Rich WIlson Arrival Vendee Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Rich Wilson (USA), skipper Great American IV, 13th of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on February 21st, 2017 – Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe
Arrivée de Rich Wilson (USA), skipper Great American IV, 13ème du Vendee Globe, aux Sables d’Olonne, France, le 21 Février 2017 – Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

American skipper Rich Wilson crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race off Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France this afternoon (Tuesday 21/02) at 1250hrs UTC. From the fleet of 29 boats which started the 27,440 miles singlehanded race from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday November 6th, Wilson and Great American IV secure 13th place in an elapsed time of 107 days 48 mins 18 secs.

Wilson, at 66 years old the oldest skipper in the race, successfully completes the pinnacle solo ocean racing event for the second time. He improves his time for the 2008-9 edition of the race, 121 days and 41 minutes by a fortnight, thereby achieving one of the key goals which drew him back to take on the race for a second time. Whilst racing he also delivered a daily, multi faceted educational programme to over 750,000 young people in more than 55 different countries around the world, another of the fundamental reasons Wilson returned to the Vendée Globe. He becomes the fastest American to race solo non stop around the world, beating the 2004-5 record of Bruce Schwab of 109 days 19 hours.
 
The hugely experienced American skipper who is a lifelong mariner and a native of Boston,Massachusetts, adds to a remarkable catalogue of achievements under sail over an extraordinary career spanning nearly 40 years, including three record passages including San Francisco to Boston in 1993, New York to Melbourne in 2001, and in 2003 Hong Kong to New York.
Wilson crossed the finish line on a cool February afternoon, emerging from the grey skies of the Bay of Biscay, with scarcely a rope out of place. His Great American IV returned to Les Sables d’Olonne in almost exactly the same, near perfect condition as they left in early November. Wilsonhas dealt competently with a range of small technical problems, notably gripes with his autopilot system, his hydrogenerator system and some modest sail repairs. To finish two Vendée Globe races with both of his boats in great condition is testament to his impeccable seamanship, his ongoing focus and discipline to stay within the prudent protocols he sets himself, looking to achieve high average speeds and sail very efficiently while keeping the skipper and his boat safe. The efficiency of his actual course, that is how direct a route he sailed, is almost exactly the same as that of race winner Armel Le Cléac’h – sailing around 27,450 miles and is only bettered by the fourth to sixth placed skippers Jéremie Beyou, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam who sailed around 300 miles less.
Wilson is in no way a crusader looking to prove a point about the capabilities or achievements of older solo racers or athletes. Suffering from asthma since he was an infant, he has also considered age a mere number but strove to be as fit and strong as he could be prior to both races. ‘I am not ready for the pipe and slippers. Age is just a number.’ Wilson said many times before the start. That said his success today will be a huge inspiration to older people around the world to pursue their dreams and follow their passions. His boat for this edition of the race, an Owen-Clarke design which raced to seventh with Dominique Wavre in 2012-13, is faster but more physical than Great American III.
Along the route Wilson has told the story of his race with clarity and passion, his educated and inquisitive mind ensuring topics have remained interesting and informative with a broad appeal to all ages. A former maths teacher he has graduate degrees from Harvard Business School and MIT and a college degree from Harvard. He enjoyed regular communication with many of the other skippers in the race, most of all Alan Roura, the Swiss 23 year old youngest racer who finished yesterday.
Rich Wilson’s Race
7th Nov: Replacement of a batten car on the main mast track, sailed with conservative sail selection not wanting to make a mistake while tired. Hydrogenerator propeller pitch control pump leaked all of its hydraulic oil into the box.
12th Nov: In a squall the boat took off, and then the autopilot decided to stop. So the boat turned up toward the wind, and lay over at about 45 degrees, with both sails flapping. I rushed into the cockpit and grabbed the tiller. Unidentified autopilot problem fixed.
17th Nov: First part of the Doldrums further north than was predicted. Sudden squalls.
19th Nov: At 0450, Great American IV crossed the Equator. 12th crossing under sail for Rich.
24th Nov: Getting to know the boat well. Gained miles on those ahead. Nice chat with Tanguy de Lamotte.
1st Dec: Peak speed of 24.7 knots. “I don’t understand how the leaders can deal with the speeds, and the stress that comes with them”
6th Dec: Entered the Indian Ocean. More Work on the Hydrogenerator
9th Dec: Chats with Alan Roura, and with Eric Bellion. ‘The three multi-generational amigos, me at 66, Eric at 40, and Alan at 23’13th Dec: “Pushing very hard to get east across the top of the Kerguelen Shelf before the big depression gets here in 36 hours. Our plan is to then head southeast to get to where the strong winds will be. Eric has chosen a north route, Alan and Enda look as though they are working on a similar plan to mine.”
15th Dec: Average of 45 knots wind for a 16 hour period, and our thundering sprints of boat speed from 10-12 knots into the mid-20s, ricocheting off waves
20th Dec: “Interesting encounter last night with Enda O’Coineen”
21st Dec: “Fantastic encounter today when my friend Eric Bellion came roaring up from behind us and passed us close aboard”
25th Dec: “We are a long way from home, and have a long way to go. Usually in my voyages, I haven’t gotten too lonely. But today I did. I’m sure it was exacerbated by the big depression that is forecast to develop ahead of us.”
31st Dec: Crossing the International Date Line
1st Jan: “We are in the gale. We have 35-40 knots of wind now and it looks as though this will last for another 18 hours. The violence that the sea can heap on a boat is not describable.”
5th Jan: “the nicest day of sailing that we’ve had in one might say months”
7th Jan: Exactly halfway
13th Jan: “We were in the bulls-eye of the strong winds for the depression. Solent to staysail to storm jib, and 1 reef to 2 reefs to 3 reefs in the mainsail.” Autopilot malfunction.
17th Jan: Cape Horn
18th Jan: “We went west of the Falkland Islands, behind Alan Roura, who followed through the Lemaire Strait”
22nd Jan: “A very bad night last night. We had 35 knots of north, steady, up to 38, which created a big wave situation, with cresting seas 12-15′ high. This went on most of the afternoon. And then suddenly, nothing. The physicality of this boat is beyond description, and I am exhausted and, frankly, demoralized.”
25th Jan: “We just got clobbered through the night, with 30 knots of wind, upwind, into the big building seas, and crashing and crashing and crashing. The conditions are just chaotic. There is really nothing you can do on the boat, because you just have to be holding on at all times.”
29th Jan: “Latitude of Rio de Janeiro. Southwest winds, 2 – 3 knots, very bizarre. The boat went in circles for 3 hours, and it was very frustrating.”
5th Feb: back into the Northern Hemisphere
7th Feb: finally into the NE’ly trade winds
16th Feb: sailed close to Faial in the Azores.
21st Feb: finished
First words 
“It’s great to be back. To see France and all the French people here. It was great to see Eric (Bellion) and Alan (Roura) here. They were my brothers in the south. We talked almost every day by e-mail. In this race I think there was a lot more communication between the skippers than in 2008-2009 – Koji, Fabrice, Nandor, Stéphane and Didac who was chasing me. We talked about everything in the world. It was a little bit harder, because I’m older. The boat was easier because of the ballast tanks. You can use the ballast rather than put in a reef all the time, which is what I had to do on the other boat. What distinguished the race for me was that it was grey all the way. Across the south and then all the way up the Atlantic. Grey. Grey. It was so depressing. Four or five days ago, the sun came out for twenty minutes and I leapt out and stuck my face and hands under the sun. It was grey and just for so long. That was hard.”“I found all the calms that exist in the Atlantic. It was never-ending in the Atlantic. Eight years ago, I said never again. But now it’s too difficult. This is the perfect race course. The most stimulating event that exists. My goal was to finish this race and to work for SitesAlive, which has 700,000 young people following. What is fantastic about this race is the support of the public with all the people here. I remember the first time, someone said, if you finish the race, you’re a winner. I think that is correct. I could give you a quotation from Thomas Jefferson. When he was ambassador to France, he said everyone has two countries, their own and France and I think that is true.””The Vendée Globe is two Vendée Globes. It is very long. The oceans, the capes. It’s all very hard. But the other Vendée Globe is the one ashore. The welcome that our team and I have had here. It’s incredible. I felt older. I am 66! My thoughts go out to Nandor who finished two weeks ago at the age of 65. We sent back data each day concerning me and the boat. Each day, I did an average of 12,000 turns on the winch. But it was hard.””The worst thing was it was so grey. I had a map of the stars with me but I couldn’t use it. The best thing was communicating with the others. We’re a real community.”

