PRB crossed the finish line in 4th place at 2116hrs GMT &44 seconds, 22 hours, 16 minutes after Virbac, crossing the 4,340m route in 17 days, 8 hours, 16 minutes and 44 seconds at an average theoretical boat speed of 10.43 knots.
Open 60 Round Up
Here is the run down of the finishes from 4th - 6th: PRB, VMI, Team Cowes...
Vincent RIOU (FRA) - PRB: "It was a great experience, but I wish we could have been in closer contact and had a bit more of a race. But from start to finish it was pretty cool. There is a difference for sure between the new and old boats, and the new 60's could really accelerate quickly. Now it's our turn to show that we can overcome this.
"Did we have something to celebrate? Well of course - Jeremie's wife had a baby boy during the race, called Achille, and my new baby arrived just before the race, so we're going to celebrate that for sure! We did talk about it a bit on the race, but tried to distance ourselves too otherwise it would make it harder for us not to miss our family.
"So now we've experienced the first part of the Vendée Globe course, but for the return race I shall be asking my friends for some advice as it seems that Jean-Yves Bernot and Pierre Lasnier were pretty good…"
Jérémie BEYOU (FRA) - PRB: "I felt very privileged to race with Vincent. The race had everything in it for me, although our ranking could have been better but there is always next time…"
Sebastien JOSSE (FRA) and Isabelle AUTISSIER (FRA) on VMI arrived in 5th place at 0712hrs GMT &42s after 17 days 17 hours 12 minutes and 42s, 1 day 1 hour behind Virbac.
Sébastien JOSSE: "We did all the work on deck together. Compared to the new boats, VMI is more of a downwind boat and of course it was upwind for half the way. Against those 'red arrows' it made no sense to follow their route. An Open 60 doesn't respond quite like a Figaro boat, you have to ask youself the question 15 times before changing something, and it's a fine line keeping control. You can't sail at 100% all the time. It was important for us to beat Team Cowes which is for us the current standard bearer. And more importantly because Nick was on board - we did the Jules Verne together!"
Isabelle AUTISSIER: "It's been a great race, well the 6 days of upwind conditions had to be endured. In the trade winds life was beautiful. Sebastien is very balanced in his judgements, and it was just a real pleasure to come back and sail these boats again."
Team Cowes crossed the line at 0957GMT 35 seconds in 6th place after the long hard-fought battle with VMI for 5th place came to an end... Skippers Nick MOLONEY (AUS) and Sam DAVIES (GBR)were totally becalmed just 2.5 miles from the finish line off Salvador. Team Cowes completed the 4,340 mile course in 17 days, 19 hours, 57 mins and 35 secs averaging a boat speed of 10.14 knots. They were 1 day 4hrs 39m 30s behind Virbac.
Moloney and Davies came to within 12 miles of VMI in the final few hours of the race, having reduced the distance from 63 miles in the last 24 hours, but it was too little too late as the VMI skippers, Sébastien JOSSE and Isabelle AUTISSIER, protected their position and crossed the finish line just over 2 and a half hours ahead.
Nick MOLONEY speaks: "Two and a half miles from the finish and we had no wind - the ocean was like glass - so we just had to sit it out to the line. It was just a fantastic battle right to the very end - and we take our hats off to Séb and Isabelle who just kept pushing hard all the time. This race has been incredibly close not just for us but for the top 3 boats above us and in the 60-foot multis as well. It's quite incredible to think you are racing these kind of distances with only minutes and hours separating us at the finish. I love it!
"It has been a great, great race and we raced this boat as hard as we could - we had to try a few different things tactically to keep up with the leaders but overall we are happy with our performance and how we sailed the boat. Sam has been a great co-skipper and quickly got her head round sailing Team Cowes and I think she's pretty into it now! It was a really tough race too and we will sit down and think about the mistakes we've made. We didn't break much and we didn't stop at all - we had no real major light wind patches. But we need to reassess the track and ask ourselves some questions, work out where we've went wrong and work out how we can sail her faster.
"We've only got just over a week to prepare Team Cowes and me(!) for the solo race back to France - the objective being to complete my qualifier for the 2004 Vendée Globe. There is a fair bit to do but may just take it easy today...!"
Sam DAVIES: "It was fantastic - hard but not at all dangerous. We stayed in touch with the 2nd group of boats for a long period of time but we lacked a bit of speed on occasions where we really needed it. For the first race on an Open 60 I actually found it easy to get into, and the boat itself is proven, which gave me peace of mind too. We only broke the end of the gennaker furler. So taking the sail in with no furler was not part of the fun! A great deal of the electrics also went down."
In the Open 50 fleet, Hellomoto (Humphreys-LARSEN) crossed the Equator on Wednesday afternoon. With a 371 mile lead over Storagetek and 986m to go, bar any incident, the Aussie-British team should claim victory in their class. Behind the heat has been turned up as only 8 miles separates Storagetek (Guillemot/Salnelle) and Défi Vendéen (Durand-Chemin). For all the boats still racing they must finish the race before next Tuesday night, 25th November.
Open 50 Class
The teams of the Class 1 Multihulls and leading Open-60 Monohulls may well be enjoying the many delights that Brazil has to offer, but out in the Atlantic, Hellomoto is still racing hard as she leads the Open-50s in the charge for line honours in Class II.
In high spirits, co-skippers Conrad HUMPHREYS and Paul LARSEN have had good reason for triple celebrations of their own as they head into the final phase of their race.
Now with just under 1000 miles to go, they've crossed into the southern hemisphere, an event accompanied by the traditional equatorial offering to Neptune. But most significantly, they've emerged from the Doldrums with an increased lead over their competitors, now more than 360 miles stern.
"Ocean racing can be a cruel business,"
said Conrad from the boat this morning. "Poor Storagetek and Defi (Vendéen) have sailed so well and are having a real battle of their own back there. But while we just managed to slip through, they're still above 6 degrees North and really being stuffed by the Doldrums. How frustrating must that be? It just shows how finally balanced it can be - if it hadn't been for some quite brilliant calls by our weather router, Lee Bruce, it might all be very different."
HELLOMOTO is currently powering along with one reef in the main and the Solent, reaching in 20 knots of breeze and closing on the finish line at a steady 10 to 11 knots. At this rate, she will cross it on Sunday 23rd, a crossing of 22 days and a brilliant performance by any standards, let alone for a 50 foot yacht. In a cruel irony of their own however, it means that Conrad and Paul will miss the receptions and prize-giving ceremonies of the day before.
"We're doing all we can to pick up even more pace,"
said Conrad, "but it's more important that we finish in the lead than finish a day earlier. Now is not the time to do something daft and blow it all. Apart from anything else, Paul would be beside himself if he failed to defend his title at this stage. We'll just have to hope they don't all forget us out here and content ourselves with raiding week three's unopened food pack for the last of the 'Sour Worms' and washing them down with rainwater!"