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A look back at the highlights of the 8th Vendée Globe

Aerial illustration of start of the Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on November 6th, 2016 - Photo Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée GlobeVue aérienne du départ du Vendée Globe, aux Sables d'Olonne, le 6 Novembre 2016 - Photo Vincent Curutc

Week 1 (6th to 13th November): The start of a hellishly paced race
 

6th November: at 1202 hrs UTC, 29 sailors (20 French and 9 foreign skippers) competing in the eighth Vendée Globe set sail in some exceptional weather. After all the emotions of the exit from the harbour, the race itself was soon to take shape. Unfortunately less than an hour after the start, the Catalan sailor Didac Costa (One Planer One Ocean) discovered some electrical problems following a leak from a ballast tank pipe. Didac turned back to les Sables d’Olonne, and would set off again four days later…

- 11th November: some crazy speeds were clocked up on the way down the Atlantic and the foilers were able to express themselves. But Vincent Riou held on in there with his PRB equipped with straight daggerboards
13th November: Tanguy de Lamotte announced he had broken the top of his mast on Initiatives Coeur and decided to carry out  a stopover in the Cape Verde Islands to find a solution. His goal was to continue the race.

Week 2 (from 14th to 20th November): Alex Thomson took over the lead, Tanguy de Lamotte headed back

- 15th November: Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) took an excellent option cutting through the Cape Verde Islands and dealing perfectly with the Doldrums. Alex was the first to cross the Equator in record time: 9 days and 7 hours. He capitalised on this great option in the trade winds in the South Atlantic and widened the gap over those at his heels, led by Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), Vincent Riou and Morgan Lagravière (Safran).
- 15th November: stopover in Mindelo, Tanguy de Lamotte did what he could to get back in the race. Unfortunately he could see it was simply not possible to face the Southern Ocean and headed back to Les Sables d’Olonne, but without retiring…
- 19th November: Alex Thomson kept up an incredible pace, but had a blow when his starboard foil snapped off after a violent collision with a UFO. In spite of the damage, he kept up the pace at the front.
- 19th November: the first skipper retired from the Vendée Globe: following on from a collision early in the race off Portugal, Bertrand de Broc (MACSF) headed for Fernando de Noronha. He dived overboard and inspected his hull and saw that a large part of the bottom had been damaged, making it impossible to race. Bertrand was the first to throw in the towel.

Week 3 (from 21st to 27th November):

Thomson shattered the reference time to the Cape of Good Hope, tough times for Vincent Riou and Morgan Lagravière

- 22nd November: after colliding with a UFO, Vincent Riou saw that the axis of his keel on PRB had been damaged. This titanium part is a key element and Vincent was unable to continue in these conditions. Completely disgusted, he was forced to announce his retirement. A huge disappointment for the winner of the 2004-2005 Vendée Globe, who had been doing so well up against the foilers.

- 24th November: Alex Thomson continued out in front and shattered by more than five days the reference time to the Cape of Good Hope (17 days and 22 hours). Armel Le Cléac’h was the second to cross the longitude four hours later.
- 24th November: While taking a nap, Morgan Lagravière felt his boat broach. When he went outside he saw that the leeward rudder had come out of its socket and two thirds of it was missing. “I think it was due to a collision with a UFO,” explained Morgan, who was soon to announce he was retiring.

Week 4 (28th November to 4th December):
 

Epic duel between Armel and Alex 

- 30th November: the match between Armel Le Cléac’h and Alex Thomson was going at a crazy pace. The two swapped places regularly at the front. Off the Kerguelens, they were only fifteen miles apart, when a French Navy helicopter filmed them and sent back pictures that will remain in the annals of the Vendée Globe.
- 3rd December: Armel regained the lead. He would go on to stay in front for the next 47 days until the finish… The Vendée Globe fleet stretched out over more than 6,000 miles. Didac Costa and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) were bringing up the rear.
- 4th December: at 0240hrs UTC, Kojiro Shiraishi’s boat was dismasted. Safe and sound, the Japanese skipper headed to Cape Town. He would be the fifth to retire from the Vendée Globe.

Week 5 (from 5th to 11th December):
 

The Vendée Globe were in the hardest part: Kito de Pavant and Sébastien Josse retired. Attanasio, Bellionand Ruyant forced to carry out vital repairs

- 5th December: Armel Le Cléac’h was around a hundred miles ahead as they passed Cape Leeuwin, where he set a new reference time: 28 days and 20 hours (5 days and 14 hrs better than Gabart in 2012). The pace was still fast and Armel crossed the halfway point after 32 days. He was followed by Alex Thomson and a young rookie, who was having a remarkable race on his SMA: Paul Meilhat.

- 5th December: Sébastien Josse suffered serious damage to his port foil. After weathering out a nasty low, he announced his retirement on 7th December.
- 5th December: Romain Attanasio hit a UFO 470 miles south of Cape Town. Both his rudders were damaged. He would shelter in a bay near the Cape of Good Hope to carry out repairs and manage to get back in the race on 10th December…
- 6th December: The Indian Ocean was very cruel for Kito de Pavant, who suffered from a violent collision with a UFO. We have since learnt thanks to a video that it was in fact a sperm whale. The keel was seriously damaged and the leak could not be repaired. Kito was fortunately rescued by a supply vessel sailing in the area, the Marion Dufresne on 7th December. The skipper was safe and sound, but his boat was lost…
- 6th December: Eric Bellion suffered serious damage to his starboard rudder while sailing in heavy seas and 30-knot winds. The boat was knocked down in a gust in excess of fifty knots. Given the violence of the collision, the rudder stock, a carbon part linking the appendage to the boat was twisted. He had to carry out some epic repairs at sea to be able to get back in the race.
- 7th December: while moving his port ballast system mechanism, Thomas Ruyant noticed that the top of the intake valve had been ripped off by the speed of the boat, but there was no clear damage to the hull. However, he found water entering the living quarters. After some excellent DIY, he managed to block of the leak.
- 11th December: the fifth week was the hardest for the sailors in the 8th Vendée Globe. There were 22 competitors still racing, when Sébastien Destremau became the final competitor to round the Cape of Good Hope.