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Thursday, 19th January French sailor Armel Le Cléac’h has today won the Vendée Globe, setting a new record for the solo non-stop round the world race in the process.

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, with flares in the channel of Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, with flares in the channel of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Le Cléac’h, 39, from Brittany, crossed the finish line of the race in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, at 1537hrs UTC after 74 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds at sea on his 60ft racing

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Oivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Oivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe
Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d’Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 – Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

His time sets a new record for the race, beating the previous record of 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes set by French sailor Francois Gabart in the 2012-13 edition by 3 days, 22 hours and 41 minutes. Le Cléac’h, the runner-up in the 2008-09 and 2012-13 editions of the Vendée Globe, covered 24,499.52 nm at an average speed of 13.77 knots during the race, which began from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6 last year. The Vendée Globe, which was founded in 1989, follows the ‘clipper route’ around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin and South America’s Cape Horn. Second-placed Alex Thomson is expected to cross the finish line on his boat Hugo Boss around 12 hours behind Le Cléac’h. The arrivals are being streamed live online. For more information about how to follow the finishes see

http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/news/18197/how-to-follow-the-finish-this-thursday. 

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74d 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74d 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74d 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, with flares in the channel of Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, with flares in the channel of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, celebration with Mumm champagne at pontoon of Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, celebration with Mumm champagne at pontoon of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, celebration with Mumm champagne at pontoon of Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, celebration with Mumm champagne at pontoon of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, with media at pontoon of Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, with media at pontoon of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe Arrivée de Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, vainqueur du Vendee Globe en 74j 3h 35min 46sec, aux Sables d'Olonne, France, le 19 Janvier 2017 - Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Finish arrival of Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA), skipper Banque Populaire VIII, winner of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in 74d 3h 35min 46sec, in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, on January 19th, 2017 – Photo Jean Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

St Michel - Virbac Skipper Jean-Pierre Dick

St Michel – Virbac Skipper Jean-Pierre Dick

Friday the 13th might be unlucky for some, but not for British skipper Alex Thomson who has pulled back 85 crucial miles on Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h in the last 24 hours.

