Vendee Globe: From France to France

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Let’s be clear, there is a big difference between winning and getting first place. Every entry that gets to the starting line of the 2017 Vendee Globe race is an amazing competitor. And every skipper who crosses the finish line, regardless of placement, is a winner. Yes – there is only one first place and that belongs to Armel Le Cleac’h on Banque Populaire. Second place finisher, Alex Thomson aboard Hugo Boss, however is also a major winner… ratcheting up his collection of Vendee Globe hardware, adding this second place finish to the third place trophy he earned last time around. Leaving only the first place trophy remaining for his bookshelves.

Recent finisher in third place, is another winner with his third Vendee Globe race just completed. Jeremie Beyou aboard Maitre Coq deserves special accolades for finishing on the podium ahead of skippers behind him racing with new foiling boats. Beyou’s current boat was modified for this race, after Armel Le Cleac’h sailed it to second place in the last edition of the Vendee Globe. So he knew the boat would perform – and he upped the ante by adding foils to the boat to bring it up to pace with those at the front of the fleet, and coincidentally, with those who will most likely finish behind him in this race.

With many skippers left to finish the race, there is a lot of talent left to recognize. Now that Beyou has grabbed the final spot on the podium, the next three finishers, Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, are in a tight race for 4-5-and 6th place. Racing in boat on boat regatta modes more reminiscent of the summer solo offshore stage racing classic, La Solitaire du Figaro, JP Dick is just one mile behind wily fox Le Cam, finding himself sandwiched between two three times winners of La Solitaire – Le Cam and Elies. This is after racing around almost the whole globe. Pretty amazing!

And then Rich Wilson, our American entry and the oldest to compete in this race ever, is still enjoying the ride as he heads north up the coast of South America. His determination to finish in one piece, without foils, in a boat that has seen the oceans many times and has once finished this race in 90 days, is commendable. Rich hopes his refit, nearly 10 year old boat can beat his former race time of 121 days – and he appears to be on track to do just that. With little breakage or issues thus far, Wilson is sailing a clean race (very clean when you consider he is sailing without any fossil fuels to power his equipment, he is instead relying on solar and wind) and is educating kids around the world along his route.

Press conference during Finish arrival of Alex Thomson (GBR), skipper Hugo Boss, 2nd place of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 20th, 2017 - Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee GlobePodium

(from Vendee Globe website) Speaking to Rich Wilson, the skipper of Great American IV, Alex Thomson paid tribute to the American’s excellent energy generation systems, a combination of wind vane, hydrogenerator and solar panels which mean that he has barely used any diesel. “I used 200 litres of fuel,” said Thomson who fought energy generation issues almost all the way through his 2012-13 race, rebuilding hydrogenerators and struggling for long period with very limited energy, hence his choice to go ‘belt and braces’ with diesel this time: “I had a tiny solar panel and my hydrogenerator was a back up. Mainly we were using diesel. But if we do another one I would to do it with using zero fuel. I love what [Rich is] doing… I think we should be going around the world without using any fossil fuels.” (Listen to Alex’s post finish press conference on his skippers page – all audio. It was excellent and enlightening.)

Keep in touch with the rest of the finishers on the race tracker.  And keep your eyes on Rich Wilson on his Facebook page. He is providing rich updates (in English!) and sailing an awesome race. We can’t wait to virtually greet him at the finish line! Another hero. Another winner. Congratulations to Armel, Alex and Jeremie.

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