The arrival in February 2001 of Michel Desjoyeaux in Les Sables d’Olonne as the winner of the Vendée Globe, Catherine Chabaud is not about to forget it. After bringing her boat back to last place in the previous edition (1996-1997), this time she is fighting at the forefront with podium hopes. “Of course the arrival of the first marks the approach of the port and the deliverance for all, but we can not hide a form of disappointment not to be in the place of the winner, she said, Wednesday evening January 27, when the first skippers arrived. So we console ourselves by telling ourselves that there is still the fight for the places of honor … But there is also the fear of damage which can call everything into question. “ Three days after the winner’s arrival, his mast broke less than a thousand kilometers from the finish. End of the adventure.
→ STORY. Vendée Globe: Yannick Bestaven winner at the end of the night
Twenty years later, far from this racing atmosphere, 11,000 kilometers from Les Sables d’Olonne, the Finnish Ari Huusela brings up the rear with complete peace of mind. “I’m happy for the winner. When I embarked on this adventure, I knew that I would arrive at least a month after the first arrivals. That they are already finishing their race is anything but a surprise. “
Same refrain at Alexia Barrier, at the helm of Catherine Chabaud’s former boat, which does not sail very far from the Finn. On the phone this Thursday, January 28, she especially admits her relief at having crossed Cape Horn, after one of the worst storms of her career. She confronted her, taking refuge in the cockpit, with emergency beacon and survival suit close at hand.
Relief to have passed Cape Horn
The course, in the community of sailors, is the major criterion. Landing in Les Sables d’Olonne is certainly the Holy Grail that everyone hopes to win, but the essential thing is to have passed the test of the capes – Bonne Espérance, Leuwin and Horn – without which one is not considered a lap- du-mondiste. Getting off his boat on Thursday 28 night, winner Yannick Bestaven said he had “Realized a childhood dream”. Alexia Barrier says nothing else, especially since this satisfying first round-the-world trip with the slowest boat in the fleet opens up horizons for her for a Vendée Globe 2024 on a competitive monohull. “I am happy with my lot, she says. Of course, I dream of a fruit basket, a good shower and a nice outfit for the arrival, but I refuse to think too much about it, otherwise I turn left to go and treat myself to a caipirinha. Rio! “
Closer to the goal, the youngest of the race, the Swiss Alan Roura, believes he has “About thirteen days at sea before seeing land again”. “Thirteen days is nothing! Absolutely nothing ! And at the same time … it’s long, he notes. So much can still happen … What is cool, however, is that four years ago, when the winner arrived, I had just passed Cape Horn. This year, I will only be two short weeks behind, despite all my technical concerns. Not so bad ! “
“When Le Cléac’h arrived in 2007, I envied him”
Éric Bellion, ninth in 2017 after having sailed alongside the Swiss for a long time, does not remember having shared such serenity. “When I learned of the arrival of Armel Le Cléac’h, I found it interminable, I was tired, my boat too, and I had the impression that everyone was forgetting me. I wanted to shout: “And oh I’m still at sea”. I imagined Armel freed from the permanent anxiety of the accident, I saw him having a good steak and fries, using a stable toilet. And then there was this obsession with the classification which I couldn’t get rid of… ”
The closer you get to the outposts of the fleet still at sea, the less relaxed the atmosphere is. “I can imagine guys like Armel Tripon who are going to have a monstrous depression just before the finish line, they must have the balls not to have arrived at the port, especially since they had boats cut out for the win, continues Éric Bellion. The worst, however, must be for Jérémie Beyou. He lost ten days at the start by returning to port to repair when he was one of the big favorites. He must be very bad… ”
Eight arrivals in almost twenty-four hours
Never in the history of the Vendée Globe, had there been more than two arrivals on the same day. This time, they will have been seven to cross the line in twenty-four hours, maybe even eight if Jean Le Cam had to cross the line before 8:35 pm, Thursday January 29th. This ninth edition, exceptional in many respects with its very low dropout rate, slow speed and number of participants, is not to an originality. Its winner, Yannick Bestaven, arrived eight hours after the first, Charlie Dalin, relegated to second place due to the bonus system favorable to Bestaven.