Thomson revealed yesterday that in order to stand a chance of overhauling French skipper Le Cléac’h before the finish of the solo round the world race he must get to within 50 miles of him in the next few days. At the 1400 UTC position report yesterday Thomson’s Hugo Boss was 216 miles adrift of Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire VIII as the pair passed to the west of the Cape Verde Islands. At the same time today that deficit was down to 131 miles as light winds forced Le Cléac’h to slow to just one knot compared to Thomson’s eight knots. Thomson too will see speeds drop as he hits the dead spot but with several days of light-wind sailing ahead before stronger south-easterlies fill in near the Azores even the smallest of gains were welcome.

Photo sent from the boat St Michel - Virbac, on January 12th, 2017 - Photo Jean-Pierre Dick

Photo sent from the boat St Michel – Virbac, on January 12th, 2017 – Photo Jean-Pierre Dick

Thomson was not the only one with reason to celebrate. Crossing the Equator yesterday 13 days, three hours and 59 minutes after rounding Cape Horn, Jean-Pierre Dick set a new race record for the passage. Incredibly he shaved almost 16 hours off the reference time of Vendée 2012-13 winner François Gabart of 13 days, 19 hours and 29 minutes. In fact, Dick was just the first of four skippers to beat Gabart’s time. Thomson posted a time of 13 days, five hours and 30 minutes, Yann Eliès took 13 days, seven hours and 20 minutes while Jean Le Cam was just 37 minutes behind. In stark comparison, race leader le Cléac’h was almost 32 hours slower than Dick over the same distance, but his woes did not stop there. His losses caused by a painful crossing of the Doldrums were today laid bare. Fifteen of the race’s remaining 18 skippers made gains on Banque Populaire over the past seven days. Frenchman Eric Bellion has been by far the biggest winner in the last week, pulling back 641nm on Le Cléac’h, with Jean-Pierre Dick was next in line making back 388nm. Only Thomson and 17th-placed Pieter Heerema lost ground on Le Cléac’h, Thomson dropping 26nm to the leader and Heerema losing 10nm.

The Vendée Globe finish line is now within 1,800 miles of Le Cléac’h, and his ETA in Les Sables remains Thursday January 19th. Race HQ has now moved from Paris and is set up in Les Sables ready for the opening of the race village tomorrow. Doors to the village, at Port Olona, open to the public at 10am local time and visitors can enjoy an exhibition on the race, shop for official Vendée Globe merchandise or relax in the race’s legendary bar and restaurant, the VOG. A huge screen will show the arrivals live from the finish line to the pontoon, and skippers will then be interviewed on the main stage.

Tune in to the Vendée Live show tomorrow on the race website at 1200 UTC for the latest news from the Vendée Globe.

RANKINGS TODAY 

A few of the 29 skippers in the line up for the 2016 Vendee Globe (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendee Globe)

A few of the 29 skippers in the line up for the 2016 Vendee Globe (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendee Globe)

Sunday 6th November 1302hrs (local time), 1202 UTC the start gun will send 29 intrepid
solo skippers off on the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe. In a modern age where the
pursuit of instant gratification and always-on social interconnection prevails in even the
most remote corners of the world, the challenge of racing non stop around the globe
without outside help – one person, one boat non stop 24,020 nautical miles Les Sables
d’Olonne to Les Sables d’Olonne via the three great capes for somewhere between 75
and 120 days, retains an enduring, magical appeal.

The purity and simplicity of the race remains unchanged since the first edition in 1989 when 13 pioneering soloists started. But it is testament to its incredible magnetism that the race which starts Sunday will be the most international yet as for the first time the challenge is taken up by soloists from the Australasian and Asian continents. Twenty French skippers and nine from Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the USA will answer the start cannon Sunday. Ireland, New Zealand and Japan are represented for the first time. The performance and age spectrum of the skippers and their respective View the online version

2016 Vendée Globe: The Focal Point
IMOCA 60 foot racing yachts has never been greater. Set on January 27th 2013 by the youngest skipper ever to win the race, François Gabart at the age of 29, the benchmark of 78 days 2hrs 16m 40 secs is thought likely to fall. Since the last race four years ago there has been a technological leap as innovative hydrofoiling daggerboards have been adopted on the IMOCAs of seven skippers. These new foils generate substantial lift on the hull, literally allowing the 7,5 tonne boats to fly almost clear of the waves to sustain speeds averaging 2-4kts faster than their conventional modern generation counterparts. When they were first used in a full ocean racing environment just over one year ago there was a high proportion of mechanical failures associated with these foils. Even after months of further development and reinforcement of the hull structures there are still question marks over their potential reliability and seeming susceptibility to hitting objects. Briton Alex Thomson on his latest generation Hugo Boss took third place in the last edition of the Vendée Globe race. After numerous failures in different high profile ocean races Thomson’s choice of a solid, slightly older proven design – which he pushed hard and sailed smartly to finish third – this time sees him back to pushing the technology frontiers. His new boat bristles with the latest design interpretations and technology. He is widely considered a major threat to
the top, all-French hierarchy. Last night Thomson and his team sailed one final, overnight
testing mission, checking different foil and sail set ups. During the summer his Hugo Boss
proved to have race winning potential when he lead the New York – Vendée warm up
Transatlantic Race before electrical problems compromised his winning challenge. Since then, despite having to resort to his set of first generation foils after the second generation set failed, Thomson asserts that Hugo Boss is even faster.

