In 1993, it took a fully crewed maxi catamaran, Explorer, to break the 80-day barrier for a circumnavigation under sail. Since then, that record has not only been cut nearly in half, it has now been matched by a solo sailor, 2012-13 Vendée Globe winner François Gabart who completed the circle in just 78 days.
Gabart, aboard the Open 60 Macif, landed in Les Sables on Sunday, Jan. 27, finishing first and breaking Michel Desjoyeaux’s record of sailing the Vendée Globe in 84 days, set in 2009. Gabart landed just 3 hours, 17 minutes and 12 seconds ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h, who was aboard Banque Populaire. This is the smallest delta between a winner and second place finisher in Vendée Globe history.
But breaking records and winning the Vendée Globe was not always priority for Gabart. “When the race started, I didn’t think of myself as a contender for victory. I knew it was a possibility, but that was not a goal I would think about all the time,” Gabart said. “In the Indian Ocean, I started thinking about possibly winning, and when Armel and I started having that close fight, I realized I had a 50 percent chance of winning. And then, once we were in the Atlantic, I started believing.”
Armel Le Cléac’h, who also beat the previous Vendée Globe record, is disappointed to place second in such a tight race, but is thrilled with his race overall. ”Yes, I am happy with this performance. [I’m] happy for myself [and] for the team that has been working with me for two years…and I want to congratulate François, who is a great winner, I’m happy to be second behind him,” Le Cléac’h said.
While celebrations and warm beds await Gabart and Le Cléac’h, Alex Thomson aboard Hugo Boss is finally sailing toward Les Sables after changing his course to ensure Jean-Pierre Dick’s safety after he lost his keel. Thomson is 665 miles away from the finish and is expected to place third. For additional updates on the Vendée Globe, go to vendeeglobe.org.
Photos courtesy of Vendée Globe