French sailors Francois Gabart aboard Macif and Armel Cléac´h aboard Banque Populaire are battling it out in an upwind struggle through the Atlantic Ocean to the finish line. Only 59.2nm behind Gabart, Cléac´h is keeping west in hopes of catching a favorable wind shift. Though Gabart blasted through previous speed records early in the race, both boats have slowed dramatically since the start.
“We now have left Les Sables more than 50 days ago, we sailed over 15,000 miles, but this is the first time we found [ourselves] upwind in strong winds,” said Gabart. “It’s tough... and it's not going very fast so far.”
While the pace of these boats has slowed, the competition has not. The match race is too close to call, and upwind tactical decisions will determine the final outcome. Both sailors are focused solely on their course.
“Our roads converge with Armel, just like an old couple... Please don’t hurt your brain with our distances to the finish. We’ve been sailing upwind for a few days, so the numbers don’t mean anything at the moment. Be patient and you’ll find out who is going faster,” said Gabart.
To track the fleet’s progress, visit vendeeglobe.org
Photos courtesy of Vendée Globe/Jean-Marie Liot