Even among seasoned race watchers the perennial question ‘Who will win the Vendée Globe?’ has many different answers. Including Thomson there are six highly experienced, top skippers equipped with foils. Armel Le Cléac’h has finished second in the last two Vendée Globes, only three hours behind winner Gabart in 2013, the conclusion of a mind bending match-race all the way around the world when the two near identical IMOCAs raced all the way as if joined by bungee elastic. Sébastien Josse lead the epic 2008-9 race at different stages before he was forced to abandon with rudder damage. Edmond de Rothschild is the highly optimised, immaculately prepared new IMOCA aboard which he won last winter’s solo Transat Saint Barth’s-Lorient race before finishing second in this year’s New York- Vendée race. His experience racing the Edmond de Rothschild Multi 70 trimaran crewed and short handed has fine tuned his ability to race on the edge for long periods. Jean Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac is a multiple winner of big ocean races, such as the Transat Jacques Vabre and two Barcelona World Races around the world. He missed third in the last race when his keel failed 1500 miles from the finish, dropping to fourth. Jéremie Beyou has yet to finish the Vendée Globe despite starting twice. He is the only skipper to retro-fit foils, to his Maitre-Coq, the 2010 launched boat which finished second in 2013 as Banque Populaire.

The only skipper to have won the race before who will be on the start line this time, 2004-5 winner Vincent Riou on PRB, has stayed with a conventional, non foil set up. But his March 2010 launched boat is considered the most optimised, furthest refined IMOCA which possesses a great all round potential. While the foiling IMOCAs are at their best fast reaching in winds over 15kts, they are still felt to have a disadvantage in increased drag in lighter airs and less efficiency upwind. Riou is a firm believer that his choice will give him an at least even chance over the long game. So too Yann Eliès has a well optimised IMOCA with more conventional boards. A three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro, he returns to the Vendée Globe eight years after being rescued 800 miles south west of Australia. Eliès lay stricken and unable to move suffering from multiple leg fractures inside his yacht for two days before being taken to safety.

An unprecedented five sailors will be racing the Vendée Globe for their fourth time. Riou,
Thomson, Dick and veterans Jean Le Cam and Bertrand de Broc. Two of the 14 first timers will start with realistic aspirations of emulating Gabart’s feat, winning the Vendée Globe at their first attempt, never having raced solo in the Southern Oceans. Morgan Lagravière, 29, is an Olympic skiff sailor turned Figaro sailor turned Vendée Globe racer. He was selected by Safran as the best of the new, younger generation talent to fly their colours and he has a foiling, March 2015 launched design. His programme has been managed latterly by Roland Jourdain’s organisation. Similarly Paul Meilhat’s SMA is the leading IMOCA programme for double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux’s Mer Agitée stable. Meilhat, 34, is also an ex 49er sailor who moved through the one design Figaro circuit, winning the 2014 Transat AG2R. There are set to be many races within the race as different generations of boats and skippers compete against each other. A posse of skippers with 2006-7 designs are expected to have equally intense, hard fought battles. Tanguy De Lamotte on Initiatives Couer which publicises acharity which provides life saving heart surgery for children, Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée, Arnaud Boissieres on La Mie Caline, Jean Le Cam on Finistere Mer Vent and Thomas Ruyant on Le Souffle Du Nord, are all expected to form the middle and upper middle order of the fleet.

The race has drawn an engaging cross section of adventurous skippers of all ages who set off with the only common theme being their shared dream of finishing the race, completing the circle. Twenty four year old Swiss soloist Alan Roura has a low budget campaign which
bottomed out financially when he did not have enough money to put fuel in his team van.
KiwiAmerican
Conrad Colman starts his third round the world race having only just secured a last
minute sponsor for his 100% Natural Energy. He is looking to be the first skipper to finish the race using only naturally generated electrical energy. Sébastien Destremau will realise an almost fleeting ambition which only took him over when he was reporting for TV at the start of the last race. Irish businessman, adventurer and sailor Enda O’Coineen on Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland is looking to fulfil a lifetime ambition but also to spearhead a lasting legacy for Ireland which also encompasses building a sail training vessel and, in the future, a sail training academy. Similarly Holland’s Pieter Heerema is a successful businessman looking to fulfil a sailing ambition, racing a latest generation foiler. Hungary’s Nandor Fa, 64, starts his third Vendée Globe twenty years after his first one, racing a boat he mostly designed and built himself. American Rich Wilson is driven to compete in his second Vendée Globe, the oldest skipper in the fleet, by the burning desire to share the educational values of the race. His Sites Alive program run from on board Great American 4 will reach over 1 million youngsters, including 3000 schools in China, an educational program approved by the French Education Department, and 50,000 students in Taiwan.

Fair weather expected for the start The weather is now becoming clear and more precise for Sunday: 15 to 20 knot northerlies, ideal conditions to get the world’s most extreme race underway. “A north to NW’ly air stream blowing at between 15 and 25 knots out at sea, probably lighter on the coast with squally showers possible around Les Sables d’Olonne. The NW’ly swell should remain below 1m,” announced the Great Circle team, the official weather partner for the 8th Vendée Globe. Decent conditions are expected for the 29 IMOCAs as they cross the Bay of Biscay in a northerly flow offering good speeds on seas that remain slight, before they reach Cape Finisterre and then the coast of Portugal in stronger winds (gusting to 35 knots).

In other words, we can look forward to a fast start for the non-stop solo round the world race allowing them in theory to sail downwind all the way to the Equator. “Conditions should enable us to get a good time for this first portion of the race with everyone going down quickly to the Equator. We could see a day less to get there than it took four years ago. We’re not about to be shaken up like in 2012. This weather should favour the foilers. That much is clear,” explained Vincent Riou (PRB).

