Friday 20th January 2017 – Les Sables d’Olonne, home of The Vendée Globe Round the World Yacht Race
Alan and I decided that the opportunity to go and see ‘our man’, Alex Thompson on HUGO BOSS arrive back in port after such an epic race, was an unmissable one!
Alex finishing the race at 08.37am
We set off from our house here in Normandy at midnight to drive the 265 miles to Les Sables d’Olonne arriving at 05.30am, some may think us quite mad but we just had to go!
At that time in the morning it was bitterly cold and absolutely not a soul in sight?! We thought it hardly surprising after many thousands had turned out to see the winner of this 8th edition of the Vendée Globe race, Armel Le Cleac’h on his Banque Populaire, arrive home the previous afternoon, he is French after all. However, that soon changed and as the dawn broke again thousands of people turned up to witness Alex’s return.
Here he comes!
There were of course quite a few ‘Brits’ as well as us but the majority were French and we can’t speak highly enough of them. They were in great spirits like us, also acknowledging that Alex is both a bit of a showman but a serious challenger to their top sailors! They were exceedingly generous in their appreciation of what he had achieved, perhaps recognising that had Alex not collided with a submerged object which broke his right foil just 13 days into the race, the result would most likely have been very different! It may have taken a while but he has their full respect now!
As at the start of the race, people crammed into every vantage point, us included, to see Alex and Hugo Boss motor in. We walked right to the end of the Port hand light on the end of the harbour wall and took several photos from there, soaking up the excitement of the day!
With no other finisher yesterday, we then made our way back to the Vendée Village to witness the docking of HUGO BOSS, with all the press wanting a piece of Alex. Armel Le Cleac’h was there too to congratulate his rival and friend! It was incredible to see how bright and cheerful Alex was despite having had to stay awake for the last few days due to problems on board, mainly his AIS which is a system which identifies nearby shipping?!!
Alex gave an excellent interview in which he acknowledged that he has unfinished business in the Vendée Globe but that he needed to talk to his wife!! He even said that he felt rather sorry for Armel as he hunted him down as they raced up the Atlantic reducing a near 900 nautical mile deficit to 33 miles! Like the start of the race just 74 days ago, it was so thrilling to be part of it all and to be able to absorb the atmosphere at the home of French offshore racing.
Finally, despite finishing second Alex not only smashed Francois Garbart’s 2013 record of finishing in 78 days, by completing his race in 74 days BUT by sailing an awesome 536.81nm in 24 hours at an average speed of over 22 knots but topping 30 knots at times, he broke the world record for that time period which also belonged to Francois Gabart!!!! Not to mention another record he made by being the fastest to sail between Les Sables d’Olonne and the Cape of Good Hope, the southern most tip of Africa!
Motoring in with his starboard foil clearly missing!
What a magnificent Sailor he is! Roll on 2020 when we shall surely see Alex in the line up to set off on this “Everest of the Seas” race again
BRILLIANT, WELL DONE ALEX!
PS: It would take us just 4 days to cross the Atlantic in Musetta if we were to sail at the same speed. Haha, that would be some sleigh ride!! Something to think about as we drove back up to Normandy, after a truly wonderful day!