Vendée Globe: at the finish, a race always driven by the spirit of adventure



The first sailor to go under the hundred days during the 2000-2001 edition, Michel Desjoyeaux inaugurated a line of records set to fall every four years, from one Vendée Globe to another. From 2000 to 2017, more and more sophisticated boats, helmed by sailors who sometimes hold an engineering degree, such as François Gabart or Armel Le Cléac’h, have gained twenty days. By making landfall in January 2017 after 74 days of racing, Armel Le Cléac’h was already announcing the rest of the story: the Vendée Globe in 70 days for 2020-2021.

Everyone believed in it, some like Armel Tripon even advanced on a possible navigation in 65 days, lightening their boat by taking only 70 days of food. Alas, 79 days after the start, Armel Tripon was still 2,500 km away from a line that the first will cross this Wednesday 27, after 80 days at sea. Beautiful symbol for a race more contested than ever and finishing on time. the adventure imagined by Jules Verne in the 19th centurye century, at a time when it seemed almost impossible.

The paradox is that this “slowness” of machines built to navigate fast is good news, including for the organizer. “It is beneficial for the spirit of adventure. Always faster has found its limits, machines have lost in the face of nature, that is also the beauty of ocean racing ”, comments the race director, Jacques Caraës.

A shipwreck that calms the ardor

What happened so that the nine new boats equipped with foils did not leave the fleet of older monohulls in place? The answer lies in the five letters conditioning this natural sport: the weather. “The descent of the Atlantic, at the start of the race, was slowed down by difficult weather conditions which tired both men and machines”, details the race doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve. Heckled in the Atlantic, the foilers were then taken back in the southern seas by a late southern summer. Which never brought them the long expected regular swell, which would have allowed them to soar over the water and in the standings.

→ READ. Vendée Globe: these foils that can turn against their skippers

“The sinking of Kevin Escoffier, whose boat broke in two before sinking in a few minutes, also calmed the enthusiasm of the first: they had to slow down for safety”, continues Doctor Chauve. This almost direct rescue, which risks playing a decisive role in the final classification through the bonuses granted to the three skippers who came to the rescue of the castaway, will remain the greatest adventure of this Vendée Globe. But there were many others, which for the most part ended well. We can no longer count the dangerous ascents at the masthead, including for the one-handed private navigator Damien Seguin, which allowed the sailor to continue his journey.

More tenacious sailors

This ninth edition is also characterized by a very low number of abandonments in view of the weather conditions. Barring further bad luck, there could be 25 of them making landfall, twice as much as usual. Here too, this astonishing statistic is a matter for men and women. “I think that the desire to stay at sea as long as possible marks the arrival of a new generation”, analyzes the former race boss Denis Horeau, author of a reference book (1).

During the last two editions, many skippers who left for the podium immediately threw in the towel after losing any chance in the standings, when they could have reached Les Sables-d’Olonne at low speed. “The spirit of adventure has taken over. Of course, the champions want to win but I believe that victory is no longer enough for them and we should be happy about it ”, continues Denis Horeau. Evidenced by the reaction of Samantha Davies, disqualified after having made a stopover to repair her damaged boat. And left for the beauty of the gesture and the interests of its humanitarian sponsor, Cardiac Surgery Patronage.

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Controversy over the ranking

The arrival was to be played Wednesday evening 27 between the three leading men, Charlie Dalin, Boris Herrmann and Louis Burton. But the final classification will be established after the arrival of three sailors credited with bonuses following their participation in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier, Boris Herrmann (6 hours), Yannick Bestaven (10:15 a.m.) and Jean Le Cam (4:15 p.m. ). Some teams are claiming for their foals at risk of being downgraded the opportunity to share a place on the podium, in a tie. But the organization swept away this initiative, offering litigants to share their… bonuses (€ 200,000 at 1er, 140,000 € to 2e, 100,000 € to 3e, € 80,000 to 4e and € 50,000 at 5e).

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