A relief for the sailors and their families “We’re not looking at a deep low and strong headwinds . I can remember how complicated the start was eight years ago. This time we’re not getting thrown in at the deep end and so that removes some of the stress,” admitted Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), who is already drawing up his route for the first part of the course. A huge relief too for the families. Arnaud Boissières, (La Mie Câline) told us this morning, “The weather is looking decent for the start I’m pleased in particular for my family and friends and sponsors, as that makes it easier to
bear, even if there is bound to be some stress. That means that the fleet should remain intact for longer, which is good.”

Quotes
Rich Wilson, Great American IV:
“I can’t wait to get going. It’s time we were out there. It’s a huge pleasure casting off, even if there is always some stress and apprehension. But we’ve all been working hard on that. The weather suits me. I prefer to set sail in these winds with less than 20 knots expected, even if know that later in the South, we will get some tough conditions. It was hard for me back in 2008.”

Morgan Lagravière (Safran):
“The weather looks good as it will allow us to ease ourselves into the race. That means we can get used to being at sea more easily and avoid getting seasick, while gradually putting our foot down. I was looking forward to this sort of weather, and it seems to be happening now. I’m particularly apprehensive about the morning of the start, as I can get very emotional and I attach a lot of importance to the human aspects ashore. I guess I’ll probably be in tears. But we must not see the start as a punishing separation. I’ll soon get into race mode and put the rest behind me.”

Vincent Riou (PRB):
“Less than a year ago, it was seen as risky fitting foils on these boats. Now it seems that the risk has shifted, making it harder for those without foils.”

Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac):
“On Sunday, I’ll be setting sail on my fourth VendéeGlobe, but in spite of that, I feel
apprehensive. But who can set off without any worry though, as if they were nipping into their garden to pick some strawberries? No one! In any case I don’t know this superman. You can’t take anything for granted in top class sports and that is even more the case, when we are looking at the sea. In my previous attempts, I always found it tough settling into the race at the start. The fact that the weather looks decent is good news for me. But I’m not celebrating, as during the round the world voyage, we’ll all have to deal with harsh conditions at some point.”

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII):
“The start of the race should favour the boats with foils with the wind coming from a good angle. We know how to sail quickly in these conditions. It’s something we worked on during the training sessions in Port-la-Forêt. We should be able to find our feet relatively easily after this long period ashore. But the second night looks like more of a battle with fairly strong winds along the coast of Portugal. We can’t rule out beating the record to the Equator (held since2004 by Jean Le Cam with a time of 10 days and 11 hours).”

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean):
“Some skippers have huge pressure on them. They must win. Today, when you see skippers
refusing to shake your hand because they are afraid of catching something, I applaud them with both hands. That’s fabulous. It was my personal choice to go off to Australia last week to see goodbye to the children. I wanted to talk to them and tell them that I was doing something very important, but that was risky. I wanted them to know I loved them before setting off.”

#VG2016 #VendeeGlobe #Vendee #France

 

Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm, Jean Le Cam)

Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm, Jean Le Cam)

