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Australian Matt Johnston wins the Virtual Vendée Globe

by Gaia Coretti 27 Jan 2017 19:53 GMT 27 January 2017

On his black and yellow boat, wearing the IMOCA Hugo Boss's colours, Matt Johnston, Mangina-PYR, wins the 2016-2017 Virtual Vendée Globe Edition. At the end of a very tight race and after more than 49,000 km around the world, this virtual sailor arrives ahead of 451,000 players. The New Zealander Derek Watt (NZ-Eligo ''IST'') and the Frenchman Didier Flament (Didflam) complete the podium.

It took 72 days, 2 hours 23 minutes and 10 seconds to sail virtually around the globe, which started and arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne. They have been 72 days of presence on the Virtual Regatta's flag game, of fine settings tuning, of choosing the best route and, above all, of continuously analysing the weather in order to get the best of it. It's a young Australian from Adelaide, in South Australia, who wins this virtual circumnavigation.

This victory has been build as the oceans, the capes and the miles went by. 540th at Cape of Good Hope, (which is the first of the three major capes in this circumnavigation), Mangina-PYR, as the boat is named, has then never stopped to catch up in the ranking. 288th at Cape Leeuwin in the southwest of Australia then 142nd at Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the American continent, the skipper has crossed the Equator and entered the northern hemisphere as 12th. We all know what followed and it's as the big winner that he arrives today, January 17th, in Les Sables D'Olonne.

By achieving his circumnavigation in 72 days, Matt Johnston beats by 2 days and 10 hours the former Lilian Launay's reference race time.

On this circumnavigation, Matt Johnson will have sailed 26,592.20 nautical miles (49,248 km) in 72 days, 2 hours 23 minutes and 10 seconds; that's an average speed of 15,4 knots.

Interviewed three hours after his arrival and, because of the time difference, a bit of sleep, Matt Johnston looks back on his race for us:

"Shortly before the Vendée Globe start, I have been lucky enough to take part in a sailing championship with Michael Coxon of the Australia North Sails sail makers company (Editor's note: Coxon, well renowned sailor in Australia, took part in 29 Sydney Hobart races and numerous other big races, he's also North Sails's Managing Director). His experience and his common sense have been very helpful to me. It mainly advised me to go as fast as possible in the different transition phases, but also to descent and climb up back as fast as possible in the Atlantic Ocean. That's what I've tried to do and it worked pretty well. I'm very glad of this victory in the Virtual Vendée Globe. It's incredible".

New Zealand and France on the podium

Few minutes after Mangina-PYR, Derek Watt, skipper of NZ-Eligo "IST" has also looped the loop and seizes the second spot.

Interviewed right just after his arrival by the legendary sailor Chris Dickson (Match Racing triple world Champion, Louis Vitton Cup 2003 finalist...), New-Zealander like him and also player of the Virtual Vendée Globe, Derek Watt shares his first thoughts.

"I've started the race quietly but I quickly threw myself completely into it. I find the app absolutely exceptional. That's what made me feel like keeping on going. Then I left my life a little bit aside during these 72 days. I was really on it daily and woke up regularly during the night. I set up my alarm clock every 3 to 4 hours in order to adjust my trajectory and my strategy. The game was really gripping. I think my wife should be very happy that this adventure is coming to en end. It was one in a lifetime adventure."

Didier Flament, researcher in marine microbiology, is the first French sailor of this edition. His very conservative strategy and his intuition enable him to finish this circumnavigation on the third step of the podium. It's a beautiful performance that he comments:

"It was not my initial goal at all. I have never put my work aside and to be sincere I used to log in in the evening for about one hour in order to analyse the weather and set my course, and then about 30 minutes every morning. It happened to me also to have a look into the app during the day to check if everything was fine. But the last night has been the only one where I woke up to manoeuvre my boat. I had to tack and I did not want to foul it. Being first at a certain time has made my friends laugh a lot and this is my great victory in the Virtual Vendée Globe. I'm really very glad of this rank. It has been a beautiful adventure."

Now that the finish line has been broken, it's henceforth a continuous flow of virtual players that will loop up their circumnavigation. With more than 451,000 skippers on the oceans, there will be lots of passages on this virtual finish line, right in front of the port of les Sables d'Olonne.

About Virtual Regatta

With more than a million active players in 2016, Virtual Regatta – created by Philippe Guigné, winner of the TDFV (Tour de France à la Voile) 1997 – is the virtual sail online games world's leader.

Beyond the conception and production of online and mobile games, Virtual Regatta's main business is to create nautical events on the Internet. Thousands of sailing fans are able to follow the races in a unique and dynamic way: the players compete on their own boats. The website allows races organizers, teams and sponsors to create more solid relationships with their audience. Settled in Paris, France, Virtual Regatta proposes three games: Virtual Regatta Offshore, Virtual Regatta Inshore and Virtual Regatta Arcade. The company has tied partnerships with the biggest world's nautical events: Vendée Globe, Volvo Ocean Race, Route du Rhum, America's Cup, Transat Jacques Vabre, Clipper Round The World, Tour de France à la Voile, La Solitaire du Figaro, Rolex Fastnet Race, 900 Nautiques Saint Tropez, etc...

About the Vendée Globe

The Vendée Globe is the most difficult and famous sailing race around the world. Nicknamed the Everest of the seas", it's a non-stop without assistance solo round the world race, starting and finishing in Les sables d'Olonne, via the three mythical capes: Good Hope in the south of South Africa, Leeuwin in the south of Australia and the notorious Horn, at the tip of South America). The race crosses the Northern and Southern Atlantic Oceans before sailing all around the Antarctic Continent by crossing the Indian Ocean and then the Pacific Ocean. Like all majors international sport events, (Olympic Games, Football World Cup...), it takes place every 4 years since 1989. This relentless event, in the same time human and technological adventure, is ran on 60 feet (18,28 m) monohulls, named IMOCA. It has been won by some of the greatest names in sailing: Titouan Lamazou, Alain Gautier, Christophe Auguin, Vincent Riou and François Gabart. Only one sailor has won it twice: Michel Desjoyeaux, in 2001 and 2009. The race record is held by François Gabart with a time of 78 days. The eighth Vendée Globe will set sail from les Sables d'Olonne on Sunday 6th November 2016.

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