Saturday, 14 February 2009

Vendée Globe: Roxy Returns in Third Place

Sam Davies is ecstatic as she crosses the line on Roxy at the end of the Vendée Globe. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

by Vendée Globe media

Samantha Davies, GBR, (Roxy) crossed the finishing line at 00hrs 41mins 01 secs as the third competitor to complete this epic sixth edition of the Vendée Globe solo non stop around the world race and return to Les Sables d'Olonne.

Ironically Davies will have to wait two days and two hours (50 hours) to see whether she hang on to third place in this sixth Vendée Globe as the final result will depend on Marc Guillemot's finishing time.

Guillemot was given a time compensation for standing by the badly injured skipper Yann Elies who was rescued from his Open 60 Generali on 20th December.

95 days 4 hours 39 mins 01 sec WITH redress: Roxy crossed the finish in the midst of a dark February night, in the small hours of St Valentine's day, having sailed 27 470 actual miles on the water at an average speed of 12.02 knots.

Sam Davies is overwhelmed by her achievement and welcome home. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Davies is the first British competitor to complete this edition of the race, which began off Les Sables d'Olonne back on 9th November 2008, and leads home Brian Thompson, GBR (Bahrain Team Pindar) and Dee Caffari, GBR, (Aviva) who are on course to finish in fifth and sixth places respectively. They are likely to finish late Sunday or Monday.

If she is not displaced from third place (if Marc Guillemot does not finish before Monday morning), she will become only the second woman on the podium in the history of the race and the third British sailor after Ellen MacArthur in 2000-2001 and Mike Golding in 2004-2005.

Regardless if it proves to be third or fourth, it is an exceptional result for the 34-year-old, who with her Roxy team prepared Finot Conq designed boat which won the previous two races and is now nine years old.

Davies' sparky enthusiasm has been one of the constants of this remarkable race. Her effervescent moods, no matter the weather or her situation, belie a steely determination and a very accomplished attack around the race course. While se modulated her pace showing prudence when required, she equally proved capable of 'sending it' - keeping up high average speeds for long periods and she was also one of the few sailors in the race to cover more than 400 miles in one day (making 414 miles in 24 hours).

From the starting gun, Sam managed to keep the pace, staying with many of the newer designs simply by sailing smart and making astute routing decisions. Up to the Equator she occupied between tenth and fifteenth place.

Ater the Doldrums, as she crossed into the Southern Hemisphere, Samantha Davies was in fourteenth place 235 miles from the leader, Loïck Peyron. The voyage down with the SE'ly trade winds proved more difficult for the polka dot pink Roxy, which does not have the same power as the newer boats.

The British soloist proved she has stamina in all weather, in spite of an unfavourable stretch around the St. Helena high: she lost more than 300 miles in four days stuck in light airs, while the frontrunners made their getaway into the Roaring Forties and those chasing after were able to take a short cut across.

Roxy approaches the finishing line off Les Sables d'Olonne. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Davies on Roxy surfed along on the Southern Ocean swell and crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope still in fourteenth place, 560 miles behind Jean-Pierre Dick, who led the at that point.

Apart from her race performance, it is has been her ebullient, outgoing nature and her ability to convey her feelings that have gained her a huge following from all ages and both sexes, and immense respect and admiration from her fellow racers: nothing seemed to change her mood at sea in spite of finding herself up against such exceptional sailors.

The preparation of the pink Open 60 was a key factor, as she did not suffer any major damage. She chose to change as little possible from the proven features which had worked so well for Michel Desjoyeaux in 2000-1 and Vincent Riou in 2004-5 on this boat.

She sailed close to her first iceberg before reaching the Kerguelens. This stretch of the race was to see the downfall of many of her rivals, so that by Cape Leeuwin, Samantha Davies was tenth, 1035 miles behind Michel Desjoyeaux.

When Yann Eliès was in difficulty 800 miles south of Perth, Australia with a fractured femur she suspended her race to sail at full speed to offer assistance alongside Marc Guillemot.

She got to within a few hours of the area just as the Australian Navy vessel had taken off Yann Eliès, and restarted the race with Marc Guillemot in conditions that were far from favourable: light winds and a heavy swell.

Already very much alone between the Kerguelens and Australia, Davies found herself totally alone, while Marc Guillemot carried out a pit stop off Auckland Island. Heading back up to the Pacific Ice gate was particularly tough with a series of very active low-pressure areas, which put an end to the race for a few more of her fellow competitors. By the Antipodes, the British sailor was up to eighth place.

Roxy finishes the Vendée Globe. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

But there was a whole ocean to still to climb. After a little under 63 days at sea, she rounded Cape Horn in fourth place in the rankings. Marc Guillemot was right behind her, in reality on corrected time ahead of her with his extra 50 hours redress. And there were still 7000 miles to go to les Sables d'Olonne.

Once again, Sam found herself alone, as Marc Guillemot stopped again in the Falklands to carry out more repairs to his mast track.

She was really to suffer during the climb back up the South Atlantic: once she had reached the latitude of Uruguay, she was taken prisoner by a thundery system and found herself stuck in the calms, which allowed Guillemot to get around her via the west by sailing close to the Brazilian coast, less than 30 miles at times.

The duel between the two competitors reached its high point in this stretch with positions changing several times. Davies had the advantage in this duel at the Equator and was in fourth place in the rankings.

She chose a rather risky route to get by the Azores high to the east and once again fell victim to the calms, while Marc Guillemot managed to find his way around the west: the battle continued until Safran lost her keel. Third place was now within her grasp!

Sam Davies waves in response to her welcome, from Roxy. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Samantha Davies's times
Crossing the Equator: 13d 01h 51'
Passing the Cape of Good Hope: 28d 05h 28'
Passing Cape Leeuwin : 40d 00h 48'
Crossing the International Date Line: 48d 11h 43'
Rounding Cape Horn: 62d 21h 18'

Finish in Les Sables d'Olonne : 95 days 4 hours 39 mins 01 sec WITH redress

Sam Davies waves from Roxy. Image copyright Jean Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Vendée Globe

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