With Cheminées Poujoulat making good progress up the Atlantic, making close to 18kts, 120 miles SW of the Falklands, Cape Horn marks the frontier between the two different worlds inhabited by skippers on the Barcelona World Race.
All but two pairs, the bookends of the fleet, are still awaiting their release from the Big South, the relentless grey, chilly, damp world. For Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, bows of Cheminées Poujoulat pointed NE, there is the added vigour of knowing every mile north is a mile closer to sunshine and tradewinds,  a mile closer to Barcelona, and a mile away from their Southern Oceans escapades. And for seventh placed Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman in Bluff, South Island NZ, there is an unfortunate but not unpleasant technical pitstop as they make repairs to ensure a less troublesome second half of their race. Cheminées Poujoulat had a reasonable passage across the border last night, under the cover of darkness. They crossed into the Atlantic passing 14 miles south of Rock at 00:53 UTC, after 55 days 12 hours and 53 minutes of racing. This afternoon Stamm and Le Cam passed the Strait of Le Maire, between Tierra del Fu ego and Staten Island, and their next choice is which side to leave the Falklands. So far the windward, west side looks better and a shorter route. Tensions remain high between second and third. But by virtue of better, stronger breezes Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz have progressively driven a bigger and bigger wedge between themselves and third placed Anna Corbella and Gerard Marín. The GAES Centros Auditivos pair have found themselves – rather incongruously – upwind in moderate breezes and so losing miles to Neutrogena. From being within five miles at the start of the week, they are now 115 miles astern of second place. “I think we’ve gone faster [than the Neutrogena] most of the time” Corbella said today, ” But there have been times when they escaped because we slowed down for technical reasons. We just try and hold on for a good fight in the Atlantic, to try and stay relatively close.” For Renault Captur, now back at 48 deg S and targeting the Furious 50s again, there is finally the prospect of pulling miles back on fifth and fourth, One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton, and We Are Water: The delta between the two Barcelona boats, One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton and We Are Water has now shrunk from 600 miles to 160 in a week. And with the possibility of Renault Captur progressively getting back to them both, an interesting three cornered fight might just be on the cards for their ascent of the Atlantic. Making their pit stop in the country of birth of Conrad Colman, one might have hoped for a more hospitable welcome for Kiwi Colman and his Hungarian counterpart Nandor Fa. But the duo had driving rain, winds over 50kts, and chilly, wet conditions for their final approach.  Spirit of Hungary tied up yesterday at 22:50 UTC at the port of Bluff, on the South Island of New Zealand. Their list of repairs is longer than expected, having discovered on the way in that they needed to replace a couple of keel bolts. “We’re fine, but there is much work to do,” said Fa. “We had a good dinner and we will relax a little. Tomorrow we lift the boat out of the water to change the keel bolts, but basically things go as we expected “ Unscheduled and unwanted their pit stop may be but Colman, is delighted to be briefly in his home country: ” To come into a dairy and see the familiar sights and sounds, to see magazines and chocolates of my childhood it is fantastic to be back in New Zealand.  I have never been here, and it is funny to have to sail half way around the world to discover a new part of my own country, but it is great. We discovered the problems with the keelbolts after we decided to stop. We were chasing a couple of leaks and decided to re-torque the nuts on the keelbolts and unfortunately one have way in our hands. We were already heading in to New Zealand so that made us feel good about our stopover and also quite thankful. ” We are not shooting for the podium and Nandor and I, as since the beginning of the race, we have a long term vision of where we want to be with our careers, what we want from this race. I am trying to establish myself in my career and Nandor is counting every mile as a precious one. So he wants to do them all. So given that, we would be foolish to rush out of here and compromise for the sake of a few extra hours. Skippers quotes: Renault Captur, from email: “Today, we’re back in the fifties. The albatrosses have found us again and are offering their support by flying over the boat, calmly without flapping their wings. Since we set off again, we have been focusing on getting around a low-pressure area blocking our path. Reaching in moderate winds, it all seems to be working out for the moment, and as the hours go by, we have made up a little of the time. We shall be sailing quite close to the centre of this low and beyond that, Renault Capture will be able to dive downwind chasing after the Water Brothers (We are Water) and their compatriots on One Planet one Ocean. Everything is fine on board and we are feeling fairly quiet in between trimming, navigating and looking at the weather. It isn’t that cold yet, so it’s fairly pleasant sailing for the time being. Well done to Jean and Bernard, who rounded Cape Horn some distance ahead making them well placed to achieve overall victory.” ; Anna Corbella (ESP)  GAES Centros Auditivos: ” I am excited about my second crossing of Cape Horn. I want to be there right now, and I think it is important, we want to begin to go north and point the bow in the direction of home that is something we have been looking forwards to for many days now. The conditions at the moment are that we are in a transition zone between two fronts, and at the moment we are sailing upwind with ten knots of wind with flat water, so it quite a strange situation  sailing towards Cape Horn right now, strange, but in a few hours it will change the NW wind will come again. And it will increase. I think we are going to cross the Cape in typical conditions – probably 30kts – and we are happy with that because it should be the last windy situation in the south and we are happy to sail these last days.” Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary:“Our relationship gets deeper and deeper. On the one side we are a sailing partnership we are in one team and we think of ourselves as a team. In any aspect at all we help each other. On the human side there is respect also. I guess at the moment we are a better team than at the start. We have had surgery before (Colman had to put four stitches in Fa’s head)…….I needed a bandage before and so that has been a good exercise for Conrad (jokes) but he is really talented to do it (stitch) like a sailmaker, making much nicer stitches in my head than a doctor. ” ” When we start again we will be pushing the boat, it will feel like racing, of course we will be a long way from the fleet, hopeless to think of catching up, but at least the performance is important to us and from that point of view we race against the most difficult rivals, ourselves and so we push to our limits, we should be satisfied and proud.”< /p> Standings at 1400hrs Wednesday 25/02/2015 1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 6695 miles to finish 2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 1096 miles to leader 3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1211 miles to leader 4 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 3244miles to leader 5 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 3405 miles to leader 6 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 4000.4 miles to leader 7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 4748 miles to leader ABD : Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)

 

Barcelona Word Race 2014/2015PRESS CONFERENCE SKIPPERS (Photo by Martinez Studio )

Barcelona Word Race 2014/2015PRESS CONFERENCE SKIPPERS (Photo by Martinez Studio )

 

The 16 skippers, eight duos, who are set to take on the 2014-2015 Barcelona World Race gathered to face the media at today’s busy official press conference, the last official gathering of all the teams before the race start on 31st December, now less than 48 hours away.

The conference was opened by Jean Kerhoas, IMOCA Class President, who introduced the UNESCO marine research and education programmes which are essential to this edition of the race, innovating by integrating the round the world competition with an ambitious scientific research programme and a global, openly available further education programme.

He was followed by Race Director Jacques Caräes who explained the starting procedure, which will see the eight IMOCA 60s start at 1300hrs, heading north-easterly along the Barcelona beachfront, before rounding the North Buoy turning mark and heading for Gibraltar and the Atlantic.

But all attention was focused on the 16 sailors gathered on stage. As ever body language and attitude spoke louder and more comprehensively than the words they uttered. Some, like veteran Jean Le Cam (Cheminees Poujoulat), appearing like it was just another work day at the office, relaxed and enjoying the build-up to his second Barcelona World Race. When asked about his final preparations, Le Cam joked that he was going to be mostly eating for the next two days. Guillermo Altadill (Neutrogena), approaching his seventh global circumnavigation, also played to the gallery:

“I live in a small village 90 kilometers from Barcelona. And I realised that I had left the lights on.. So my plan for the next two days, will be to go back tomorrow and put them out!” But for all his humour, fiery Catalan Altadill knows he has been given a gilt edged chance of winning the race which starts and finishes on the waters where he first learned to sail, an opportunity of a victory which would rank him as the first Spaniard to win a major IMOCA race, the same as it would be for Pepe Ribes who grew up in Benissa beside Calpe, 75 kilometres down the race track. 

