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Philippe Delamare wins Global Solo Challenge

by Marco Nannini / Global Solo Challenge 26 Feb 09:35 PST 24 February 2024
Philippe Delamare wins the Global Solo Challenge © Philippe Delamare - Mowgli @globalsolochallenge

On Saturday February 24th at 3 minutes past 3 pm, local time, Philippe Delamare crossed the finish line by the breakwater of the Galician city of A Coruña winning the first edition of the Global Solo Challenge on Mowgli, 147 days and 1 hour after leaving for his circumnavigation on September 30th 2023.

His arrival was triumphant, epic and emotional. Huge waves were smashing by the Tower of Hercules, the iconic outpost that marks the western end of the bay of A Coruña, the oldest lighthouse still in function, built nearly two millennia ago. Even driving a rigid work power boat we had to head out towards Philippe very slowly, and zig-zag to avoid breaking waves.

When we spotted a white sail behind the crests it was initially difficult to keep visual contact, was it him? The sail kept approaching and disappearing behind walls of water, when we saw a first glimpse of Mowgli's distinctive orange hull we all gasped: it was him!

Philippe was sailing with just a partially furled headsail, two days before he had broken his boom and could not use the mainsail. The staysail halyard had ripped off the deck between Uruguay and Rio leaving him with a limited choice of sails. The boat was rolling violently in the waves as Philippe followed the only safe approach to A Coruña in such weather conditions. There is a half mile gap between the coast and some rocky shallows to the north where waves were breaking heavily.

Mowgli kept going despite her numerous scars and all the signs of the hardship of the circumnavigation. A rescue boat of the Guardia Civil came out and seemed to be wanting to protect the boat and skipper on their last few miles. They powered ahead and positioned themselves before the rocky shoals where Philippe had to gybe one last time to head south towards the finish lime. When he did, the powerboat showed the way to the finish line between the breakwater and a lateral red buoy which also happens to be the safe channel to approach A Coruña in a storm.

As Mowgli crossed the finish line the Guardia Civil started sounding their horn and Philippe raised his arms holding two red hand flares. We tried to keep the live streaming session going on Instagram and Facebook despite the waves and difficult conditions but thousands of people were connected from around the world to watch him fulfill a dream of a lifetime as well as take overall victory.

During the live broadcast Cole Brauer shared the live with her more than 400 thousand followers and sent her congratulations. Congratulatory messages poured in from all over the world as well as from all the other competitors with internet access. Francois Gouin commented "You were immense, bravo", Riccardo Tosetto wrote "He is the number one, not only because he is the first to arrive, just amazing". Andrea Mura added, "today is the day to congratulate the winner of the Global Solo Challenge, Philippe Delamare, who crossed the finish line after a last storm that broke his boom... Great sailor, great performance, he has shown high skills in sailing around the globe on this long journey".

At the dock in Marina Coruña a small group of family and friends who had braved the horrible weather were waiting for him to dock, the rain had stopped to let all witness the arrival, in between the morning and afternoon heavy downpours. Philippe popped the cork of a local bottle of cava and dedicated most of the drink to Mowgli, generously pouring the sparkling wine on the deck and thanking her for the voyage, caressing the mast and letting her enjoy the bubbly and inebriating taste of success and victory.

Philippe raised his trophy with that subtle smile that spoke a thousand words, he probably was aware that it would take quite some time for things to sink in, as five months at sea don't just come to a sudden end. Philippe then went to hug and meet all those who had waited, dreamed and suffered with him throughout his circumnavigation.

Sailing legend Jean-Luc Van Den Heede paid a surprise visit and jokingly said it was strange for him to be the one welcoming Philippe after a circumnavigation as he has so many times been on the other side.

Jean-Luc wanted to enter the event on the boat he had completed his first circumnavigation on, taking second place in the 1986 BOC Challenge on Let's Go. He would have liked to close the circle of his stellar career as navigator by sailing his last circumnavigation on the boat that had first taken him around the world. Unfortunately some technical details which would have required work and resources made Jean-Luc desist. There was some friendly banter as Philippe said it would have made winning a lot harder, if not impossible, had the record holding French veteran had made it to the start.

More and more details came to light as the tired but relaxed Philippe told of his adventure. He shared with us that he had very nearly stopped in Hobart. He spent a week where many things went wrong in quick succession and he felt overwhelmed, unsure if he wanted to take on the long pacific crossing with mounting technical problems.

Read on here...

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