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CoastWaterSports 2014

From the Arkea Ultim Challenge to the Vendee Globe, 2024 promises to be a great year for sailing

by David Schmidt 2 Jan 16:00 GMT January 2, 2024
The Arkea Ultim Challenge © Ronan Gladu

There are New Year's resolutions, and then there are New Year's resolutions. American sailor Guy deBoer was racing in the 2022/2023 Golden Globe Race when he and Spirit, his 1986 Tashiba 36, found the rocks off the coast of Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, on September 18, 2022. But rather than letting this defeat mar his sailing career, deBoer instead doubled-down and announced plans to complete his circumnavigation this year.

Careful readers will note that the next edition of the Golden Globe Race doesn't start until 2026.

This isn't deterring deBoer, who plans to set out from Les Sables d'Olonne, France, alone, on September 4, aboard a rebuilt Spirit, with the goal of sailing the full GGR route, alone and unassisted.

While the GGR embraces a lack of modern navigation and communication tools, deBoer plans to carry a sat-comms terminal so that he can maintain communications with the outside world.

"I want to broadcast the raw experiences, the trials, and the beauty of this voyage to the world," deBoer said in an official communication. He adds that his goal is to show the world what a solo circumnavigation, using traditional navigation equipment, looks like.

Unlike competitors in the GGR, deBoer isn't in the running for a trophy, nor will he likely attract a ton of mainstream media attention. Instead, the man simply aims to lay to rest a ghost from 2022.

To me, this is the essence of a great New Year's resolution: To look hard at the past years, determine what's gone right and what could use some course correction, and then apply tiller to task.

This isn't always easy, and it's sometimes tempting to remain in life's safe harbors. Likewise, deBoer, who is in his mid-to-late 60s, could easily gravitate to inshore sailing, or to pursuing goals that are easier to attain than rounding the three great capes alone (say, gardening). Instead, the man is taking an even harder, and riskier, course of action, and one that will likely slide uncelebrated under most radars.

But, as anyone who has ever had unfinished business knows, sometimes the solution requires an uncompromising "under, over, around, or through" mindset.

Guy deBoer has likely taken a similar (metaphoric) noon sight, and I look forward to cheering on his solo circumnavigation. I've never met deBoer, but I wish him—and everyone else who makes a hard New Year's resolution—great luck in his endeavor.

Looking ahead for the rest of us, the sailing world is about to enjoy an embarrassment of riches. This is because 2024 is an Olympic year, an America's Cup year, and a Vendee Globe year.

Plus, there will be plenty of foiling excitement to be enjoyed at SailGP events, not to mention a deep menu of world championships, offshore races (including the already unfurling Global Solo Challenge and the Ocean Globe Race 2023), and more great regional and local events than one could shake a carbon-fiber batten at.

But, in the spirit of kicking off 2024 in the right gear, there's great reason to start celebrating right now.

That's because the Arkea Ultim Challenge is set to begin on the waters off of Brest, France, on January 7. This solo, nonstop around-the-world race will be fought out in mighty Ultim trimarans, and it will round the world's three great capes.

To be clear, this is the first time that these mighty trimarans have raced singlehanded around the world as a fleet.

Skippers are allowed to communicate with their shore teams for weather routing and other help, and they are allowed to make stops, but penalties apply if other people step aboard to help.

Six brave souls have signed up for this first-of-its-kind challenge: Charles Caudrelier, aboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild; Thomas Coville, aboard Sodebo Ultim 3; Tom LaPerche, aboard SVR-Lazartigue; Armel Le Cleach, aboard Maxi Banque Populaire XI; Anthony Marchand, aboard Actual Ultim 3; and Eric Peron, aboard Trimaran Adagio.

While organizers are clear that they do not expect the race to yield a new around-the-world record (N.B., those attempts wait for weather windows; this race will begin on January 7, rain or shine), the sailing world can expect one heck of a show.

Personally, I can't wait for this one to start unfurling.

Sail-World extends our best wishes to all readers for a happy, healthy, and peaceful 2024.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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