23/12/2014, Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Barcelona Trainings (© Gilles Martin-Raget / Barcelona World Race )

23/12/2014, Barcelona (ESP), Barcelona World Race 2014-15, Barcelona Trainings (© Gilles Martin-Raget / Barcelona World Race )

..

Without doubt Nandor Fa is an enigma when it comes to sheer fight and determination, but the 61 years old Hungarian skipper is totally unique in the world of IMOCA 60 racing in having designed his boat himself, and built a lot of it. He is a self taught designer, although he spent time in the 1980’s in the design office in Australia of Ben Lexcen not long after his successful wing keeled 12 Metre Australia II had won the America’s Cup. Yacht design, he asserts, is his hobby, his way of relaxing from the pressures of his business (designing and installing marinas). As well as the three 60 footers he has designed he has a number of smaller yacht designs in his native Hungary. 
Spirit of Hungary is fully compliant with the latest iteration of the IMOCA rule, but as yet remains completely untested. Her birth was slightly traumatic in that first the original design had to be adapted to the new rule. And when the boat was built the wrong core material was specified in the forward slamming areas. Thus his ambition to do the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race was thwarted and he had to ship his boat home from New York to Hungary for expensive, time consuming remedial work. So when 31st December comes around and the start of the Barcelona World Race, it will be the first time Fa’s Spirit of Hungary has lined up to race another IMOCA 60.
Nandor, tell us how the project came about?
When I am tired after work that is what I did. I would sit down and draw boats and design them. My brain relaxes like that. It is a hobby for my free time and I have done it for many years. I did small boat boats, bigger boats. This is the third sixty footer I have done, fourth really because we pretty much rebuilt this one. We had to change some things inside. It is my first carbon fibre big boat, 60 footer, and I had to understand that carbon fibre behaves differently.
And you did the engineering work as well as the designs?
I did most of the engineering. I have a young guy in Hungary who helps me with some calculations and digitalisation. But most of the job is done by me. And there is an Austrian company which has a very specialised computer system, I used that especially for the keel blade, four times. It is a forged inox blade, which is not easy to have it as slim as possible and to be in the rules. That was not easy.
Part of the catalyst to starting the campaign was an offer of materials.
I had a club mate who told me once upon a time that if I wanted to build a bigger boat he would support me with materials. I asked him what he meant and he told me carbon fibre. He told me then that he was the Vice President of Zoltek in America. I asked him again a couple of weeks later and I found out he was really serious. And so then one evening I sat my family down and said ‘What if I start thinking seriously about doing a boat?’ My wife and daughters were so positive that I started work the next day. I started to make all the drawings, not just the boat but ergonomically in any aspect, right down into the smallest details. One year later I was basically ready, that was in 2012. I started to build the boat physically in summer 2012. I designed it to the old rule, asking to the IMOCA technical committee what would change and they told me to just design the boat and it would be OK. I talked to Luc Talbourdet and Vincent Riou and the chief measurer Rene Boulaire. The changes became a reality when the boat was finished. The construction was finished when they changed the righting moment and the ballast tanks. They changed the mast, keel, water ballast and the righting moment AVS, AVS VC. The mast is now monotype so for the classical mast it is has to be three spreaders, with a certain weight and centre of gravity of the tube, so I had to change the configuration – I designed for two pairs of spreaders originally. So I had to change that. The keel I had to respect the new rule. I was wanting to make a steel keel blade. But the new rule said forged inox (stainless steel) which immediately doubled the price. I had to come down 200 kilos in the bulb weight, now at 3 tonnes. And we had to cut out the bog central water ballast tank. That was taken out of the rule. Those were some tough moments because we had just finished the boat, but we had to do it.
Presumably you looked very closely at the other current boats?
I knew all the boats, the VPLP-Verdiers, the Farr boats, I knew them all. I had some ideas in my mind. I wanted to find the boat which is optimal for me. For example I felt the VPLP-Verdier boats were too fat on the bow. For me some of the Farr boats were too slim in the bow. And most of them were very big and very powerful, like the Juan K boat like the ex Cheminées Poujoulat. So I wanted something which is middle sized in beam and in the bow, but having the maximum righting moment. I am at 25.5 tonnes per metre, which is just a couple of hundredths under the limit. We have two small side ballasts because the rule changed from 40 degrees cant to 38 on the keel. So we are on the limit with the keel and the mast. We are a little heavier than designed as we had to respect the new ISO rule for 21 tonnnes per square metre, so the hull has to accept 21 tonnes per square metre, so the shell strength and the construction inside had to change. And that was a dramatic change. Before the previous boats hardly reached ten tonnes. So it has doubled. On the one hand is skin is the thicker, the inner and outer skins and the core are all a little bit more. The bulkheads are all a little bit more. The stringers are more and we now have some ribs to split the panels. So all together, if these new boats respect the ISO rule as they should, they should be about 5-600 kilos heavier. I look forwards to seeing how the new boats will meet the new ISO rule as they should be heavier and maybe slower.
Do you have any ideas how the boat will perform against the others?
At the moment we are still in the learning period. We don’t know what to expect really from the boat. But I am not nervous at all. Not at all. I know I have done my best. I am completely responsible for myself and my family. It is different for sailors with expectations because they have sponsors. I am much more relaxed. I want to make a good result, to sail a good course. But I don’t really care what the outside world is thinking. I concentrate on the boat and the sailing. I know there are now sure solutions. In spite of the science, it is not a perfect science. Some guys are rebuilding the boat or parts two months later. And five years later some boats have been rebuilt five times. There have been some design disasters. But for me it is about being out there sailing well, to be close to nature, enjoying the speed, the life, that is much important than running at the front of the pack. I want to enjoy the race. And having designed and built the boat, all that adds to the enjoyment. This is pure fun, in spite of all the years of fighting to be ready. I am a person who seems to enjoy the fight. I enjoy the fight. It is part of the game. I would hate to lose the boat, to destroy the boat and lose it. In the BOC Challenge I lost my rudders and the organisers told me to get off the boat. And I said ‘Why? I am close to the Antarctic, but the boat is here, it is floating, I have sails, I have a mast, I have food and drink. I did not ask for rescue I and sailed back to Port Elizabeth, sailing 11 days, 1600 fetching with no rudders. Two new rudders came to Port Elizabeth and I repaired and went on.
And what is the best attribute of the boat?
My real strength is that I am not out to win. I hope that the main point will be the reliability. That was the main objective in the design of the boat, to have a safe boat which it is possible to push to 100 per cent without the risk of breaking something. That is really important for me considering how fragile some of the other boats have proven. So I wanted a boat I can push and not be worried. I cannot compare my boat to the others yet. I guess that the lighter boats, in light and medium downwind conditions will be faster. In upwind and stronger winds I don’t think there will be a significant difference. But I don’t think there are any real conditions I will be faster. But the boats all have a certain sail area, righting moment, have a certain wetted surface, weight. It is physics. There are no miracles. My boat is built on the safe side. I don’t think there is a wind angle or strength which is really where I will be better. My boat is an allrounder. It is more important to be structurally strong. I am an old man and I want to feel good, to feel confident in my boat.

