For fans of ocean sailing, the amazing has unfurled: skipper Francois Gabart, 29, sailing alone aboard his IMOCA 60, 'Macif' has won his first-ever Vendee Globe, a nonstop-around-the-world unassisted ocean race that’s often likened to the 'Mount Everest of the seas' as far as its towering difficulty.
Vendée Globe finish for François Gabart after 78 days
Impressively, Gabart made his first full 'lap' of the planet in just shy of 78 days, making his passage the fastest in Vendee Globe (and singlehanded monohull) history. Of course, having the Grand Master, two-time Vendee Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, mentoring his campaign certainly didn’t hurt Gabart’s chances, but there’s simply no getting around the fact that the young French sailor has stunned the world with his performance and his impressive new distance records, which he set en route to returning to Les Sables d’Olonne, France.
'When the race started, I didn’t think of myself as a contender for the victory,' said Gabart, immediately upon crossing the finishing line. 'I knew it was a possibility but that was not a goal I would think about all the time. In the Indian ocean, I started thinking about possibly winning and when Armel (Le Cleac’h aboard 'Banque Populaire') and I started having that close fight, that regatta around the world, I realized I had a fifty-percent chance of winning. And then, once we were in the Atlantic, I started believing.'
Impressively, Gabart lassoed a strong, south-southwesterly breeze and managed to sail an impressive 450 miles (ballpark) during his last day at sea, ultimately finishing some 93 miles miles ahead of his long-time, lockstep rival, Armel Le Cleac’h ('Banque Populaire'), who finished in second place. This means that the battle for third place is now a contest between Jean-Pierre Dick ('Virbac-Paprec 3') and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss). Dick, it will be remembered, lost his keel almost a week ago, meaning that the talented French sailor is braving several thousand miles using only water ballast for stability (read: GULP!).
Get the full Vendee Globe multimedia scoop inside this issue, and be sure to take a moment to celebrate the sheer enormity of what young Gabart and his team have accomplished-in less than 80 days and alone-and how his efforts helped redefine the art of the possible when it comes to solo offshore sailing.
Meanwhile, in American Olympic sailing circles, US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider has announced the qualification process for sailors gunning to qualify for the team. According to reports, sailors will make the grade based on their cumulative 2012 results or their performance at this week’s 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami (January 28-February 2).
'With the beginning of a new four-year Olympic and Paralympic cycle, the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program now looks to chart a course toward the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,' said Josh Adams, Managing Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing. 'The 2013 US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider is really the first look at which sailors we might see representing Team USA in four years.'
Also of interest from US Sailing is the news that Grant 'Fuzz' Spanhake has been named Technical Director of the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider. 'To return the U.S. back to the podium in sailing, the Team is focused on performance development across the Olympic and Paralympic classes and a class by class strategy to sharpen the U.S.’s culture of technical excellence,' said Charlie McKee, High Performance Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing and Fuzz’s new boss. 'This knowledge will be shared with all U.S. sailors mounting a campaign for 2016 and beyond as we groom emerging talent for the long run.' Get the full US Sailing scoop, inside this issue.
Also on American waters, the full multimedia reports from last week’s Key West Race Week are now available, including some great still-photography galleries and some really fun videos. For anyone (myself solidly included, sadly) stuck under the cold, grey curtain of winter, some time scrolling through these multi-media treasure troves is a great way to shake off the mid-winter blues.
May the four winds blow you safely home,