Where and how did this story begin?
Oftentimes, it all starts to fail. Telegram Group was unable to appeal the Vendée Globe to the head of court. Philippe de Villiers, on behalf of the General Council of Fendi, was smarter, more local, and quicker. He won on February 28, 2004. In April 2004, it announced that Telegram Group was taking control of the Pen Duick Company, then organizing Transat Jacques Vabre, and at the same time buying Rhum Road. Pierre Bojic, Managing Director, assumes operational control of the entity thus formed. In June 2004, wearing my hat as Pen Duick’s head, I sketched fairly accurately that a solo trip around the world on a multi-hull chassis would inevitably come to an end and that it was up to us to imagine it. Especially to organize it. By investing in events, Telegram Group had to set an ambitious course. We had to imagine tomorrow’s races. It was up to me to do that.
Does the idea of circumnavigating the globe coincide with the arrival, in February 2004, of Francis Guyon, the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe without stopping?
Yes, you do not have to be a great clergyman to imagine and predict the future: other sailors will try to venture and then a race will be organized. On June 6, 2004, I wrote an internal note to Groupe Télégramme of a few lines that would set the scene. Everything was said and written. It remains to share my idea, to act and believe in it. The concept, no matter how simple, would take 19 years to be born. We first had to convince the general manager, Pierre Bojic. But once convinced, he went to great lengths. Few sailors were ready for this adventure. Despite everything, we thought the sailors would follow, mindful of creating a dynamic and offering them a structured and funded project. We needed a host city and a starter to finance: Brest, the city of records and the birthplace of Telegram, we had the advantage. So it was necessary to start persuading the mayor.
As is often the case at the start of major races, it all starts with a drink…
We are in the Créole Beach bar in Pointe-à-Pitre to get to the Rhum Route 2006, I explain to François Coelander, Mayor of Brest, on the one hand, the concept of a round-the-world trip, on the other hand we advise the city of Brest to seize this historic opportunity. Line forced the convincing trio that the Brest-City Records-/Telegram-Local Newspaper-/Ben Dweck-Reference Race Organizer-” had all the assets to succeed. Pierre Bogic, crowned with the brilliant organizing of Route du Rhum 2006, drives nails home. Régis Rassouli, responsible for communications for Rhum Road and his partner from the start, brought his stone into the building. The mayor agrees to see us again at the boat show. In Paris, we wrote a two-page note with its code name: Brest Challenge Ultime. Even before giving him the memo, we understand that the mayor is already committed to key principles. The target was set for the period 2010-2011.
How did the opening of Route du Rhum 2010 to the Ultimes change the situation?
Pierre Bojic came up with the idea of opening the 2010 Rome Route to larger boats to create momentum. The goal is to promote these giants that we have decided to call “Ultimate” to facilitate the launch of the world tour. It’s risky since there are few giants, and the Orma trimarans will howl, despite their decline. The debate continues for a few months, but it is this audacity that excites us.
Why did it take this project so many years to see the light of day?
In 2007-2010, the financial crisis weakened the enterprise as a whole: the number of boats for competition was not large enough and financial partners did not crowd each other. En parallèle, les armateurs s’organisent d’abord en Collectif en 2013, puis en Classe Ultim 32/23 en 2015. Suite à un certain nombre de malentendus et d’enjeux a priori non alignés, la classe décide d’organiser son tour From the world. Brest chose. After Ultim Class and the city of Brest announce a world tour in December 2019, all parties resume discussions after the 2018 Route du Rhum and conclude in May 2021 in a framework agreement signed between Ultim Class and OC Sport Pen Dweck, owner of the event, now chaired by Herve Favre, who will organize The world tour is on the terms already established for 2023 and 2027. Five teams register immediately, and at the end of 2021, the local authorities, Brest and Brest Metropol, the Brittany region and the Finistere administration confirm their partnership. In April 2022, Arkéa became the main sponsor of the race called “Arkéa Ultim Challenge Brest”.
(1): Formerly Deputy General Manager of Groupe Télégramme, founder of the events division of Groupe Télégramme.