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Another close finish in the Vendee Globe

by Philippe Jeantot on 2 Mar 2001
Again in the Vendée Globe 2000/1, Les Sables d'Olonne witnessed two arrivals within the space of just three and a half hours after 111 days racing. After a nail-biting match race to the finish in strong, squally winds and big seas across the Bay of Biscay, first to arrive on the horizon was Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr). The Franco-Swiss skipper crossed the line at 0818hrs and 11 seconds, therefore totalling 111 days, 16 hours, 7 minutes and 11 seconds in order to complete his circumnavigation. The cold beauty of the morning sun shone on the gleaming orange and white Open 60, full main flying downwind towards the line in a freshening breeze.

Gallay has, moreover, finished 8th in the race rankings and completed his second Vendée Globe. His first impressions were that: 'In my first Vendée Globe, I just had the hardest experience, it was all physically tough, which constrained me to make two stop-overs. This time my boat, the ex-Geodis, just gave me only pleasure. I practically had no problems and the boat is still in such good nick. Undoubtedly I missed out a bit on the competition at the start. I hadn't sailed such races for a long time and made my major error with the weather in the Bay of Biscay. But the Atlantic climb was good and I caught up ground and places.'

Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore) was spotted on the horizon just 3 hours later, and surfed into Les Sables d'Olonne with just the storm staysail up in big, gusting winds, and a lumpy sea. He crossed the line at 1159hrs and 2 seconds in 9th place, the last of the three British skippers to finish the course. The first words shouted were: 'I just had 70 knots of wind 10 miles from the line!' He was unable to enter the channel due to the tide barrier, until 1730hrs French time, at which time the whole world it seemed had gathered at the harbour entrance, the sun pushed through the storm clouds, the sea had levelled off and the wind eased too. Josh Hall hoisted his colourful, animated main sail and cruised magnificently in to the harbour to the cheers of an innumerable crowd. Present among them, Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher) and Mike Golding (Team Group 4) added their shouts of congratulation, and eventually the three British skippers, all top 10 finishers, chatted together after the press conference. Hall's comments are summarised below.

Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) was heard on the radio chat this morning to have been in raptures. Not only has he sailed through the Doldrums without stopping, and is expected to pick up SW winds soon to push him fast towards home, but he has also had a miracle catch of fish! 'I¹ve hooked up this lighting system to illuminate my sails and the flying fish just head right into them. Two days ago I caught 20 and last night I found 30 on the deck! I boil them quickly, not forgetting to add some seaweed of course.'

Yesterday afternoon at 1330 hrs French time, Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) left La Coruna with two team members aboard. She is expected into port on Saturday morning.

Josh Hall Press Conference extracts:

How was your race: 'The course was everything and more. I expected it to be hard. I wondered how I'd deal with spending more than 50 days at sea on my own, that was my maximum time from the BOC Challenge. I found myself very comfortable with the idea, and in harmony with the boat, that harmony is even stronger now. She's my other woman, a bit more expensive, a bit less trouble, she doesn't answer back but she knows when she¹s not comfortable.'

'The most frustrating and disappointing thing is to have had to endure so many calm days, it was like a double whammy when I was becalmed, knowing that the others were moving away or catching me up, plus the boat slapping around, I couldn¹t sleep just trying to get her moving more than 1 knot. You end up with a lot of patience. I loved all of it and the bad bits because they're all over. This race for me was like a hand fitting a glove.'

'I cared about the rankings until I crossed the line, now I don't, it was such a huge, tough adventure - for all of you! Yes, it is the last solo race, but I say that after every one! I've done the Ostar, BOC Challenge, Around Alone, Vendée Globe... there's not much else I can do but to stop I guess! It's too hard on my family and friends. Enough is enough. I'm 38 so I need a change, after 15 years of solo sailing, but I'm not stopping sailing, I want to help others, young people to get into the sport, I've had 4 months to think about it, and I haven't achieved much positive thinking! I want to do crewed racing with by wonderful boat. I adore solo sailing, it's so special, you all must think we're mad! I¹ve done 60000 miles in this boat, nearly all racing. I'm not brilliant but I'm good at what I do, wonderful projects which touch people in a special way working with a special team with wonderful characters ­ thanks guys! That experience of working together encourages me to do crewed projects in the future.

'Icebergs are the single most dangerous thing, especially in solo sailing, and my own experience was the most frightening ever. They were more than 1 km long, I felt like I was at the bottom of the world and the wind wouldn't let me go North, it was freezing and I had to stay vigilant 24 hours a day. Icebergs belong in vodka & tonics!'

If Ipswich Town had got to the final, which they didn't, last Sunday, would you have got in earlier? 'Yes! I would have left my boat at the Azores, flown over to watch the match and then got back to the race! The BBC World Service Radio was great, I listened to the football every Saturday afternoon and Ipswich Town were doing so well... I could go on about this all day!'

How did you manage your morale, the highs and lows, in the radio chat through the race? 'It¹s difficult not to show your current feelings in a race like this if it's the only phonecall you have for a few days. I'm lucky to be born with an upbeat nature and I don't get too frustrated or angry, I retain my sense of humour even in a serious race like the Vendée Globe. It's important to have a good balance.'

How did you manage your routine, sleep and food: 'I got most of my sleep in the night hours as I tried to utilise the negative time to get rest. As a pattern I would sleep for 30 minutes to 1 hour, at most one hour and a half but not longer. However, I sometimes got so exhausted that I would wake up with alarm bells ringing all over the place after 3 and a half hours, my body just needed it. As for food, I had no choice! I had half freeze-dried and half pre-packed food. The freeze-dried was so disgusting so I ate all the real food first. A big mistake as the whole of the second half of the race I had to eat the dehydrated ­ it was horrible! I just need a steak and I'll be okay!'

ETA's

Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) ­Saturday morning
Joe Seeten (Nord Pas de Calais/Chocolats du Monde) ­ Sunday/Monday
Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) ­ 14/15th March

Latest Ranking* polled at 0855hrs (UT):

Psn / Boat / Skipper / Lat / Long / Headg / Av. Speed** / DTF***

1 PRB Michel Desjoyeaux Finish: 10 February 2008hrs 32 sec
2 Kingfisher Ellen MacArthur Finish: 11 February 2036hrs 40 sec
3 Sill Matines & La Potagère Roland Jourdain Finish: 13 February 1713hrs 33 sec
4 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin Finish: 20 February 1248hrs 49sec
5 Union Bancaire Privée Dominique Wavre Finish: 22 February 1858hrs 12sec
6 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville Finish: 22 February 2335hrs 0sec
7 Team Group 4 Mike Golding Finish: 28 February 0833hrs 0sec
8 Voilà.fr Bernard Gallay Finish: 1 March 0818hrs 11sec
9 EBP - Défi PME - Gartmore Josh Hall Finish: 1 March 1159hrs 2 sec
10 Nord Pas de Calais - Chocolats du Monde Joe Seeten 40°58'N 16°23'W 25 7.56 719
11 VM Matériaux Patrice Carpentier 38°15'N 18°36'W 69 10.9 902
12 Aquarelle.com Simone Bianchetti 26°44'N 34°05'W 33 11.9 1933
13 Aquitaine Innovations Yves Parlier 07°40'N 36°56'W 342 9.25 2965
14 DDP -

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