Sagarmatha of the Southern Ocean
Sherpas call Mount Everest Sagarmatha, the mountain so high that no bird can fly over it. Western sailors know the Vende Globea non-stop, solo, around-the-world race sailed on wildly powerful, lightweight 60-footersas sailings Mount Everest. Study the attrition rate in this years race19 of the original 30 boats dropped out, many in the stormy waters of the Southern Oceanand you realize this isnt hyperbole. There were stories that scare even the worlds best offshore sailors. Deep in the Southern Ocean, Yann Elis was swept the length of Generalis deck by a giant wave, breaking his left femur and cracking several ribs as he encountered various bits of deck kit. Elis crawled to his bunk where he waited two agonizing days to be rescued by an Australian Navy vessel.
A couple of weeks later, fellow Frenchman Jean Le Cam (VM Matriaux) hit an unidentified object 200 miles west of Cape Horn, tearing his keel bulb from its strut. VM Matriaux capsized, with Le Cam inside. Vincent Riou (PRB) sailed to his rescue; he plucked Le Cam from the icy waters on his fourth try but fouled his rig on VM Matriauxs keel strut, and lost his mast (he was awarded redress for his heroics). Other top sailorsamong them Mike Golding, Seb Josse, Lock Peyronwere forced out in less dramatic but no less painful circumstances.
Yet the Vendes outcome was magical for sailing legend Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), winner of the 20002001 race. Damage at the start forced Le Professeur back to Les Sables dOlonne for 40 hours, but he quickly closed down the 600-mile gap to the leaders. On December 16, in heavy conditions south of Cape Leeuwin, Australia, Desjoyeaux ticked off 466.6 miles in 24 hoursthe races high-water markand surfed into the lead, which he commanded for 45 days until crossing the finish line on February 1.
Desjoyeaux not only took the overall win, becoming the first person to have won two Vende Globes, but set a new course record of 84 days, 3 hours, and 9 minutes, averaging 14 knots and taking more than 3 days off the previous record; impressively, this years 28,303 mile course was 1,150 miles longer than in 2005 when the former record was set.
I won this Vende Globe before the start with the choices I made, with the team and the experience I have built up, said an elated Desjoyeaux. I may have done it eight years ago, but its still incredible.
While birds cant clear Sagarmatha, Le Professeur has ascended it. Twice.