In the Vendee Globe, Jean Le Cam crossed the finish line at 12h:14m:58s UTC (local time France minus one hour) this Wednesday 6th February to end a gale stricken final passage across the Bay of Biscay and secure fifth place overall after a long, protracted battle with English skipper Mike Golding, an adversary which he has enjoyed many previous encounters with, not least the 2004-5 edition of the race when Le Cam took second ahead of Golding’s third.
Le Cam’s elapsed time is 88 days 00 hours 12 min 58 sec. His average speed over the theoretical course of 24,394 miles is 11.5kts. He actually sailed 27,575 miles on the water at an average speed of 13.1 kts.
He finished 9 days 21hrs 56 mins 18 sec after race winner François Gabart (Macif) and 1 day 21hrs 09 mins after fourth placed Jean-Pierre Dick. Sixth placed Golding had just 88 miles to the finish when Le Cam crossed the line.
Jean Le Cam has once more proven himself one of the most experienced, talented and wily skippers on the Vendée Globe course, not only delivering a good result considering the relative lack of racing miles he had completed in the IMOCA class since he abandoned in the 2008-9 edition, but again the charismatic Breton soloist has shared his experience with the public widely, passionately and with typically understated humour throughout the highs and lows of his race.
In fact Le Cam could be considered lucky to have made it into the race at all. At nine months before the start he still had hardly any backing for his quest to take the start line of his third Vendée Globe. Since his dramatic capsize on VM Materiaux before Cape Horn in the last edition it had seemed like an uphill struggle for Le Cam to land a major backer. And starting and not finishing the last Barcelona World Race, due to a broken mast, did not help his cause, especially considering the straitened economic times.
It was through the help of the Absolute Dreamer organisation that Jean Le Cam was able to set off on this race. In February when he started the project the clock really was ticking. He took the former boat of Loick Peyron, which lead the last Vendée Globe. It became Renault ZE and completed the last Barcelona World Race which it finished undamaged in any way, but the Farr design was given a serious weight loss programme to try and allow Le Cam to be more competitive with the newer generation boats.
Given the limited time before the start, Le Cam chose to focus his efforts on the preparation of the boat rather than training against his contemporaries in Port La Fôret. 'To compare you need to be evenly matched otherwise it is useless. I prefer to work to be ready and save my energy instead of pretending against guys who have been training for two years.'
The race itself runs something close to expectations. The latest generation boats sailed by the top seeds open the gap early. Speed potential and weather conditions which generally favour the leaders, play to the strengths of the newer boats. But Le Cam finds himself quickly locked into a group of close contemporaries he knows well, Mike Golding and Dominique Wavre. Crossing the Doldrums is good for the trio who pull back some miles on the leaders.
On entering the Roaring Forties, King Jean gets a rope around the bulb of his keel and the solo skipper finds himself with no choice but to dive to get rid of it. As soon as he has succeeded in the operation he makes sure, typically, that he sends images of his adventure. Short Le Cam videos are informative and entertaining, like when he learned of the penalties for the alleged infringement of the traffic separation zones off Cape Finisterre.
On the morning of December 7 Jean Le Cam and Dominique Wavre found themselves side by side on the waters of the Southern Ocean. Two of the most experienced racers, friends with huge respect for each other, sailed within a few metres of each other on a flat sea watched by an attendant albatross. It was one of the iconic images of this race. They sail in company for a few hours before their courses diverge. On 22nd December he gives his rivals the slip and in three days is nearly 500 miles ahead of Golding. And across the Pacific he maintains a relatively comfortable lead over his pursuers. He passed Cape Horn in fifth position close to the tip of Tierra del Fuego in the early morning with the Cape Horn light still illuminated. But in many respects this was the start of an Atlantic climb which was purgatory.
The South Atlantic offered little mercy to Le Cam and the group who pursued the leading four boats. Winds were variable, the seas often confused, and the most struggled with inaccuracies of the weather models and the climb from Cape Horn to the Equator was tough. Increasingly Le Cam had to watch the comeback of Mike Golding, who from being nearly 500 miles behind in the South Pacific came back to 0.7 of a mile as the pair converged courses between Rio and Recife. But to the Equator and beyond Le Cam managed to hold his lead over his British rival.
But the finale to their race proved to be a chess game around the Azores high pressure. Le Cam, who had the small speed advantage, went west – sailing more miles but to be rewarded with faster downwind and reaching angles – whilst Golding went east, fighting lighter winds but trying to sail shorter miles. Le Cam’s popularity in the race is evident at the finish. The crowds in Les Sables d’Olonne always ask to dream the Vendée Globe dream, but Le Cam – more than most – lives the dream and shares it from the heart in glorious technicolour.
The Vendée Globe of Jean Le Cam in figures
Biggest distance covered in 24 hours : 432 miles (18kts average) on the day of 30 November
- Les Sables – Equator : 11d 20h 08mn (does not beat his own record from 2004-1005 of 10d 11h 28mn)
- Equator to Cape of Good Hope : 12d 16h 40mn (record JP Dick 12d 02h40mn)
- Good Hope – Cap Leeuwin : 14d 03h 25mn (record F Gabart 11d 06h 40mn)
- Cap Leeuwin – Cap Horn : 20d 03h 03mn
- Cap Horn – Equator : 16d 11h 41mn
- Equator – Les Sables d’Olonne : 12d 17h 14min
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Vendee Globe website
by Vendee Globe - 3:16 PM Wed 6 Feb 2013 GMT
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2012 Vendee Globe
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