The Vendée Globe: A mythical event

The first edition of the Vendée Globe, created by Philippe Jeantot, was in 1989 and it very quickly became known as a race of extremes and the ultimate offshore sailing challenge. The course and the concept say it all: a single-handed round the world race, without stops and without outside assistance.

It is the longest sporting competition in the world and is without doubt one of the most challenging. The six previous editions, spanning the last 23 years, are synonymous with some mythical moments in offshore sailing. The 2012 Vendée Globe, which starts on the 10 November, will be Dominique’s fourth event.

1989 – 1990

Titouan Lamazou won the inaugural Vendée Globe after an epic 24,000 nautical mile race in 109 days. As he raced back up the Atlantic Ocean, obsessed with victory, the poet and writer cast spare sails and parts overboard to make the boat lighter! Loïck Peyron finished 30 hours later in second place after an outstanding race, which included rescuing Philippe Poupon, and Jean Luc Van Den Heede won the admiration of his peers, finishing third. Two months later, Jean-Francois Coste brought up the rear on Cacharel better known as Eric Taberly’s Pen Duick III.

1989 1990 results

  1. Titouan Lamazou (Fra, Ecureuil d’Aquitaine II) : 109d 8h 48’ 50’’
  2. Loïck Peyron (Fra, Lada Poch) : 110d 01h 18’ 06’’
  3. Jean-Luc Van den Heede (Fra, 36.15 MET) : 112d 01h 14’ 00’’

1992 – 1993

Alain Gautier, well known on Lake Geneva, won the second edition of the Vendée Globe ahead of Jean Luc Van Den Heede and Philippe Poupon. He was very well prepared and sailed a perfect race on board his innovative yacht. Unfortunately this tough and violent edition of the Vendée Globe is best remembered for its drama. Before the start of the race,
Mike Plant, an American, and Nigel Burgess from Britain went missing, Burgess was later found drowned off Cape Finisterre. In the South Pacific, Bertrand De Broc, was forced to stitch up his own tongue with the guidance of fleet doctor Jean-Yves Chauve. Five out of 14 competitors were forced to retire.

1992 1993 results

  1. Alain Gautier (Fra, Bagages Superior) : 110d 02h 22’ 35’’
  2. Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (Fra, Groupe Sofap-Helvim) : 116d 15h 01’ 11’’
  3. Philippe Poupon (Fra, Fleury-Michon X) : 117d 03h 34’ 24’’

1996 – 1997

This Vendée Globe took on epic proportions. Christophe Auguin, the winner, declared that: “No one ever returns from a Vendée unscathed or unchanged.” He also admitted that: “it would take months to adapt to a normal life ashore.” Fifteen competitors – plus the ‘pirate’ Raphael Dinelli who qualified too late – crossed the start line, but only six finished the race. Catherine Chabaud was amongst the six, and after 140 days at sea she was the first woman ever to finish. Christophe Auguin led the fleet into the Indian Ocean ahead of Isabelle Autissier, who had to reroute to fix her rudder. Yves Parlier broke his forestay and then hit a growler and in turn broke his rudder. In the Southern Ocean, raging winds pounded the fleet: Raphael Dinelli capsized and was rescued in extremis by Britain’s Pete Goss. A few hours later, Thierry Dubois and then Tony Bullimore also capsized and were both miraculously saved by the Australian search and rescue service. Gerry Roufs from Canada stopped responding and his wrecked boat was recovered months later off the Chilean coast.

1996 1997 results

  1. Christophe Auguin (Fra, Geodis) : 105d 20h 31’
  2. Marc Thiercelin (Fra, Crédit Immobilier de France) : 113d 8h 26’
  3. Hervé Laurent (Fra, Groupe LG-Traitmat) : 114d 16h 43’

2000 – 2001

At the start in November 2000 in the Sables d’Olonne, the tragedies of the last race were fresh in everyone’s mind. Naval architects and competitors had worked together to create a more stable, safer boat that could weather the worst sea states in the world – it was clear that what had begun as an adventure had taken on global dimensions. This was Dominique Wavre’s first Vendée Globe, but it was Michel Desjoyeaux who smashed Christophe Auguin’s record and finished first after 93 days, 3 hours and 57 minutes. Ellen MacArthur sailed into the history books when she finished in second place and Dominique became the first Swiss sailor to sail around the world alone, without stops. He finished in fifth place. Yves Parlier had quite an adventure: after dismasting, he weighed anchor south of New Zealand and lived off shellfish while he fixed the mast with what he had onboard!

2000 2001 results

  1. Michel Desjoyeaux (Fra, PRB) : 93d 3h 57’ 32’’
  2. Ellen Mac Arthur (G.B, Kingfisher) : 94d 4h 25’ 40’’
  3. Roland Jourdain (Fra, Sill Matines La potagère) : 96d1h2’33’’
  4. Marc Thiercelin (Fra, Active Wear) : 102d 20h 37’ 49’’
  5. Dominique Wavre (Sui, Union bancaire Privée) : 105d 2h 45’ 12’’

2004 – 2005

The Vendée Globe is no longer just about having a long-term strategy, the single-handed sailors push themselves and their yachts to the limit and the goal is to lead off the start line and hold on to any advantage gained. Winner Vincent Riou illustrated this fact when he finished just seven hours ahead of Jean Le Cam after 87 days at sea! Riou managed to shave another six days off the record after 26,714 nautical miles at an average speed of 12.73 knots. Britain’s Mike Golding limped across the finish line without a keel, he had managed to sail his Open 60 like a dinghy from just off the coast of Spain. He snatched third place four days ahead of Dominique Wavre who finished fourth. This remains Dominique’s best Vendée Globe result so far.

2004 – 2005 results

  1. Vincent Riou (Fra, PRB) : 87d 10h 47’
  2. Jean Le Cam (Fra, Bonduelle) : 87d 17h 20’
  3. Mike Golding (GB., Ecover 2) : 88d 15h 15’
  4. Dominique Wavre (Sui, Temenos): 92d 17h 13’

2008 – 2009

With a fifth place in 2001, a fourth in 2005, and a new boat built in New Zealand, Dominique Wavre was a favourite for this Vendée Globe, but as is often the case there were a number of incidents at the start and several competitors turned back to the Sables d’Olonne for repairs. Dominique, Michel Desjoyeaux and Bernard Stamm were amongst them. Desjoyeaux restarted 41 hours later and put the hammer down to retake the lead. Dominique climbed back up the fleet and was amongst the frontrunners when disaster struck and the boat suffered irreparable damage to the keel (a frequent problem in those days). The keel head had broken putting the integrity of the boat at risk and so he limped in to the Kerguelen Islands and managed to save it. Sadly the same could not be said for
Stamm who was already there and without his boat. This edition will be remembered for its spectacular rescues: Jean Le Cam was saved after capsizing off Cape Horn, and Yann Elies was rescued in the Indian Ocean after breaking his leg. Desjoyeaux meanwhile charged home five days ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h to beat the record after 84 days at sea.

2008 – 2009 results

  1. Michel Desjoyeaux (Fra, Foncia) : 84d 03h 09’
  2. Armel Le Cléac’h (Fra, Brit Air) : 89d 09h 35’
  3. Marc Guillemot (Fra, Safran) : 95d 03h 19’ and Vincent Riou (Fra, PRB), on redress

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