latest generation boats are up 15% on their polars racing solo that is upwind or downwind. These guys manage to keep up crazy speeds which is no doubt because they have much more confidence in their boat,” explains Gildas Morvan.

For our experts, the favourite is Charles Caudrelier, winner – single-handed, double-handed or crewed – of all races against his rivals over three years. He races the well proven, fully optimised Verdier designed Maxi Edmond de Rothschild which was first launched in 2017, a trimaran that is reliable and still just as efficient, especially as it has been further optimized this year. “With the new foils fitted in August, the boat has taken a new step forwards in terms of pure performance, I don’t have the impression that it has any weak points in speed, on the contrary it only has strengths”, explained Franck Cammas, last Tuesday in our Pos Report (French) podcast. Cammas who will be the router alongside Stan Honey and Erwan Israel.

“If you had asked me the question some time ago, I would have told you that Gitana’s strong point was the boat, but that François (Gabart) had the advantage of experience. Today, when I see how Charles has worked, I have the feeling that he is a little notch above,” says Pascal Bidégorry. “The only box that Charles does not tick is that he is a rookie on the Route du Rhum,” tempers Vincent Lauriot Prévost. “I think those who have already raced it see things a little differently, in terms of the pace to be imposed, the sequences of systems, but also the management of the finish. Four years ago, we saw Francis (Joyon) pass François (Gabart) because I think he had a better knowledge of the passage round Guadeloupe” 


Gabart is the unkown


Behind, our experts put Armel Le Cléac’h and François Gabart on an almost equal footing, with a very slight advantage to the skipper of SVR Lazartigue, even if he has not done a race since the Jacques Vabre 2021 because of the conflict between them and the Ultim 32/23 class. “François has a lot of experience, he knows where he is, he is determined, and his new, more reliable boards gives him a plus”, comments Pascal Bidégorry. For Gildas Morvan, the lack of confrontation with his rivals is however a big handicap: Charles, Armel and Thomas (Coville) have made enormous progress by sailing together, they have beaten each other, pushed hard, we have sometimes seen average speeds of 40 knots, without too much fatigue after finishing that is a big plus for them. I don’t think François’ progression curve is the same.” 

Morvan firmly believes that Armel Le Cléac’h has his chances and Didier Ravon concurs: “In recent races, he’s really been snapping at the heels of Gitana, I feel Armel is extra motivated imbued with a spirit of revenge.” What about Thomas Coville? “He has colossal solo experience but his boat is a little less efficient”, notes Didier Ravon, where Vincent Lauriot Prévost observes “that Thomas’ performance is inconsistent, he has very good moments but often has little flaws.” Unless there is a breakdown among the favourites, none of our experts see Francis Joyon or Yves Le Blevec playing for victory: “They will have a hard time keeping up the pace, because the last generation has really passed a gap. When it’s going to smoke, it will be 20% faster,” says Gildas Morvan.

The podium of our experts: 1. Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild), 2. François Gabart (SVR Lazartigue), 3. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire XI)



With 30 boats out of the 55 racing this time all built since the Route du Rhum 2018 Class40 has experienced a revolution due to the appearance of scow-shaped hulls. Many designers have been involved from the Max 40 (David Raison) onwards through the Mach 40.4 then Mach 40.5 (Sam Manuard), the Pogo S4 (Guillaume Verdier), Lift 2 (Marc Lombard Yacht Design), Clak 40 (VPLP Design), Cape Racing Scow 40 (Etienne Bertrand) and the Musa 40 (Gianluca Guelfi). But among them is there a dominant design?

“Today, we can say that Lombard’s Lift 2 seems to be a very efficient boat upwind and reaching, with a fair amount of waterline length and a lot of power,” explains Tanguy Leglatin. “The Mach 5 and the Raison are more versatile rather than especially strong in light airs and heavy breezes, the Pogo S4 is very efficient downwind in medium airs as we saw on the Jacques Vabre and we must not forget the Mach 4, a very good medium boat with not too much sea.”

“There is no boat that dominates all the others all around so I’m pretty sure it’s the sailor that will make the difference, adds Figaro sailor Achille Nebout, who has sailed in Class40 with both Luke Berry and Xavier Macaire, and will launch his own Class40 project in 2023. This further underline how Class40, in addition to continuing to attract sailors from the Mini circuit – Ian Lipinski, Amélie Grassi, Ambrogio Beccaria, Axel Tréhin, Nicolas d’Estais, Keni Piperol, Stan Thuret… -, is attracting more and more skippers who have moved on from the Figaro. Following that pathway this year have been Xavier Macaire, Corentin Douguet, Martin Le Pape and of course Yoann Richomme, double winner of the Solitaire and holder of the Route du Rhum in Class40 title, is back in Class40 while waiting for the launch of his future Imoca Paprec Arkéa in early 2023.


Richomme, the man to beat ?


And it is clear that these Figaro sailors did not take long to adapt to Class40 Corentin Douguet won the 1000 Milles des Sables on the La Malouine 40′ Lamotte (ahead of Yoann Richomme) and Xavier Macaire the Drheam-Cup. “The main factors most likely to contribute to winning Class40 this time? To have already done the Route du Rhum, to have already won races and to be a Figaro racer,” says Vincent Lauriot Prévost. “In the Figaro, you have to maintain a high level of intensity to race at the front, I think that this intensity is a key point on this Route du Rhum, you have to be able to get into the race rhythm right away, I have no doubt that the Figaro racers will be at 100%, or even more,” confirms Achille Nebout. “These guys regardless of the type of boat that is put in their hands, they are up front,” continues Tanguy Leglatin.

Under these conditions, our experts voted for two sailors: the first, Yoann Richomme who is, for Vincent Lauriot Prévost, “the man to beat”, “he is super good and won the last time with a boat he launched not long before the start just like this year”, specifies Didier Ravon. The second solo racer is Xavier Macaire“He is a sailor at the level of Richomme and Douguet, he is in a very positive place, everything is simple and pragmatic with him, he is down to earth with no ego and he does the essentials very well and focuses mostly on them“, comments Etienne Saïz who trains the skipper of Groupe Snef near La Rochelle.

As for Corentin Douguet, who, for Achille Nebout, has the advantage of “knowing his boat very well because he got to her earlier than the others”, he is at the bottom of the podium for our experts, ahead of Ian Lipinski, winner this season of the CIC Normandy Channel Race. “His Raison plan is really well born, one of the most versatile, he has optimized it every year, I’m sure he can play for the win”, continues Nebout. As for the outsiders capable of aiming for the podium, or even victory, there are Luke Berry, Axel Tréhin, Amélie Grassi, Martin Le Pape, Antoine Carpentier, Simon Koster and the Italian Ambrogio Beccaria whose Musa 40 Allagrande Pirelli, put in the water very late, seems promising: “He lacks preparation time, but if he gets through the first week without too much trouble and if he wins the race he might be a real notch ahead”, ventures Tanguy Leglatin.

The podium of our experts: 1. Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa), 2. Xavier Macaire (Groupe Snef), 3. Ian Lipinski (Crédit Mutuel)

Photo : Eloi Stichelbaut – polaRYSE

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