Transat CIC | The perfect test for Guirec Soudée

Words by Will Pocklington

May 28, 2024

Image by Adrien Cordier
The final transatlantic race ahead of the Vendée Globe, the adversity posed by the 2024 Transat CIC is sure to have primed the maritime adventurer and friend of Le Chameau, Guirec Soudée, for the ultimate sailing challenge this autumn.

After 10 days, 19 hours and 2 seconds at sea, renowned sailor Guirec Soudée and his trusty boat, reached the finish line of the Transat CIC at 0839 New York time on 9 May.

The 3,500-mile solo race across the North Atlantic, from Lorient to New York, represents the last big fixture in the sailing calendar ahead of the ‘Everest of the Seas’: the Vendée Globe.

The 2024 instalment was the 15th since the Transat CIC’s inception in 1960 when it was won by Francis Chichester before French ocean racing legend Eric Tabarly took a landmark French victory in 1964.

By all accounts, the Transat CIC 2024 served as excellent preparation for the Vendée Globe, which starts on 10 November 2024 and will see Guirec and 43 other skippers – the elite of sailing – compete in a 24,300-mile epic which this year celebrates the anniversary of its 10th iteration.

In every picture from the race, Guirec is all smiles – but it wasn’t without its challenges. The weather systems and wind speeds were changeable, and the conditions unusual for an east-to-west crossing of the North Atlantic. Over the course of the race, the sailors experienced everything from calm seas and torrential rain to plummeting temperatures and thick fog.

Despite this, there wasn’t a lot of upwind sailing, meaning conditions were favourable for a ‘fast’ race. Aboard his old generation IMOCA as he raced back to NY, Guirec reached unprecedented speeds of 27 knots – a record on his boat – and in one 24-hour period covered 400 nautical miles.

There were many hard times too, though. Indeed, on some days the average mileage covered by contestants dropped to below 150 miles. One night, as high winds battered, the system that kept the boat’s downwind rudder in a low position was violently ripped off. Waves were breaking on deck and Guirec was forced to think fast, in the dark, to fashion a solution using two cockpit winches that would hold the rudder down in position. Meanwhile, the boat had turned in the wind and the front sail was shaking violently in its assault.

Of the 26 entries, Guirec passed the finish line in 17th place, finishing second in the IMOCA ‘drift’ boats category. He’ll leave the race with valuable confidence and experience.

Overall, following a successful Retour à la Base in 2023, Yoann Richomme took victory on his boat Paprec Arkéa, finishing in 8 days, 6 hours and 53 minutes. In second place, 2 hours and 20 minutes behind Yoann, was Boris Hermann aboard Malizia-Seaexplorer, before Brit Sam Davies secured her first podium finish in a transatlantic race, with her boat Initiatives Coeur.

What’s next for Guirec? Well, by the time you read this he’ll have enjoyed a few days on shore and will be back at sea, aboard with his crew, heading for his home port of Concarneau while analysing the performance of the boat, addressing any concerns noted during the race just past, and exploring ways that its performance might be improved ahead of the greatest challenge of his life this autumn.

You can learn more about the background and achievements of Guirec Soudée here, and read all about his preparation for the Vendée Globe, here.