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Flight of the Giants

by Sharon Green December 29, 2021

 Brest Alantic Dec 2021 Ultimate Sailing

It’s no wonder there was no-one on deck when the December 2021 Ultimate Sailing Calendar images were shot! Exploding through the gnarly seas at wicked speeds, despite being reefed; this massive trimaran (top) is a full-on wash cycle for the crew, who have to steer the boat from within! One-hundred-feet long and 75-feet wide, this carbon fiber monster is one of a handful of Les Ultim trimarans plying the open ocean at earth-shattering speeds.

This month’s images come to you from the North Atlantic, where my daring colleague Thierry Martinez lives and works. And while sailors tell of the demanding nature of these craft – saying ‘There is so much power that if you make a mistake there is no escape … you have to stay on the sheet all the time … when you are at the limit you have less than a second to react …’ – it’s just as demanding to capture on film.

“Ultimo boats are very, very fast, so it’s impossible to shoot them going 40 knots in 8-meter seas, from a motorboat,” explained Thierry. “The heli is the only tool for this kind of image,” he said. But although he declared the pilot “one of the best, in the world;” zooming around in a helicopter in 50 or 60 knots of wind over roaring seas is pretty dicey stuff!

Thierry martinez

Thierry is a frequent contributor to the Ultimate Sailing Calendar and I am so thrilled to spotlight his exciting work. He grew up in central France in Lyon – far from any sea – but a mid-career switch from technician to photographer landed him a post covering the 1989/90 Whitbread Race (predecessor of the Volvo Ocean Race). That was his launchpad into the world of yachting photography, and since then he has covered most of the great international sailing events including Around Alone, Vendee Globe, America’s Cup, the Olympic Games and more.

“This was the first race in 35 years where I saw boats starting with only a mainsail up!” Thierry exclaimed. Triple reefed in the 40-knot breeze and big seas, the fleet was taking off on the Brest Atlantique Race, called the Flight of the Giants.

This exclusive, hard-core race starts near the westernmost part of France, off Brittany, and follows a 14,000-mile figure eight course south toward Rio de Janeiro, then sweeps east across the Roaring Forties to Cape Town, then back northwest, crossing its own path near the Equator, before returning to Brest. All in 28 days or so!

Race Route

To capture these shots, Thierry said he used a pair of Canon EOS-1D X Mark II bodies with 70/200mm zoom and 600mm lenses.

When not shooting regattas, Thierry is somewhat of a storm chaser, capturing stock images of stormy seas, brine-swept lighthouses and sail boats battered by strong winds in the tempestuous north Atlantic.

“Before we shoot a stock image we have a long preparation, waiting for a weather window and planning what images we will do,” he described. “We choose the place where the boat will sail, what time – considering light and direction – and the points of sail.”

2021 Ultimate Sailing Calendar December

These images of Macif (top) and Actual Leader (inset) illustrate his mastery of photography in such extreme conditions and I for one am glad Thierry has the courage and talent to pursue these exhilarating shots!

2022 is around the corner!

As we turn the final page on the 2021 Ultimate Sailing Calendar, I thank you once again for your patronage and support, and hope you’ve enjoyed walking through the pages of the calendar with me! For 2022 we have a stirring retrospective of my favorite images over the decades, as I celebrate my 40th edition of the calendar. I hope you’ll come along with me next year too as we walk down memory lane and revisit this vibrant, dynamic era in yacht and sail design and technology together.

Order your 2022 Ultimate Sailing Calendar now at https://www.ultimatesailing.com/collections/calendars.

Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!  ~ Sharon




Sharon Green
Sharon Green


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