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Hugo Boss and Neutrogena by George Bekris

Hugo Boss and Neutrogena by George Bekris

While the two Hungarian skippers, Nandor Fa and Marcell Goszleth (Spirit of Hungary), are in the middle of the Atlantic after a short stop which delayed them in Gibraltar (they should still arrive in New York around May 29 according to the latest routing) , preparations are being finalised for the four IMOCA 60s moored in the docks of “Newport Shipyard.” Whilst Gaes Centros Auditivos, Neutrogena and Safran seem to be ready two days before the Prologue Race that will take them to New York, there is still some work to be done on board of Hugo Boss, following their dismasting after 11 days of sailing, just 400 miles from Newport … but nothing that will prevent them from competing in the main race!

Hugo Boss by George Bekris

Hugo Boss by George Bekris

 

In the middle of the night we broke the mast above the second spreader but luckily we did not do much damage to the sails, that allowed us the next morning to set up a jury rig, with 3 reefs in the mainsail and a small sail at the front. We managed to reach Newport in just four days after the damage occurred,” recalls Ryan Breymaier who is replacing Alex Thomson as co-Skipper . Alex’s wife will give birth to their second child during the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race.

Fortunately, the fact that we were in Newport to carry out the repairs was a real advantage because Newport Shipyard is used to dealing with such large boats. It is the ideal place to arrive with a broken mast as they have all the necessary skills! We took the mast out the same day as we arrived and found all the skills we needed by the next day. The only thing that slowed us down a bit was having to wait for the delivery of a vital piece – a broken piece of carbon cable at the second spreader , and that had to come from Sri Lanka. It should arrive tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Apart from that, everything is ready to re-step the mast. Things will go quickly now, and although we will miss the prologue race, we will be ready for the start from New York, and we should re-join the fleet on the 27th of  May, “concludes Ryan.

Neutrogena by George Bekris 2014

Neutrogena by George Bekris 2014

For Neutrogena, the trip was also a challenging one on the IMOCA 60 skippered by Spaniard Guillermo Altadill and the Chilean Jose Munoz but they avoided any technical issues. “Even though we crossed in very difficult conditions, with winds up to 55 knots, we looked after the boat, so as not to force anything and ultimately we did not break anything. We have a few matters to finish for the final preparations, mainly those which we did not have the time to deal with since the end of boat modification time back in March,” explained Spanish racing legend Guillermo Altadill, whilst he also praised the effectiveness of his shore team.

Safran (Photo by George Bekris)

Safran (Photo by George Bekris)

For Safran, the delivery trip also went well, actually really well according to the long time skipper Marc Guillemot. “It surpassed our expectations as we thought we would have to do more upwind sailing. We expected 80% of the trip would be into the wind but our decision to change our routing a bit more towards the south allowed us to do 80% of the trip with the wind behind us! We gained a whole day and a half by doing that, making the trip in only 11 days. And all that with a great atmosphere onboard. And it was the first transatlantic crossing for Morgan which allowed me to see how we would work together for the double-handed race from New York to Barcelona,” explained Marc.

 

Gaes Centros Auditivos by George Bekris

Gaes Centros Auditivos by George Bekris

The ones who probably had the easiest trip were Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin. Onboard ‘Gaes Centros Auditivos’, they enjoyed relatively mild weather. “Even if we had to cross three weather fronts, they were not very strong and we we managed to navigate safely and to get to Newport with a small list of jobs. So now we just have to tweak a few things. Even the food is ready! We loaded the entire food supplies before leaving Barcelona so now we just have to add in some fresh produce. This allows us now to focus on the weather, the sailing instructions, the routing and details around the areas of departure and arrival for the prologue between Newport and New York,” said Anna within 48 hours to go before the initial prologue event starts which will see the fleet reaching New York –  the City of departure.