Or skill without luck: 80 days down the drain
Most likely, while I am writing this article, the finish of the last of the contenders for the «Everest of Sailing» pedestal will have already taken place, a real legend of French and world sailing, everyone’s beloved curly-haired old man, «the king», as the French call him, Jean Le Cam. I am starting writing at 18:01 UTC, and at that moment he is about 20 miles from the finish line, he is sailing at a speed of about 17 knots and should finish, accordingly, in a little over an hour. I myself am interested to compare the screenshots of the tracking map now and by the time the article is completed.
Actually, at the moment, seven participants of the race have already finished, Le Cam is eighth, but everything is not simple. Those who are following the course of the regatta, or at least read my previous articles, know that at the end of November — beginning of December, on the way to the Cape of Good Hope, one of the leading PRB yachts, the skipper Kevin Escoffier, was wrecked. And the three other participants in the race closest to him — Boris Herrmann, Janik Bestaven and Jean Le Cam — went to rescue him. As a result, Le Cam found and saved Kevin, but all the participants in the rescue operation lost quite a lot of time.
The organizing committee of the regatta thought for a long time and eventually came to the conclusion that the participants in the rescue operation need to be compensated for the time spent in the following order:
Janik Bestaven minus 10 hours 15 minutes,
Jean Le Cam minus 16 hours 15 minutes,
Boris Herrmann minus 6 hours.
But we will come back to these guys a little later.
Then there were fallings out of the race of three participants at once and the Indian or, if you like, the Southern Ocean. The next two months of the race forced three more to be eliminated. As a result, to date, counting those who have already finished, out of 33 yachts that started on November 8, only 25 remained. Not the highest percentage of losses, but one of the most dramatic in terms of eliminating favorites. Jeremy Beiu on the super-tech yacht Charal was forced to return due to a serious breakdown (this is allowed by the regatta rules in the first 10 days) and start again in 9 days after the start of the regatta, the second (or maybe the first) main favorite — Alex Thomson — dropped out due to a collision with abandoned fishing nets, and the PRB yacht of Kevin Escoffier folded in half from the collision and sank. Serious technical problems at the very beginning of the race did not allow another favorite, the charismatic Armel Tripon, to claim victory on the L’Occitane en Provence yacht.
Nevertheless, we must pay tribute to the fantastic tactics and professionalism of Jeremy Beiu and the talent of the designers of his «Charal», because despite the lost 9 days, Jeremy is now in 14th place and has every chance of becoming 13th.
Something off the topic. How fast Charal is sailing, how confidently Alex Thomson was in the lead before the collision, the fact that out of seven already finished leaders six raced on yachts with foils, in my opinion, suggests that using high technologies in modern sports yachts is quite justified in terms of increasing speed. It is another matter, though, whether speed is the main ingredient.
Hydrofoils push the yacht out of the water, help it get on the glider and resist rolling. If you don’t know what a glider is — google it, but its main consequence is a significant decrease in water resistance, which means an increase in speed.
But even here there are details. Firstly, of course, on a yacht, as in the old joke about a car, the most important detail is the «gasket between the steering wheel and the seat». That is, the driver, or, in our case, the skipper. And a vivid proof of this is Jean Le Cam, who has just finished on one of the oldest of the yachts participating in the regatta, without any foil and other tuning. And in the end, taking into account the compensated time, he was in fourth place (!), just three hours from the third!!! A fantastic person! The king! Almost flawless, unmistakable tactics, driven by incredible experience, talent and self-confidence. My endless respect to him! By the way, here is the promised screen, although I have not finished the article yet:
And here is some more about foils. It will be about the drama that unfolded just before the finish line. The previous and current Vendee Globe has shown that foils are the most vulnerable structure on a yacht. The participants broke them one by one, cut them off, tied them up, jammed them and suffered in every possible way. That is, as long as the foils are intact, everything is fine, the yacht literally flies over the water, with the exception of some courses, when they are a little heavy on the boat. However, any breakdown can be fatal. This happened to Boris Herrmann. Having circled the globe in 80 days without serious problems and with respectable tactics, being only a few hours from the finish line (about 90 miles), with all the chances of the first and certainly the second place, his Seaexplorer yacht at night, in classic conditions for February Biscay of the most disgusting weather, collided with a fishing trawler, tore the starboard top cable and gennaker, broke the bowsprit, and most importantly the foil. The foil bent down and twisted in such a way that it slowed down the yacht a lot. As a result, from the previous 16-19 knots the speed came down to 5-7.
During the incident with Boris, Apivia with Charlie Dalin crossed the finish line first. Other rivals were on the way, but the broken foil did not allow Boris’s yacht to develop some decent speed. As a result, instead of the cup — «only» the fifth place (I just learned about this, since Jean did move Boris from the fourth place). By the way, Boris Herrmann became the first German skipper to finish in the Vendee Globe, and what a finish it was!
And there is another incredible person that is worth talking about. An absolutely unique racer, a Paralympic champion, who took 7th place in this crazy race on the yacht Groupe Apicil, as «old» as Le Cam, and he also doesn’t foils. And he is possibly the coolest of all. I will explain. Yes, this Captain Hook has no left hand. Moreover, today, entering the port after the finish, he changed into Captain Hook’s costume! An amazing person. I sincerely admire him!
Concluding and talking about the results of the race, I would like to say that the past days were very intense. If you have some idea of sailing you will understand, the rest just believe me — the closeness of leaders to each other is very surprising. Somewhere in the middle of the course, in the area of New Zealand, during the race there was a period when there were 4-5 yachts within sight, which is not statistically possible. And in the group of leaders, after 80 days and 40 thousand kilometers of the course, the difference between crossing the finish line is from 23 minutes to 6 hours. This is nothing at all at such distances, and without any exaggeration is equivalent to them coming all at the same time. And the difference, by and large, is due, whatever one may say, to some luck.
But «There must be one hero.» And this time, having sailed smoothly, accurately and professionally, the first place was won by the third Frenchman Janik Bestaven at Maître CoQ IV. The second is Charlie Dalin who finished first at Apivia, and the third is Louis Burton at Bureau Vallee 2.
The regatta is not over yet. The rearguard yachts have just passed Cape Horn, and the next large group has barely crossed the equator. I keep following the race!