For many years I have been going to the start of the Vendée Globe. I look at the boats and think that there simply can’t be any room for improvement. The boats look amazing, but four years later when I return the new boats make the older generation look like trucks. The performance curve is extraordinary and the way that the sailors sail these behemoths is also extraordinary.
I had the same feeling last year when I watched the French sailor Thomas Coville destroy the singlehanded, nonstop circumnavigation record. He sailed his 100-foot trimaran Sodebo with such skill that I was sure that his performance and his record would stand for a long time. Not so fast. I don’t know if you have been following but fellow Frenchman François Gabart is out there attempting to break Coville’s record and as of writing he is almost 700 miles ahead of where Coville was at the same time into his circumnavigation. And more spectacularly Gabart just set and then broke a new solo 24-hour speed record. Last summer Gabart set a record of 784 miles in 24-hours. Yesterday he smashed that with a run of 818 miles and then pulverized that pace with a new record of 851 miles. That’s an average speed of over 35 knots. That’s one person, all alone, averaging 35 knots. whowouldhavethunk!
Gabart aboard his trimaran Macif are skirting the edges of the Southern Ocean and will soon to pass the longitude of Cape Town at the foot of Africa. If he keeps up the current pace, which is likely, he will make it from France to the first of the three great capes in just 12 days. That will be a full two days faster than Coville and bodes well for a slingshot ride across the deep south.
Meanwhile, in case you were wondering, Thomas Coville was setting new records of his own in another part of the planet. He and co-skipper Jean-Luc Nélias won the iconic Transat Jacque Vabre, and along the way set a new record of 7 days 22 hours 7 minutes and 27 seconds. Before leaving France Coville predicted that it would take them around eight days to complete the trip. He was right and their time was well over two days faster than the previous record. So while I am sure Coville is not pleased to see Gabart creaming his solo circumnavigation time, this new record is a little consolation prize to ease the pain.
In other news, and just for the heck of it, let me report that Ian Lipinski has won the Mini Transat for the second time. The French sailor pulled into Martinique in the Caribbean just 13 days after setting off from the Canary Islands on the second leg of the race. He finished a full 12 hours ahead of Germany’s Joerg Richers. The remaining 76 competitors in the race are strung out across the Atlantic each on their own grand adventure. – Brian Hancock.