Monday, 2 February 2009

Vendée Globe: Michel Desjoyeaux Gains Historic Second Victory

A race record time, plus no other skipper has won the Vendée twice, and for Michel Desjoyeaux it is a case of raced twice, won twice too!

Foncia at the finish off Les Sables d'Olonne, France. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

by Véronique Teurlay

Sailing more than 28,303 miles, averaging around 13.2 knots, French solo skipper Michel Desjoyeaux has shattered the Vendée Globe race record today by 3 days 7 hours and 39 seconds on his way to becoming the first skipper ever to win the solo non stop around the world race twice. The course is effectively 1150 miles longer than in 2004 when

After winning the race in 2000-1 on PRB, eclipsing the young emerging British skipper Ellen MacArthur by 1 day 28 minutes, Desjoyeaux joined the 30 strong field for this race, the biggest entry ever for a round the world race in sailing history, as one of the clear favourites.

After a successful odyssey into big racing multihulls, Desjoyeaux returned to monohulls in 2007 when he won the highly competitive Solitaire du Figaro, going on to win the Transat Vabre in late 2007 on his return to the IMOCA Open 60 class in which the Vendée Globe

Desjoyeaux crossed the finish on Sunday 1st February at 15:11.08 GMT, after 84 days 03 hours 09 minutes of racing. Foncia completed the race in twenty knots of breeze under sunny skies, greeted by a massive armada of spectator boats before beking warmly welcomed by huge crowds who gathered along the waterfront and harbour area of Les Sables d’Olonne, where the race departed at 1202 GMT November 9th 2008.

Michel Desjoyeaux celebrates his victory on the bow of Foncia. Image copyright Jean Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Desjoueaux said: “ It’s incredible, this little ray of sunshine is making it magical. I may have done it eight years ago, but it's still incredible. I can’t take it in. I have been two months trying to understand what's going on, how I’m doing it and so here I’m just enjoying it then we'll think about it afterwards.

"I never really worried about being behind. I won this Vendée Globe before the start with the choices I made, with the team and the experience I have built up.

"I won this Vendée Globe before the start with the choices I made, with the team and the experience I have built up Eighty percent of the end result is before the start of the race. But it is a whole lot of things, and the other twenty percent are during the race itself, in believing, having faith, in doing it, manoeuvering, in punishing yourself, when I had to push a bit, but I never really suffered. I am always in the action, making the boat go fast.

"I don’t think I have been cocky. We’ve had rough conditions in the south but I felt I was at ease and enjoying it a lot, so everything feels a lot easier that way, not to be too hard on yourself and just keep going.

"Even on 25th December with my rudder problem, I didn’t sit around crying about what had happened. Everyone knows the Vendée Globe is hard and it’s only normal there aren’t many of us finishing.

"It’s the hardest race that exists, simply, so it's normal that there are not a lot of us left at the finish line.

"Jules Verne had visualized 80 (days) and I think that’s do-able even with our boats, so I think in four years it'll be doable The world hasn’t shrunk, but it is certainly possible to sail around the world in under 80 days, and it would have been possible this time without the ice this time.

"I didn’t manage to sleep last night.

"When I set out again, it was an unusual experience as I don’t often find myself at the back. But it allowed me to sail at my pace. And that seems to have worked out. I saw a whale approaching and I thought it was going to be a problem. But apparently he must have decided to let me win. This was the Vendée I wanted to win and it looks like I did it. I can’t see any other boats in the harbour. I thought Bilou had retired from the race. I don’t know if I would have had such courage."

Foncia is guided home by a large spectator fleet. Image copyright Jacques Vapillon/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

The victor's race

The gruelling race has taken a high toll of the 30 skippers who started the non stop solo round the world race. As Desjoyeaux finished this afternoon, nine are climbing northwards in the Atlantic ocean while some 7,700 miles behind two are expected to pass Cape Horn and leave the Pacific tomorrow. Eighteen skippers have been forced to abandon. In early December Yann Eliès had to be evacuated off his Generali when he sustained a broken femur while working on the bow of his boat, and Jean Le Cam was rescued when he capsized off Cape Horn by Vincent Riou, the 2004-5 winner of the race.

In reality the race for Desjoyeaux could not have started worse for the solo skipper from Port la Forêt: after setting out at 12h02 GMT on 9th November under grey skies and in a freshening south-westerly, Foncia having sailed 200 miles, had to return to les Sables d’Olonne. A leak in the ballast tank flooded the engine compartment and burnt out an electrical circuit... After a lightning pit stop, Michel Desjoyeaux set sail again on 11th November, some 360 miles or forty hours sailing behind the leaders, Peyron, Josse, Jourdain and Dick, who were already enjoying moderate downwind conditions in the Portuguese trade winds. The gap would increase, as Michel had to deal with light airs off the Spanish coast: on 15th November, Michel Desjoyeaux was 670.3 miles behind Loïck Peyron, the leader at that point, the biggest gap that he was to see in his Vendée Globe.

