Cross-at­lantic Ex­press­way

Five boats and two coun­tries unite in a mem­o­rable race with a his­toric cause

Sailing World - - Starting Line -

Four of France’s top mul­ti­hull skip­pers raced to join Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tions in New York City through the Bridge, a unique event that com­mem­o­rated the 100th an­niver­sary of Amer­i­can troops’ in­volve­ment in World War I. The race pit­ted four Ul­time maxi- tri­marans against the cruise ship Queen Mary 2 in a sprint across the At­lantic. The 1,132- foot Queen Mary 2 and the 100 foot Ul­time tri­marans Ac­tual, IDEC Sport, Macif and Sodebo Ul­tim left the French port city of Saint- Nazaire, where the first Amer­i­can sol­diers orig­i­nally ar­rived back on June 25, 1917. The ocean liner car­ried a mix of French busi­ness­men, aca­demics and mu­si­cians par­tic­i­pate in

the “100 Club,” a fu­ture- fo­cused con­fer­ence tied to the event, while the fully crewed Ul­times were stocked with in­ter­na­tional mul­ti­hull tal­ent. Since the Queen Mary 2 can cruise at 28 knots in a straight line while the sailors faced the head­winds of an east-to-west trans-at­lantic cross­ing, the race be­tween the cruise ship and the tri­marans was en­vi­sioned to be largely cer­e­mo­nial.

That proved true, as the Queen Mary 2 reached New York on July 1, two days ahead of the first Ul­time tri­maran, Macif, skip­pered by Fran­cois Gabart, which made the cross­ing in 8 days, 31 min­utes, for an av­er­age of 18.6 knots. The com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Macif and the next two Ul­times was close by com­par­i­son. Se­cond-place IDEC Sport, helmed by Fran­cis Joyon, fin­ished on July 4, in 8 days, 11 hours, 9 min­utes, while third­place Sodebo Ul­tim, skip­pered by Thomas Coville, crossed the line five hours later in 8 days, 16 hours, 18 min­utes (both boats av­er­aged over 17 knots). The fourth-place Ul­time, Ac­tual, lagged be­hind enough to miss the fire­works over the East River, ar­riv­ing the fol­low­ing day.

The Bridge was com­par­a­tively slow com­pared with the record-set­ting 49-day solo cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion Coville made aboard Sodebo in 2016, at an av­er­age pace of 24.1 knots. The 49-year-old French skip­per re­marked that the At­lantic cross­ing still pre­sented its chal­lenges.

His crew­mate and long­time friend Thierry Briend was knocked down by a rogue wave while driv­ing and suf­fered a head in­jury, los­ing con­scious­ness tem­po­rar­ily and then re­main­ing in­co­her­ent for sev­eral hours. After a med­i­cal evac­u­a­tion was con­sid­ered, Briend’s con­di­tion sta­bi­lized, and he was left to rest in his bunk while the rest of the crew — Jean- Luc Nélias, Vin­cent Riou, Loïc Le Mignon and four- time Nacra 17 world champ Billy Bes­son — con­tin­ued racing the boat to New York. Be­fore reach­ing the finish, Sodebo also hit a large fish and dam­aged its rud­der.

“We were going 25 knots, and the shock was huge,” said Coville. “We don’t know if it was a whale or a tuna.”

Luck­ily, the boat made it New York in­tact and Briend was quickly evac­u­ated and trans­ported to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal, where doc­tors con­firmed he had avoided any ma­jor in­jury. Briend was soon re­leased and was back aboard Sodebo on July 6 at its Brook­lyn berth, help­ing pre­pare it for a solo trans-at­lantic at­tempt by Coville later in July.

“I’ve been 40 times across the At­lantic, and you never know what will go on be­tween one side and the other,” said Coville with a wry smile. “But for this six on our boat, this will be a story for our en­tire life that we share, like you share a story with your fam­ily. I like that spirit.”

Look­ing ahead, Coville is over­see­ing the build of a next-gen­er­a­tion foil­ing Ul­time tri­maran that is due for com­ple­tion at the end of 2018. That boat is aimed at a new sin­gle­handed round-the­world race in 2019 that is ex­pected to have eight Ul­times com­pet­ing.


Thomas Coville’s Ul­time Sodebo was one of four crewed 100-foot­ers to race the Queen Mary 2 from France to New York. On Sodebo’s re­turn de­liv­ery, Coville re­duced the sin­gle­handed record time to 4 days, 11 hours, 10 min­utes, 23 sec­onds.

Idec Sport and Macif lead Queen Mary 2 out of Saint-nazaire, France, but the cruise liner soon steamed past the tri­marans and led Macif into New York by two days. PHOTO : PETER BUCKINGHAM

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.