Speedream’s Brian Hancock takes a unique look at the Vendee Globe…
As someone who is mesmerized by the sheer athletic ability of racing a powerful Open 60 solo, non-stop around the world in less than 80 days, I can’t help but wonder why this extraordinary accomplishment went completely unnoticed in the American press. Was it because we were waiting with bated breath for the next tidbit about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend, or were we too busy filling out office pools betting on the outcome of Sunday’s big game? The answer is, sadly, yes. But despair not, it’s always been like that, it will always be like that, and no matter how much us sailors lament this simple truth, it’s never going change.
A better question would be ‘why is it so?’ To know the answer you have to know the French and you also have to have some historical perspective. In 1968 the very first solo, nonstop race around the world took place. The Sunday Times Golden Globe attracted an odd collection of sailors drawn to the challenge for their own personal reasons. British sailor Robin Knox-Johnston won the event, nutter Donald Crowhurst got the most publicity for the strange faking of his voyage, but it was Moitessier who captured the heart and soul of a nation; and he never even finished the race.
While sailing up the Atlantic toward the finish and certain fame, he made a fateful decision, one that I think changed the face of sailing for generations to come. Moitessier abandoned his race and chose to continue on sailing around the world a second time. He altered course, passed the Cape of Good Hope, sailed under Australia and finally, after 10 months at sea, dropped anchor off Tahiti. This simple gesture, one that spoke volumes about his love for the open ocean, his sense of his purpose in life and his direct snub at fame, say nothing of the race organizers who were British, won him eternal affection from the entire French nation. Read on.