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15 February 2001, 09:44 am
Desjoyeaux Takes The Ultimate Prize
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Michel Desjoyeaux, skipper of the Open 60 'PRB', crossed the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne at 2008hrs and 32 seconds UTC of the 4th edition of the Vendée Globe single-handed, non-stop, around the world yacht race.
He has spent 93 days 3 hrs 57 minutes and 32 seconds at sea. He has smashed the existing record of 105 days and 20 hours, held by Christophe Auguin, by 12 days, 16 hours, 33 minutes and 51 seconds, and has just become the first man to achieve a solo, non-stop circumnavigation in less than 100 days.

Three miles from the line, broad-reaching towards Les Sables d'Olonne, PRB was lit up by helicopter search lights, and surrounded by a buzz of small boats following him in. After crossing the line, the sky was alight with a grand display of fireworks to celebrate this momentous occasion. The boat slipped majestically into the port, thousands of onlookers cheering, whistling and blowing horns, while Michel stood at the bow with two red flares held aloft, a big smile from ear to ear. As soon as PRB docked and the first line was thrown to land, Michel celebrated by spraying several bottles of champagne over the amassed crowd of media virtually sinking the pontoon.

His first impressions were given in a dockside interview. "I was following the countdown to my arrival for a few hours on my computer on board. I was looking for the buoy and just as if I was in a round the can regatta race I still had to cross the line so I didn't have to do it twice. We knew we could do this in less than 100 days with these boats. Christophe Auguin, four years ago, was sufficiently ahead at Cape Horn to slow the pace a bit. For us, the race in the Atlantic was wild the whole time. And then managing the boat through the Southern Ocean. I felt the change rounding Cape Horn, all the manoeuvres became easier to do. The Southern Ocean was tough but just three days ago it was equally hard upwind nearer to home as well.

Thanks to my sponsor and Isabelle Autissier, who had the confidence in me to take the helm of PRB. An amazing team in competence and human character, 80% of this race was won before the start. I just had to finish off the other 20%, the boat was well prepared and the skipper had some fortune on his side too. I've spent 93 days knowing that I shall get off this boat and explain what I did out there. It's not hard for me to get off the boat as I'm used to racing.

Ellen for me is a great mystery. She is ten years younger than me and she could have beaten me. She came so close to me in the Saint Helena anticyclone, and she came back on me in the Doldrums and the Azores high. She has displayed a great deal of courage and determination and has threatened me right until the end.

Professionally, it's a big moment in my career. The last turning point for me like this was the Mini Transat. If today 80% of the Open 60's have a swing keel it's because I won the second leg of the Mini with this system. You can't come back unchanged after three months at sea. I've learned a lot about myself and what I do. I was never afraid for myself, only for the boat! Fear of breaking the mast! I've become an 'earthling' again and will remain so until the next time I step on a boat!"

Finally in a great sporting gesture, Desjoyeaux added, "I want to thank all the guys who have come here to welcome me tonight and I hope you will do the same for all the other skippers right to the end as the last one deserves the most honour for being at sea the longest!".

Ellen MacArthur is expected to finish late on Sunday evening.
Philippe Jeantot
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