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Doyle Sails New Zealand

Vendee Globe - Closest finish in the race’s 24-year history

by Vendee Globe on 13 Feb 2013
Tanguy Delamotte, Initiatives Coeur - 2012 Vendee Globe Tanguy De Lamotte (FRA) / Initiatives Coeur
In the Vendee Globe, with Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) forecast to arrive on the morning of Sunday February 17 and the last man, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique), now saying he will be back on Thursday, February 21, this is due to be the closest in the race’s 24-year history. It was the closest at the front between the top two finishers and it should be the most compact fleet ever, with easily the smallest number of days between first and last.

The last skipper, Norbert Sedlacek (AUT), in 2008-9 finished more than 42 days after the winner Michel Desjoyeaux; in 2004-05 the gap between the winner, Vincent Riou, and the last skipper, Karen Leibovici was almost 39 days; in 2000-01, the gap between the winner, Desjoyeaux and Pasquale de Gregorio (ITA), was almost 65 days; in 1996-97, the gap between the winner, Christophe Auguin, and Catherine Chabaud was 34 days; in 1992-93, the gap between the winner, Alain Gautier and Jean-Yves Hasselin, was 43 days; and in 1989-90, the gap between the winner, Titouan Lamazou, and Jean-François Coste was 53 days. This time Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) should finish 25 days after the winner Francois Gabart.

Di Benedetto is 825 miles south of The Azores. Hampered by his broken rib and the absence of his two large downwind sails; the gennaker and the spinnaker, which he has been doing without since the beginning of the South Atlantic, Di Benedetto said he expected to be back on Thursday February 21. That would mean a race time of 103 days. Di Benedetto’s robust boat, built in 1998, is about to complete it’s fourth successive Vendée Globe. His predicted time would be under the 105 days that Arnaud Bossieres (Akenas Verandas 2008-09) managed in this Finot-Conq designed boat in the previous edition and that Thomas Coville (Sodebo, 2000-01) set in the boat’s first Vendée Globe. Sébastien Josse (VMI, 2004-05) got the boat round in 93 days, when finishing fifth in the 2004-05 edition.

Di Benedetto has the 105-day mark in mind, but said yesterday that it is not his priority. 'No, it’s not very important, because I was not thinking this before the start, I was thinking I’d make it in 140 days,' Di Benedetto said. 'The most important thing was to finish and that’s still the most important thing. The 105 days is just a time, a reference that I know Thomas Coville and Arnaud Bossieres did and it’s a good time with this boat. So, I will try to make the same time. But the most important thing is to finish with the boat and myself in good condition.'

Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA, Initiatives Coeur): Yesterday was an amazing day, the boat was gliding effortlessly under a cloudless sky and 20 knots of wind. I had my gennaker, main sail and J3 sails, it was just perfect! There is quite a lot of sand in the wind, I'm not sure where it comes from, maybe the Sahara desert, but the boat is covered with an orange dust...I took a shower in the evening ans sailed close to the Flores Island, in the Azores archipelago. The night was very dark, though, all I saw were lights. The sunset was beautiful, and so was the moon on a background made of several shades of blue and orange on the horizon... I just love those colours. You can see the moon on the picture! The wind then grew stronger, up to 25 knots at one point in the night but I kept my gennaker up. I would have rolled it down in the South but the sea is calmer here so the boat can still sail at 18 knots thanks to the ballasts. That's making her happy, and me too! This morning has been a little cloudier but I can tell it will still be another pleasant surfing day.

Monday, February 11: I should have five to ten knots on wind in the end, so it will be a pretty slow finish for me, it's going to take me some time to get to Les Sables d'Olonne. I'm preparing for that, I know I can't expect 50 knots. I'm getting as much rest as I can, physically, because I'm still tired from all my rudder issues. Things are getting better and better, even though the cuts and bruises I have are not healing as fast as I thought they would. I haven't worked on that yet today, I'm waiting for the latest weather files but I'm still expecting to cross the finish line this coming week-end. There is some uncertainty regarding the weather until Thursday but the last files I looked at showed I could still go through, which would mean my ETA would be next Saturday, in the afternoon or the evening. But it's still too far away, I don't like to start making plans for such a long-term thing.

Alessandro Di Benedetto (ITA, Team Plastique): Right now I’m between two high-pressure areas, which is why I’m trying to go as north as possible to reach a low-pressure zone coming from the west. Unfortunately, the weather is a little bit complicated here but hopefully, in a few days, I’ll reach this low pressure and get stronger wind, up to 40 knots, which will allow me to sail straight to France. I don’t think I can be in Les Sables d’Olonne before the 21st of February, though.


I’ve lost my big sails, like the spinnaker and the gennaker. They’re the kind of sails I would need on days like today, but I don’t have them so I’ll use the Code Zero instead, a sail that is twice the size of the solent. I will have to make do with what I have. But since I should reach lower pressure in a few days – two if things go right – and get stronger wind, I won’t be missing the gennaker or the spinnaker. I’ll probably need them again once I get closer to the French coast but I’ll have no choice, I’ll use what I have on board. It will definitely slow me down but I have no other solution. So I’ll keep going like this, with what I have.

The 105-day limit is not that important to me because honestly, before the start of the race, I wasn’t thinking about 105 days, I thought I’d complete the race in about 140 days. To me, the most important thing has always been to finish the race. 105 days is just a reference, Thomas Coville’s and Arnaud Boissières’ race times on this boat, so I’ll try to get close to that race time. But I’m not obsessed with that. It would be great but it’s not the most important thing. Coming back to Les Sables d’Olonne with both the boat and myself safe and sound is what matters the most to me and Team Plastique. Vendee Globe

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