Turn Turn Turn

Turn Turn Turn

If my memory serves me correctly, the first piece of this series of Vendée articles was about Steve White, and since he made it home on Thursday, it’s rather safe to say that somehow a circle has been closed. Which does not mean this column will disappear and make room for more interesting stuff ("How to make decorative macrame during those boring cruises", "Beavis & Butthead launch new double-handed race" – I mean, the list is endless), as I’ll most probably move on to other subjects.

So first hats off to Mr White, it certainly wasn’t a done deal from the start, and the level of commitment he put into this one is pretty unusual by today’s standards. Finishing was a goal in itself, but making it into the Top 10 sounds tough to beat given the conditions in which Steve put his campaign together. But wait a sec here – because this is an interesting characteristic of this edition: a Top 10 is pretty much all there is, 11 to be precise if one assumes the three boats still at sea make it to the finish line. Now this by no means should lower the value of Steve’s achievement, because after all he did go round while an enormous amount of top guns didn’t – we’ll come back to that in a minute. As we’ve seen over the weeks, race favourites dropped like flies and this Vendée Globe proved extremely cruel on people who had legitimate high expectations.

Just take a look at that list: Loïck Peyron, Roland Jourdain, Sébastien Josse, Mike Golding, title-holder Vincent Riou, Jean Le Cam, Yann Eliès, Jean-Pierre Dick, Bernard Stamm, Jérémie Beyou, Marc Thiercelin, Alex Thomson… Isn’t it somewhat surreal that this is actually NOT the top 10 (no notion of ranking implied here!) but the enumeration of the casualties? It undoubtedly raises a few questions about what the class will look like next year, since prominent boats have been lost, Gitana Eighty has been sold to a Spanish team for the next Barcelona World Race, and some partnerships are seriously being questioned if not already ditched – think Delta Dore for instance. Of course, the remaining great players suffice to make for a competitive and closely-fought 2009 season, but if one combines this destructive Vendée with the gloomy economic times, the cocktail is not particularly seducing. Financial companies had made a noticed entry in the sport over the past few years, and it’s going to be a question of economic darwinism now, with a few dead dinosaur carcasses along the way.

Dunno if the times they are a-changing, but they sure are a-troubled, if Bob Dylan-the-former-rebel-who-now-advertises-for-Cadillac doesn’t mind me twisting his words.

Jocelyn Blériot

Pic©Mark Lloyd / DPPI / Vendée Globe