In just 22 days, the Brest Atlantiques fleet of giant, doublehanded Ultime trimarans has already made its way from France to Brazil to South Africa and then almost to the equator again on its way back to France.
The racing has not been without its bumps and bruises, with the oceangoing giants having made multiple “pit stops” along the way to fix things like daggerboards and rudders after colliding with various different unidentified floating object (UFOs).
Worse yet, one of the four competitors, Sodebo, was recently forced to pull into Cape Town where it eventually abandoned racing completely. Clearly, dragging multiple knifelike appendages, sieve-like, across the world’s oceans at high speed is not without its risks. Just ask Alex Thomson, who sailed over half the last Vendee Globe short a daggerboard after hitting something early on aboard his IMOCA 60, Hugo Boss.
That said, don’t let these bumps and bruises diminish what’s taking place here. Feast your eyes on the video above of Edmond de Rothschild at speed in the South Atlantic, northbound from South Africa. Then stop and think about what exactly it is you’re seeing: a 100ft-plus sailboat with a mere doublehanded crew (in this case Volvo Ocean Race veterans Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier), not just skimming but literally flying over the water in a way that would have been incomprehensible as little as five years ago. Pretty darn cool!
Suffice it to say that ocean racing will never be the same at the end of this “proof of concept” event. It will be fascinating to see what comes next.