the big guns

I remember as a kid trying to get my friends to like sailing. “It’s boring,” they told me. “Nothing ever happens.” And you know they were probably right. I loved sailing, but sailing was kind of boring back then. Boring no more. Just step back and take a look at our sport today. Flying boats competing for the America’s Cup. One man sailing single-handed around the world, non-stop, on a 100-foot trimaran and smashing over eight days off the record. The amazing footage that was sent back from the boats in the last Volvo Ocean Race and now this; the trimaran IDEC smashing old records and setting new ones on their utterly epic record breaking circumnavigation while further to the north you have two of the most experienced sailors in the world playing a cat-and-mouse game as their Vendée Globe circumnavigation enters the final stages. Wow – and wow again. Boring no more.

Let’s take a look at the Vendée Globe. At the front of the fleet you have the Boss and the Jackal. In the last two editions of the Vendée French sailor Armel Le Cléac’h finished second. In the last Vendée Globe British sailor Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss finished third. Barring some lurking container with their name on it, one of them is going to win this race. I am rooting for Alex but Mr Le Cléac’h has sailed an impeccable race and deserves to win. They have entertained us with their skill, humor and a match-race that has yet to play itself out. As of writing Le Cléac’h has 2,170 miles to go to the finish in France and Alex trails him by 216 miles. At one point Hugo Boss was over 500 miles astern and as recently as this past Monday he had caught up to just 67 miles behind. They each compress and extend as the fickle breeze in the North Atlantic favors one, then the other. They are both facing a complex weather patters ahead as they negotiate the Azores High, and then they will ride a fresh winter gale back into Les Sables-d’Olonne. Anything can happen. Just ask Mike Golding who dropped his keel 50 miles from the finish of the 2004/5 Vendée. Through some extraordinary seamanship and careful sailing he managed to get his keelless boat across the line to finish third.
Now to IDEC. It’s hard to not overstate things when describing what an amazing performance they have turned out so far. A new record for the fastest time from the start to the equator. A new record from the start to the Cape of Good Hope. A new record from there to Cape Leeuwin in Australia and now a new record from Tasmania across the Pacific to Cape Horn. Plus the biggest accomplishment to date; the fastest time of any boat ever from the start in France to Cape Horn which they passed early this morning. Their time was 26 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes. A full four plus days faster than the previous record set by Banque Populaire V. Incroyable doesn’t come close to describing things. Don’t worry I will think of something better to describe their accomplishment before they close the loop back in France later this month. For now let’s just wish them a safe and speedy passage up the Atlantic.
While I am on a roll of amazing accomplishments let’s not forget that the 100-foot Super-Maxi Perpetual Loyal was not only the first to finish the recent Sydney to Hobart Race, but they smashed the course record by just under five hours. 4 hours, 51 minutes and 52 seconds to be exact. Over the last few decades so much money has been thrown at trying to win that race and set a new record and I am sure there will be plenty more spent in the future, but let’s congratulate the crew of Perpetual Loyal and let them bask in their achievement.
And last but not least. When the heck did this ever happen? On Monday the entries for the 2017 Fastnet Race opened; and closed 4 minutes and 24 seconds later having filled all the 340 slots. For a sailboat race? Amazing. Well it’s an exciting start to 2017 and I can’t wait see what the future holds for our fantastic sport. – Brian Hancock