The inaugural non-stop round the world race on ‘Ultim’ will start from Brest in December 2019 – At present there are 5 boats that fit into this class with two recent launches (Gitana and Banque Populaire), one which has been operating for more than two years (MACIF), and two refits with great histories (SODEBO and IDEC)
Indeed, The ‘Ultim’ class currently represents what has proved the most efficient in terms of ocean racing. It incorporates design ideas that have been experimented over a number of years with the sole purpose of breaking the most prestigious ocean records (non-stop-round-the-world, North Atlantic, 24 Hours, etc.) . Saving breakages or common teething problems for new launches, the latest boat has always proved more or less the fastest. One can hope that the formation of the Ultim Class will create enough of a level playing field in a fleet which for now, remains exclusively a French thing (skippers, sponsors, public).
A start from Brest (at the Western tip of Brittany, France) will only consolidate the perception of an inner circle marvelling at the sight of its own belly button. Fair enough, Brest (or rather a line between Ushant and the Lizard), has some historical significance when it comes to round the world sailing records. However as a location, it is anything but ideal when it comes to pre-race activation with a wider audience.
An element which could spice public interest in the event within and outside France, and therefore sponsor’s value, would be the announcement of a competitive projcet for the race led by a skipper coming from abroad, but given the minimum 3 years cycle time to develop this type of boat, unless one of the existing one changes hands, this won’t happen this time round.
How about ocean racing records? They will of course be beaten, one after the other and over time…and not necessarily every time by an ‘Ultim’ – As any racing class, the Ultim class is freezing innovation at a certain point in time, within a defined scale, and therefore taps the scope for progress in pure performance. Nothing prevents a maverick team to think outside these limits, both in terms of scale and base concepts. Doubtless this will happen sooner or later.