LE CLÉAC'H Second
Finishing 7 hours and 43 minutes after PEYRON (taking into account PEYRON's 2.5 hour time allowance), Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA) aboard Brit Air brilliantly captured second place, proving he's definitely a force to be reckoned with.
"It takes a beautiful second to make a great winner," once said a certain Mr PEYRON at the end of a gruelling multihull round-the-world race in 2001, and he certainly would approve of us using that phrase tonight in order to comment on LE CLÉAC'H's finish.
Looking at his young rival, Loick identifies all the qualities he values the most in a sailor - tactical wisdom, gear preservation, competitiveness, and respect for his rivals. Having admitted to feeling LE CLÉAC'H's pressure for the last two days at sea, the triple winner implicitly paid him a tribute, and the "young Jackal", using his Figaro-era nickname, probably appreciated the fact that the "old fox" considered him a threat.
Once the ever-elegant PEYRON had finished answering the questions from the press, and left for his appointment with a nice big steak and a beer, it was time for everyone to wait for LE CLÉAC'H and his faithful Brit Air, the white and gold monohull expected to tear through the Bostonian night some four hours after the winner.
Having left Plymouth Sutton Harbour with the sole ambition - or so he said - to finish the race in order to guarantee his Vendée Globe qualification, LE CLÉAC'H obviously got trapped into the game he likes most, and his rankings certainly betrayed a very competitive state of mind.
"I guess given the mild conditions," said his brother Gael (project manager for the Brit Air Open 60), "he felt he could put on a fight and remain safe. You don't end up in the leading pack if you race with the handbrake on...not in this class and with the level of his opponents! Unless he was taking it easy, in which case we can envisage the future with serenity!"
Two generations of sailors, two different schools, but a common tactical finesse and sense of limits: the perfect ingredients for a spectacular finale, spiced up by weather conditions that seemed to dictate a coastal closing phase. Playing it by the book and applying typical match racing tactics, PEYRON controlled his opponent by making a critical tack two days ago. Closing the door, PEYRON was buying some safety but could not expect what happened when approaching Boston, thunderstorms suddenly kicked in that could have changed the whole game. "At one point," said the winner, "I was completely stopped, surrounded by squalls with absolutely no wind whatsoever. It was tense until the last minute."
Looking bac on the race from the dockside at Rowes Wharf, Boston Harbor Hotel, PEYRON commented, "It was an exhausting race, especially at the end, but it was once again a fantastic battle on the water. Leaving Plymouth, I knew there were at least six boats capable of winning this one, and in fact that was demonstrated by the numerous changes of leaders. I was happy to be in the match since the start, it's always good to take an early lead, and when I moved back a bit afterwards it didn't worry me a lot, that might be because I'm starting to have a bit of experience!"
On his rescue of RIOU he added, "Taking Vincent onboard was strange at first, I had trouble getting back into my pace and habits, but then we learnt to know each other, it was great - we finished the race commenting on what our fight might have been. And given the weather patterns, I think we would have ended up more than exhausted, it would have been extremely close-fought."
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