Nick Moloney (AUS) aboard the red Group Finot 50' Ashfield Healthcare surfed across the finish line in Pointe à Pitre at 0508:04 GMT, today Thursday 28 November. His race time from Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre is 18 days, 16 hours, 23 minutes, 4 seconds.
Moloney finishes ahead of six bigger 60-foot monohulls and beats the previous 50-foot performance by almost two days, set by Ellen MacArthur in 1998, at 20 days, 11 hours, 44 minutes and 49 seconds. His average speed on the direct route (3551 miles) was 7.90 knots. The closest competitor in the class was 220 miles behind in the latest position report.
The Route du Rhum is Nick Moloney's first completed solo race. Moloney was very reserved with mixed feelings before the start, as his last solo-transat, the Mini Transat in 1999, was a difficult experience. He was caught in a fierce storm, which capsized the boat and caused severe damage. Moloney survived the drama with a broken arm.
"The Route du Rhum was my first step to the Vendee, and it has gone a lot better than I thought, it felt a lot better. It was long enough for me to really get onto it. I kept thinking the Vendee is 90 days, and this is less than 20, how is that going to go! The whole storm was difficult but I was really focused. I was pushing hard but keeping the boat together."
Nick Moloney has dominated his class practically from start to finish. When his greatest rival Yannick Bestaven (République Dominicaine) declared defeat and retired after three days of racing, Moloney was in total control. He chose a northerly course, and was clearly in command of his opponents from 12 November onwards.
He was equally one of the first to dive south to avoid the frustrating the Azores High as much as possible. Holding on to his advance, without pushing too hard, Moloney completed the course in his own rhythm, but gaining constantly on his opponents. "I have not slept the last day. I think I was just too excited when I saw land. This was the happiest land sight I ever had,"
said the overjoyed but very tired Australian.
Next to Ellen MacArthur, Nick Moloney is the second skipper belonging to Offshore Challenges Team. His famous colleague was of course on site tonight to greet her close friend and teammate. "It is really cool, what a team. It is a great year for me and it has been a fantastic race for Ellen,"
Two monohull class records have now been beaten in this year's Route du Rhum, both by approximately two days. The 1998 edition had upwind conditions for a longer period with four big depressions in succession.
The 34 year old Australian has an impressive track record: Nick Moloney has crewed in two America's Cups with John Bertrand (1992 and 1995), one Whitbread Around the World on Toshiba 1997/1998, a season onboard the giant catamaran PlayStation, co-skipper with Ellen MacArthur on Kingfisher in the victorious EDS Atlantic Challenge, and most recently the only non-French onboard Orange, for the Jules Verne Trophy. His primary goal is to enter the solo race around the world, Vendée Globe in 2004.
Moloney's boat Ashfield Healthcare was the most high-performance 50-footer in the fleet after Yannick Bestaven's République Dominicaine had to abandon, due to damage on the keel. The red 50-footer was launched in 1996 and was the boat that won the 1998-1999 Around Alone, helmed by Jean-Pierre Mouligné.
"Tired: Very tired. I was sleeping short moments on deck in the squalls, holding on to the helm. I was always trying to advance and push and push then after Steve Ravussin [TechnoMarine trimaran] capsized so close the finish it was the BIG message to just say to myself 'get home now and stop pushing'. I couldn't believe it. I've really enjoyed it, especially the beginning - I'm not sure why but I think it's because it was so full on and in the zone and I feel like I sailed really well.
The fleet was really close. I didn't enjoy all the action that was going on around me as there was a lot of bad carnage on the course but I really enjoyed the intensity of it. That said, I definitely didn't enjoy the frustration of the light air. That was very difficult to handle. The storms:The whole storm was difficult. I had to keep the boat together by all means and get to the finish line. It was fortunate no one was seriously injured or killed. I cannot believe it, how tough it was. "
Meantime Congratulations to Nick in particular tonight who is a world away from the pre-race pressures and fears of Saint Malo and evidently more than satisfied that, contrary to what he previously thought, he is very capable of not just finishing the Vendée Globe but maybe even taking it back to Australia!
At 0730:52 GMT the skipper of Vaincre La Mucoviscidose, Hervé Cléris slinked across the finish line at Pointe à Pitre. In so doing he completed the podium in the Class 2 multihulls behind Franck-Yves Escoffier and Anne Caseneuve. He was one of the rare competitors to dive South after exiting the Channel and was trashed by the storms for numerous very long hours resulting in a pitstop in Madeira with a ripped staysail.
After these two rather low key arrivals due to the fact that it is currently the middle of the night here in Guadeloupe, the locals will doubtless be out in their thousands in the middle of the afternoon GMT time tomorrow. Claude Thélier is due to sail over the horizon aboard Archipel Guadeloupe and as sole native West Indian is set for one almighty Ellen style welcome.