Dominique Wavre (Union Bancaire Privée) crossed the Vendée Globe finish line in 5th place at 1858hrs local time last night, just 4 and a half hours before his sparring partner Thomas Coville (Sodebo), who came in at 2335hrs to take 6th place.
And so ends their close, transoceanic duel, which they had fought out of sight of each other, but in verbal contact, all the way up the Atlantic from Cape Horn. These two skippers, bonded by their mutual suffering through encountering every calm patch and fickle breeze that could block their progress, both managed to beat the previous record set by Christophe Auguin, by coming in under 105 days and 20 hours.
Both skippers, during their press conferences, saluted the performances of those who made it onto the podium, and those who were left to endure the sea for much longer again. Wavre & Coville are ardent racers and naturally regretted that the weather did not open a single door for them, where the leaders had a more or less smooth and direct ride home. Thomas Coville explained: "It's exhausting and demoralising when you have to race without a chance of winning left."
Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) was however delighted to hear his 'ancient pupil' Thomas Coville over the radio chat this morning. They shared their woes, Parlier confessing his latest setbacks: "I've exploded my lightweight spinnaker, which took me a while to gather up out of the water. Then my bait was eaten by a fish, who left without giving me his address, so I'll have to make up another one. Finally the lights, which I had made on deck to illuminate the sails and attract some flying fish, aren't functioning anymore." On a happier note, Parlier at least has more consistent winds, "otherwise I wouldn't be in until May!"
The next skipper to come in will be Thierry Dubois (Solidaires), who had to stop in New Zealand to change his alternator and failing batteries. Despite being knocked out of the race rankings, he nevertheless decided to bring the boat home and finish. He is due to arrive in Les Sables at the start of next week, and we will resume communications with him until his finish. For the moment, however, he too is plagued by the abnormal weather conditions, constrained to tack into head winds to reach his goal. "Last night, there was next to nothing. I had a Northerly wind which lasted 2 hours yesterday, and after that zilch, nothing. I could more easily get to Cork, Ireland, right now!"
The two British skippers Mike Golding (Team Group 4) and Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore) were yet again tested by more light airs in the vacuum between the two low pressure systems either side of them. Golding however, is placed further to the North East and so has finally reached some stronger breeze off the system of about 25 knots.
Hall remains optimistic about his tenuous situation, with Gallay (Voila.fr) closing the gap again, and expects to catch the depression in the West to head towards the finish. "However, when it does we may well be North of it and have strong headwinds, which would be about right considering our fortune with the weather the last 4 weeks!" Not the only problem to have struck though, he went on to explain: "this morning I realised, at a rather important moment in the proceedings, that I have run out of toilet paper!"
Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) has arrived in Vigo, where her team are pulling the stops out to get a jury rig assembled so that she can sail back to Les Sables d'Olonne. Classed or not, every skipper who makes it back to home port will receive the same welcome, a great witness of how many supporters are out there, who have followed this race avidly, enthralled by the stories written by these circumnavigators for over 100 days.
Ranking polled at 0700UTC 24/2/01
Boat Skipper Speed DTF
1 PRB Desjoyeaux Arrive - 93d 3h 57m 32s
2 Kingfisher MacArthur Arrive - 94d 4h 25m 40s (+ 1d 0h 28m 8s)
3 SILL Matines La Potagere Jourdain Arrive - 96d 1h 2m 33s (+ 2d 22h 5m)
4 Active Wear Marc Thiercelin Arrive - 102d 20h 37m 49s (+9d 16h 40m 17s)
5 Union Bancaire Privee Dominique Wavre Arrive - 105d 2h 45m 12s (+11d 22h 49m 17s)
6 Sodebo Savourons la Vie Thomas Coville Arrive - 105d 7h 24m (+12d 3h 26m 28s)
7 Team Group 4 Mike Golding 9.78 948
8 EBP Espirit PME Gartmore Thomas Coville 7.83 1199