Vendee Globe: A quick trip around the world

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Quickly around the world

In Jules Verne’s novel, his hero Phileas Fogg made the world tour in 80 days. On the way alone across the oceans, it goes faster, as two sailing professionals have now proven for the first time.

E.it really was: times at sea when the Briton Alex Thomson felt happy on his Imoca 60 yacht under the name “Hugo Boss”. When the sky was clear on a few nights, the sun rose against a blue sky in the early morning or his boat suddenly miles ahead of its competitors at the Vendee Globe did well. But these were snapshots of a nearly three-month journey that continually pushed him to the limits of his resilience. For example, shortly before the finish line, when a storm raged in the Atlantic. With wind speeds of around 70 kilometers per hour.

Last week Thomson came in third in the toughest and longest regatta in the world in the port of destination of Les Sables d’Olonne. The French winner, Fran├žois Gabart, and Armel le Cleac’h were almost three days faster in the hunt around the world. Only 78 days were enough for Gabart and le Cleac’h to circumnavigate the world, a time Thomson said before the race: "Sailing around the world in less than 80 days, this idea is absurd."

It turned out differently, the winners also exceeded the imagination of Jules Verne, whose hero Phileas Fogg even needed more time on land and water.

The hardships Thomson and his colleagues went through could hardly be seen at first after the Briton’s return. With his two-year-old son Oscar in his arms, Thomson was celebrated in Les Sables. Not only the Briton had tears in their eyes.

Spectators celebrate Alex Thomson

Several thousand spectators shared with the sailor the thought that he had accomplished a superhuman achievement – and arrived unscathed. In the third attempt at the Vendee Globe, he had reached the goal for the first time. And he, too, was faster than the 2009 winner, the Frenchman Michel Desjoyeaux. The man who was honored as a “sailing professor” had needed 84 days.

The Vendee Globe, in which some of the remaining nine participants will probably need another two weeks to reach the finish, is an example of the development of sailing. In comparison with the two Frenchmen who arrived before him, Thomson was by no means the worse sailor.

The Briton sailed a boat that was designed in 2006 and built in 2007. Gabart and le Cleac’h, on the other hand, had a more modern, lighter ship. This allowed them to reach higher speeds. However, since Thomson had already failed twice, he relied on a boat that appeared to him to be more stable and reliable.

"We lost in that game," says Thomson. Especially since he still had to worry about it for four weeks at sea, to be able to continue sailing. Its power supply from a hydro generator had failed. He had to fix it twice.

Winner Gabart with a light boat

The fact that he even opted for environmentally friendly power supply technology was also due to the associated weight savings. Thomson only took half the amount of fuel to run the conventional generator. The rest of the electricity should be generated by the water-powered generator.

But the boats of the victorious French still weighed half a ton less. Their mast also differed from that of the Englishman. "I would have been more competitive with a boat similar to Gabart," says Thomson.

The Imoca 60 yachts of the three best and happiest lone sailors in the world are currently lined up in a row in the port of Les Sables. They are visited like places of pilgrimage by French people who are enthusiastic about sailing. Hardly anyone can understand how one can cross the oceans alone with the 18.29 meter long yachts.

Only 58 sailors reached the destination

There are good reasons for being amazed. To date, more people have personally viewed space than sailors have reached their destination at the Vendee Globe. The dangerous adventure has been going on since 1989, only 58 professionals have reached the goal so far, two sailors have died.

The next Vendee Globe will begin in four years’ time, and it should be sailed again faster than this time. Fortunately, this development is not at the expense of safety. The boats are now equipped with watertight chambers in the bow, which can fill up after a collision at sea, but this does not lead to their sinking. And even if a boat capsizes, the sailor has a chance of survival: the hatch of an overturned yacht is above the waterline.

At least the first three of these Vendee Globe did not have to use this life-saving equipment.

The trip to the finals of the Vendee Globe was supported by Hugo Boss. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at www.axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit

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