Simone Bianchetti aboard Aquarelle.com crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe at 1739hrs French time
He has achieved his solo, non-stop circumnavigation in 121 days, 1 hour and 28 minutes, and finished in 12th place in the Vendée Globe 2000/1. Simone has also become the first Italian skipper to achieve a solo, non-stop around the world yacht race. This was his first, but the boat's fifth circumnavigation.
The fog was settling offshore and the day drawing in as the support boats went out to look for Simone's green and white Open 60, 'Aquarelle.com' on the horizon. Finally she appeared out of the mist under staysail and 1 reef gliding over the Atlantic swell at 9 knots, her skipper still tucked inside the cabin and unaware of the swarm of boats arriving to motor alongside for the final 2 miles.
Bianchetti popped up out of his cabin, his traditional navy sailor's cap cocked to one side, unshaven, weather beaten but evidently happy. Once through the line the shouts and cheers from his Italian compatriots rose loud and clear. Simone himself sailed the boat right into the harbour entrance, where he was welcomed by thousands more people lining the walls 5 deep and cheering in admiration of the Italian skipper.
In the Press Conference, Simone was asked what the hardest thing was in the race: "Finding the budget!" came the jovial reply. Would he do the Vendée Globe again? "Yes," he replied without hesitation, "but with a faster, more modern boat next time." Philippe Monnet, the owner and previous skipper of Aquarelle.com, was there to welcome Simone and gave his vote of confidence to the Italian skipper for bringing his boat back in such good condition.
Behind him, still on course, Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) is advancing well towards Les Sables d'Olonne with a good average speed of 12 knots. "I'm sailing in a steady SW breeze under staysail and 2 reefs in the main, I've furled the genoa to preserve it a bit. I'm waiting for the wind to change so I can gybe onto port and climb North a little. The wind should stay from the West until the finish in theory. I think I'll arrive on Saturday morning if the weather files are right and I don't have any technical problems. But you know it's not like I'm on the fast train, at the very least I know I'll be coming home. I'm a little anxious for the finish, these are my last moments of serenity and peacefulness and I am loving every minute.."
Didier Munduteguy (DDP/60eme Sud) is still in the 15 - 20 knot Northerly Trade winds. "I've been making good progress for the last two days, heading North, and should arrive in about 15 days. My rudder is holding up well, I don't sense any trouble with it at any rate."
Pasquale de Gregorio (Wind) is still soldiering on under jury rig, and handicapped as well by the fact that he can only receive weather files by fax, unable to access information by satellite or web. "Today has been another so so day, battling in light NE airs and heading barely over 0 degrees. Actually, we have made little progress considering the light upwind conditions and the reduced mainsail we are forced to sail with due to our emergency rig. In the last 6 days we have averaged 60 miles per day."