Yannick Bestaven wins closest ever Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race


Frenchman Yannick Bestaven holds his trophy after winning the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world sailing race - Loic Venance /AFP
Frenchman Yannick Bestaven holds his trophy after winning the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world sailing race – Loic Venance /AFP

After 24,000 nautical miles and 80 days at sea, it all came down to mere hours. An extraordinary finish to an extraordinary Vendée Globe – the closest in history – eventually saw Yannick Bestaven, a 48 year-old Frenchman racing for the second time, awarded victory in the famous round-the-world race.

The skipper of Maître Coq IV won despite only crossing the line in third place, and only after one of his rivals collided with a fishing boat off the French coast in the final hours.

Bestaven arrived in to Les Sables d’Olonne at 0320 UTC on Thursday morning, approximately eight hours after Charlie Dalin on Apivia, who took line honours on Wednesday evening, and three and a half hours after Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée 2.

However, due to time compensations awarded for his role in the search and rescue of fellow competitor Kevin Escoffier earlier in the race, Bestaven took victory by 2hrs 31mins 01secs from Dalin.

His official race-winning corrected time was 80 days, 3hrs44mins and 46 seconds.

“I feel like I’m living a dream, hallucinating,” Bestaven said as flares lit up the night sky to welcome him back to Les Sables d’Olonne’s channel and well wishers lined their balconies and streets to cheer him home.

“We go from total solitude to this, to this party, to these lights. This result is beyond my expectations. After struggling as we struggled, a victory with Maître CoQ IV is a dream!”

There was agony for German skipper Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) who came into collision with a fishing boat 90 miles from home as he chased a podium finish.

Herrmann reported damage to his starboard foil and was proceeding towards the finish line at reduced speed on Thursday morning.

French skipper Yannick Bestaven celebrates and sprays champagne after crossing the finish line - FRANCK CASTEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
French skipper Yannick Bestaven celebrates and sprays champagne after crossing the finish line – FRANCK CASTEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock

It was that sort of race; hugely attritional. It began in early November with high hopes for British skippers Alex Thomson and Sam Davies only for both to suffer damage to their boats and retire.

The most serious accident, however, befell Escoffier, whose boat “folded in two” in the South Atlantic on day 23, forcing him to activate his distress beacon and take to his life raft.

Bestaven, who was not on one of the latest edition foiling IMOCAs, was one of four skippers who came to Escoffier’s aid, although it was Jean Le Cam [Yes We Cam!] who eventually found his compatriot in big seas, performing a dramatic rescue in the middle of the night.

“It was a nightmare that night,” Bestaven recalled on Thursday morning. “On the deck, trying to find a friend. Cold. Three reefs in the mainsail. When Jean said he collected him I thought I was dreaming. It took me a long time to get back in the race.”

That he did, though. Bestaven was the outstanding performer in the southern oceans, passing Australia’s Cape Leeuwin in third place before emerging first at Cape Horn with a 15-hour lead. He went on to build a 440-mile advantage coming back up the Atlantic only to see it evaporate in light conditions off the coast of Brazil.

But as the race neared its epic finish – with the top seven competitors separated by fewer than 250 nautical miles and the possibility that time compensations would decide the race coming into play – Bestaven made a brilliant call to track north around the Bay of Biscay, allowing him to arrive into Les Sables d’Olonne on the heels of a low pressure system. It was a race-winning move.

Pip Hare [Medallia], one of two Britons left in the race alongside Miranda Merron [Campagne de France], sent her congratulations to the finishers, saying it had been a “huge privilege” to compete alongside them even if she was still in the south Atlantic. “I haven’t crossed the Equator yet,” said Hare who lies 17th and has been writing an occasional column for Telegraph Sport during her first Vendee Globe. “It’s still a couple of weeks before I finish the race.”

“But we’re still racing, and I still have that motivation to keep pushing and push the boat that bit harder. What motivates me in the next two weeks is to get the best possible result I can with this boat. To be the best sailor I can be, be the best athlete I can possibly be. I’ve got different challenges than I had at the start but I’ve got so much more knowledge.”


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