Défi Atlantique, harnessing the waves of the Atlantic aboard a Class40 | Pirelli

Défi Atlantique, harnessing the waves of the Atlantic aboard a Class40


This is a journey aboard a Class40 across the Atlantic Ocean, from Guadeloupe to the West coast of France, via the Azores Islands, amid breathtaking views and unpredictable seas, totalling three thousand and five hundred nautical miles. It is called the Défi Atlantique, a route that allows the fifty-five solo sailors who took part in the Route du Rhum to return to Europe from the Americas to the Old continent by boat and not by ship or plane, a far greener, challenging and at the same time cheaper and more direct travelling solution compared to a cargo trip. This time however the competition is crew-based (at least two members).

In the case of “Alla Grande – Pirelli”, to be honest, there was also the RorcCaribbean600 in between: after the excellent test of the Route du Rhum, Ambrogio Beccaria took part in the Caribbean regatta finishing second, then the boat remained in the Antilles and is currently awaiting the start of the Défi Atlantique Guadeloupe/Horta/La Rochelle. The date is set for 1st April next, from Pointe-à-Pitre, more precisely, a place that is rarely the starting point for transatlantic regattas. In fact, this regatta allows those who want to navigate the Caribbean circuit to leave theirClass40 in the water without too many complications.

Once again, the event organisation is headed by the Grand Pavois Organisation with the support of the Guadeloupe Region and its local partners, the Municipality of Pointe-à-Pitre, La Communauté d'Agglomération Cap Excellence and the Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes, just like in the first edition, back in 2019. There will be 15 boats at the start for a regatta set to last, at least according to the schedule, about three weeks: the date of arrival in La Rochelle, in the New Aquitaine region, department of Charente-Maritime, is expected between Friday 21st and Sunday 23rd April, where sailors will be welcomed in the Bassin des Chalutiers, just like at the last edition in 2019.

A few days before the arrival, the boats will stop in Horta, in the Azores, scheduled for Sunday 16th April: an extremely useful and convenient stop. First of all, it gives the sailors the chance to optimise the window of arrival weather conditions on the Atlantic coast of France and to bring the fleet together, so that there is a “group” arrival at La Rochelle. Second, during the short stop the skippers, if they so wish, can change crew members– this is important above all because it means a journalist can join the crew for the second stage. Finally, the last advantage is that it could be interesting for crews who wish to qualify for the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023, in order to score the required race miles.

This event has the ambition to become a great classic of ocean regattas. It is very interesting, depending on the choice of the number of crew members, to see what works for a particular boat. Travelling in twos is a significant choice in the lighter Class40; travelling with 3 or 4 crew members instead allows skippers to board their trainers or companions. Upon arrival we will be able to assess which choice paid off,” said Denis Hugues, director of Défi Atlantique.

The first true edition of the regatta in actual fact dates back to 2003 - different era, different story. The protagonists were the 60-foot Imoca monohulls, the route connected Salvador de Bahia, in Brazil, with La Rochelle, there was no stop and there was no assistance of any kind.

The 2019 edition, however, can be considered the real first edition of this new format of the Défi Atlantique Guadeloupe/Horta/La Rochelle. Aymeric Chappellier won it on his boat, the “Aïna Enfance et Avenir", after fifteen days, three hours, forty-two minutes and forty-eight seconds of competition, sailed at an average 9.67 knots: this will be the time to beat in 2023. The last edition should also serve as a warning and a reminder to the sailors in the race: the Atlantic ocean can be tough, as Loïc Fequet teaches us, as he broke a rudder blade and was forced to repair it in Bermuda; a similar fate was met by Luke Berry aboard the Lamotte – Module Création, which demasted exactly one day after departure, one hundred and eighty miles from the coast of Guadeloupe.

This year on board his Class40, Ambrogio Beccaria will be joined by Alberto Riva and the yacht designer of “Alla Grande – Pirelli” Gianluca Guelfi. He will be competing as the protagonist on a boat tailored perfectly to his profile, just like a bespoke garment, we could say a Vitruvian boat.