As a spectator event, France’s Vendée Globe never disappoints, and the 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial round-the-world race was no exception. From equipment failures to climactic rescues, heartbreaking abandonments and a breathtakingly close finish, this edition, which included 33 solo sailors racing IMOCA 60s, truly brought Hollywood-levels of drama. Here’s a recap of the race’s highs and lows.
11/7 Due to pandemic restrictions, the skippers undergo strict quarantining and testing before the race starts. The race village is closed early and sendoff festivities are limited.
11/8 The fleet leaves Les Sables d’Olonne. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest—Art & Fenêtres) returns to port immediately after the start to make repairs to a headsail hook.
11/11 800 miles in, Jérémie Beyou (Charal), a race favorite who’d already had a taste of leading the fleet, returns to Les Sables d’Olonne to make repairs. Though the rules allow for returning and restarting, he will be six days and 2,500 miles behind the fleet by the time his boat is ready to go.
11/16 Nicolas Troussel (CORUM L’Epargne) is dismasted near Cape Verde after which he is the first to retire. He is in 12th place at the time.
11/18 Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss)—one of the strongest sailors in the fleet and back for his fifth Vendée Globe—is the first to cross the Equator with a healthy lead of 70 miles.
11/22 Thomson discovers structural damage aboard his brand-new boat. While making repairs, he drops from first to 14th in a matter of days.
11/30 Charlie Dalin (APIVA) leads the fleet around The Cape of Good Hope. Kevin Escoffier’s boat (PRB) sinks hundreds of miles southeast of Cape Town after slamming into a wave. Another one of the ill-fated race favorites, he’d been in third place. His four closest competitors divert from their races to search for his liferaft.
12/1 Jean Le Cam (Yes we Cam!) locates Escoffier in the early hours of the morning and in an outstanding feat of seamanship is able to take him aboard.
12/2 During a video call with French President Emmanuel Macron, Le Cam and Escoffier apologize for violating France’s social-distancing rules. Macron seems OK with it.
12/4 Thomson arrives in Cape Town to survey damage to his starboard rudder and retires from the race, his third time abandoning a Vendée Globe.
12/5 Sam Davies (Initiatives-Coeur) and Sebastien Simon (Arkea Paprec) arrive in Cape Town and also abandon their races due to damage. They’d been in 10th and fourth place respectively.
12/11 Fabrice Amedeo returns to Cape Town and retires after his backup computing system fails. He’d been in 21st.
12/14 Davies leaves Cape Town to complete her circumnavigation after having made the necessary repairs. She is no longer officially competing as a result of having received outside help with her repairs.
12/25 After 15,800 miles, Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club De Monaco) and Jean Le Cam spend Christmas together with less than a mile separating their boats.
1/2 Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) rounds Cape Horn in first place with a 160-mile lead.
1/10 Isabelle Joschke’s canting keel on MACSF, which had been jury-rigged to stay on centerline after a previous failure, breaks and cannot be secured in place. She is in 11th place when forced to retire in the home stretch of the Atlantic.
1/16 In an incredibly close Atlantic sprint, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) makes it to the Equator first. Sébastien Destremau (Merci) retires in New Zealand after a series of problems including a cracked bow. He was in 26th.
1/27 Charlie Dalin arrives in Les Sables d’Olonne after 80 days, 6 hours and 15 minutes, taking line honors, but...
1/28 Yannick Bestaven wins the Vendée Globe with a corrected time of 80 days, 3 hours and 44 minutes, having been credited 10 hours and 15 minutes for his role in the search for Escoffier. The top eight boats finish within 24 hours of one another, an incredibly close finish.
All images courtesy of 2020-21 Vendee Globe