Ticking them off one by one

He then began to climb his way back up the fleet: after Norbert Sedlacek off Madeira, Michel Desjoyeaux caught Raphaël Dinelli at the latitude of the Canaries, then Rich Wilson, Unai Basurko and Jonny Malbon before the Cape Verde islands in some brisk trade winds, which did not offer any strategic options. The leaders had been slowed in the Doldrums, but Foncia crossed the Equator at 03h43 GMT on 23rd November in 15th place, 383.5 miles behind the leader. After eight days of upwind sailing to get around the St. Helena high, the monohull was finally able to turn left approaching the Forties: Michel Desjoyeaux took the most extreme westerly option, which allowed him to be back up in thirteenth place by the 30th November.

To the south of the area of high pressure in the Atlantic, he would step up the pace to make his way into the Top Ten on 3rd December 193 miles behind Sébastien Josse, who was about to reach the first Ice Gate. When he passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope, he was only 89.5 miles behind, as the winds in the Southern Ocean began to strengthen. The position of icebergs that had drifted up from the Weddell Sea led the Race Directors to modify the course: the Ice Gates would almost all be shifted northwards, but this did not stop Michel Dejoyeaux from encountering ice on 11th December just before he left the Kerguelen to port.

Leader since Australia

The seas in the Indian Ocean were violent and a series of incidents saw a number of boats damaged and forced out of the race: Loïck Peyron, Bernard Stamm, Dominique Wavre, Yann Eliès, Jean-Pierre Dick and Mike Golding… while the skipper of Foncia clocked up the greatest distance covered in 24 hours of the whole race: 466.6 miles in 24 hours on 16th December, the day when he crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, and grabbed the lead. Keeping up an extraordinary pace, Michel Desjoyeaux entered the Pacific on 19th December 59.1 miles ahead of Roland Jourdain and already 400 miles ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h. The Pacific was to be particularly nasty. While Michel just avoided a disaster on 25th December, which could have so easily have forced him to retire, Sébastien Josse was knocked down by a huge wave. This was a sharp reminder of the sea state in this active cold front that the two frontrunners managed to catch enabling them to extend their lead.

Only the skipper of Veolia Environnement was able to stick with him: at 03h10 GMT on 5th January, Michel Desjoyeaux rounded Cape Horn less than 100 miles ahead of Roland Jourdain, but the rest of the fleet was now more than 700 miles behind. The sailor from Port la Forêt took advantage of the situation to make up the time lost at the start to improve on Vincent Riou’s 2004 record by two hours. The climb back up the Atlantic was another very fast stretch. At the Equator, Michel Desjoyeaux was practically a day ahead of the 2004 time with Roland in second place more than 330 miles behind. While the Doldrums were not very cooperative, the final section of the course was a real sprint: just twelve days to complete the stretch. Today, Sunday 1st February, Michel Desjoyeaux is finishing his second Vendée Globe, once again on the highest step of the podium.

Comments from Sam Davies (Roxy, currently lying in 4th place) on Mich Desjoyeaux's victory:

“Every time I have been asked who my sailing hero is, I answered Mich (as everybody calls him) Desjoyeaux. I now think that many more people will understand why. He was always my favourite to win the race so I felt sad for him three months ago when straight away after the start he had to turn back for repairs. But I always knew that it wouldn’t be enough to stop ‘Mich the machine’! Roxy and I have a special connection with him because my old lady is no other than the boat he won the race in for the first time eight years ago. Mich and I have been communicating by email through the race and it has been very important for me. In hard times, a little message from his Foncia would come to Roxy and encourage me and give me motivation. He has inspired me and I always try my best in his wake. Mich has just showed again what the sailing world already knew, he is one of the world’s best sailors of all time.”

Desjyoyeaux’s win in figures
Les Sables-Equator : 13d15h 41’ (behind leader Loïck Peyron by 1day 06h 43’)
Les Sables-Cape of Good Hope : 27d 00h 34’ (behind leader Sébastien Josse : 4h 56’)
Les Sables-Cape Leeuwin : 37d 07h 23’ (ahead of Roland Jourdain : 50’)
Les Sables-Dateline/Antimeridian : 43d23h 33’ (ahead of Roland Jourdain : 2h 55’)
Les Sables-Cape Horn : 56d 15j 08’ (ahead of Roland Jourdain : 8h 50’)
Les Sables-Equator : 71d17h 12’ (ahead of Roland Jourdain : 3days 05h 52’)

Finish: Les Sables-Les Sables: 84d 03h 09’08’’ (ahead of 2nd Roland Joudain: 1345 miles, 3rd Armel Le Cléac’h: 1632 milles), average 12,3 knots boatspeed for the entire race course.

Desjouyeaux 2008 compared with Vendée Globe 2004
Les Sables-Equator 2004 : 10d 12h 13’ (Michel Desjoyeaux : 3d 03h 28’ behind)
Les Sables-Cape of Good Hope 2004 : 24d 02h 18’ (Michel Desjoyeaux : 2d 22h 16’ behind)
Les Sables-Cape Leeuwin 2004 : 36d 11h 48’ (Michel Desjoyeaux : 19h 35’behind )
Les Sables-Cape Horn 2004 : 56d17h 13’ (Michel Desjoyeaux : 2h 05’ ahead)
Les Sables-Equator 2004 : 72d 13h 58’ (Michel Desjoyeaux : 20h 46’ ahead)
Les Sables-Les Sables 2004 : 87d 10h 47’ (Michel Desjoyeaux : 3d 07h 39’)

Vendée Globe

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