Sam Davies and Sidney Gavignet complete the Transat Jacques Vabre
Sidney sprays Sam with champagne at the end of their TJV race. Image copyright Artemis Ocean Racing.
by Tim Kelly and Camilla Green
British sailor Sam Davies and her co-skipper Sidney Gavignet crossed the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabres race at 05:50 GMT [on Saturday November 28th] after 19 days racing. Onboard Artemis Ocean Racing the pair were a little battered and bruised, and not as high up the leader board as they would have liked, but delighted to have made it to Costa Rica. In a race which spared few and will live long in the memories of those who competed, it was an ‘epic adventure’ where boats were abandoned and crews pushed to the edge.
Sam’s initial reaction to finishing: “ Tired! But pleased to be here at last. I'm really happy, I loved it! Whether it is hard or not, it has been fantastic and I am already sad that it is over so that is always a good sign that it has been a fantastic race “
The pair finished in 10th place in the fast Atlantic dash from Le Havre, France to the Caribbean Sea, with less than 12 hours separating the final six boats to finish. They were unable to climb up the leader board after taking a pounding in the early storms which cost the fleet so dearly. Artemis suffered damage in the early part of the race that was irreparable at sea, but Sam and Sidney took the decision not to take a pit stop but to finish the race as best they could and to learn from the experience.
Sam and Sidney celebrate finishing the TJV. Image copyright Artemis Ocean Racing.
Sam said: “What an epic adventure. It will go down as one of the tougher Transats that I have done! We are finishing at the back of the fleet – a disappointing result for us as we had hoped to be better placed. However, getting Artemis to the finish is actually a victory for us in a different way. Apart from the result, it has been a great race, rich in experiences, challenges, learning (sometimes the hard way!)”
Although she makes no excuses, and many yachts suffered damage, Sam outlined what they’ve contended with, ”On day two of the race one of our sails blew up beyond repair. Two days later we had parts of the boom ripping out, triggering other shock loads on board that exploded the backstay system. Another two days on and we were battling through 55-knot Atlantic depression, with our already handicapped Artemis. The storm created considerable damage to our mainsail that required us to drop it and wait for the wind to drop in order to repair.”
It was well-reported that the pair considered pitting in the Azores for repairs to be undertaken, but decided to push on and fix what they could themselves. Sam continues: “Sidney and I had a lot of work on our hands - add autopilot failure and
wind instrument loss to the list, plus Iridium phone cut out, the list goes on!"
We battled through each job and at the same time pushing Artemis as fast as we could in the situation, to try not to loose too much ground. Every time a repair was successful, there was a feeling of elation and joy. Emotions are quadrupled when one is tired and at the edge of ones limits - both despair, but also the positive emotions, which like a drug spur you on to keep going and defeat the next problem on the list.”
As ever, Sam remains constructive about what she can take from the race, and optimistic about the future: “Despite our result. I can't wait to get out there again and use what I have learnt to be stronger, better, faster.... sometimes you have to learn from the tough times.”
“The result is just a small part of this equation. I am here to learn, my goal is the Vendee Globe 2012, and thanks to this race I have learnt HEAPS for the future - that in itself is a success. Sidney and I have learnt more about Artemis and what we could do to make her easier to sail, handle, perform - that too is a result as Artemis is still in her evolution period and the objective is to discover how we can get her to top form. We have conquered the North Atlantic and made it across (4 of the 14 starters did not) and we are stronger, with more experience and more miles under our belts.”
There’s also little doubt that the Sam and Sidney pairing was a huge success, they worked well as a team and have nothing but praise for one another. As Sidney says: “We’ve accumulated nice stories along the way, a few mishaps too, but above all three months of beautiful complicity. We started with a blank page, and this adventure will remain one of the best episodes of my career as a sailor.”
Sam’s sure that everything she has experienced will make her an even stronger sailor in the future:” When I’m rested in a few days I will look back on this race and all that has happened and I will realise that it’s not just the result that counts. In the future you will see me put the experience of this race into use and my results will show the truth.”
Artemis Ocean Racing
Transat Jacques Vabre