Week 6 (12th to 18th December):

Le Diraison dismasts, serious structural damage for Ruyant

- Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac), Yann Eliès (Groupe Queguiner) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) had to deal with a very deep low to the south of Tasmania. All three adopted a cautious approach and went for various strategies to let the worst of the weather go by. Yann and Jean slowed down and even hove to for a while, while Jean-Pierre attempted something that had never been tried before going via the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania.
- Still the clear leader ahead of Alex Thomson, Armel Le Cléac’h dealt perfectly with the Pacific, the world’s biggest ocean. There was a fascinating contest for third place between Paul Meilhat and the determined Jérémie Beyou, who narrowed the gap in spite of communication problems preventing him from getting all the weather info.
-17th December: Stéphane Le Diraison, then in tenth place was battling it out with the Hungarian, Nandor Fa. He informed the Race Directors that he had dismasted 700 miles from the coast of Australia. Stéphane managed to get to Melbourne under jury rig. 

- 18th December: Thomas Ruyant suffered an extremely violent collision with a UFO. This led to structural damage to his boat, which threatened to break up. This meant that nine skippers had been forced to retire... In spite of a very tense situation, Thomas saved his boat bring her into port safely (in Bluff, New Zealand), on 21st December in spite of a nasty storm. An incredible feat. Thomas had been having a grat race until then as he was in eighth place when forced to retire. 

Week 7 (19th to 25th December):
 

Damage for Meilhat and an unlikely encounter at Christmas

- 20th December: Paul Meilhat (then in third place and lead rookie) had a problem with his keel ram, which had a 40cm crack in it. Paul managed to stabilise the keel thanks to a safety system, but the damage was too serious to be repaired at sea alone. “With a keel like that I wouldn’t make it around Cape Horn,” admitted the young skipper who headed due north. His voyage would end in the French Polynesian islands.
- Meanwhile, 5 sailors had been battling it out in an incredible fight after passing Cape Leeuwin: Alan Roura, Enda O’Coineen, Fabrice Amedeo, Eric Bellion and Rich Wilson were very close together.
- 23rd December: Armel Le Cléac’h rounded Cape Horn after 47 days of sailing, shaving five days off the previous record set by Gabart in 2013. Alex Thomson rounded the Horn 48 hours later, but the battle was far from over…
- 24th December: An incredible encounter to the south of Tasmania between the Swiss sailor, Alan Roura and Eric Bellion. Roura on the bow of his La Fabrique, Bellion at the stern of his CommeUnSeulHomme sang a song for Christamas together. Later on, the two would get within a few metres of each other again along with Irish sailor, Enda O’Coineen. You never know what to expect in the Vendée Globe.

Week 8 (26th December to 1st January):

The leading trio in the Atlantic, one final skipper retires from the Vendée Globe…

- 26th December: On the fiftieth day of racing, the leaders had covered 75 % of the race course.
- 27th December: Jérémie Beyou, in third place, had a special day, as he rounded Cape Horn for the first time in his life as a solo sailor. Behind him, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam were fighting it out close together for fifth place and for the title of first boat with traditional daggerboards to finish...
- 28th December: the Irish skipper, Enda O'Coineen headed to Stewart Island (New Zealand). He tried to carry out a certain number of repairs before getting back in the race. It was on this island that Yves Parlier stopped for ten days to set up a jury rig in the 2000-2001 race.
- 28th December: Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) got back in the race after struggling for several days to solve his autopilot problems.
- 30th December: still in second place behind Armel Le Cléac'h, Alex Thomson was clawing back the miles. In just six days the gap between the two leaders, Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson, went from over 800 miles to less than 30 miles. The British sailor was not giving up...
- 30th December: no fewer than three skippers rounded Cape Horn: Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam and Yann Eliès, respectively 4th, 5th and 6th.
- 1st January: the year began with some bad news. Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager - Team Ireland), the first Irishman in the history of the Vendée Globe, was dismasted. He would be the final skipper to retire from the 8th Vendée Globe.
- Three skippers who had retired reached land: Paul Meilhat (28th December in Tahiti), Stéphane Le Diraison (30th December) and Kito de Pavant (30th December).

Week 9 (2nd to 8th January):
 

Repeated damage in the South Pacific

The boats and sailors began to feel the consequences of such sailing: Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy), Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Didac Costa and Sébastien Destremau had to work hard to be able to stay in the race to les Sables d’Olonne.
- 2nd January: Alan Roura contacted his team to inform them that his starboard rudder had broken after a collision with a UFO, which also led to a big ingress of water aboard his boat. He changed the rudder and stopped the leak, allowing La Fabrique to continue in the race. 

- 2nd January: Conrad Colman lost the bolt on his stay attachment in 60 knots of wind. He bravely managed to repair it and got back in the race.
- 3rd January: Sébastien Destremau warned everyone that he would stop before entering the Pacific. He moored up in Tasmania, in Hobart Bay, where he carried out a thorough check of his boat. When he set off again, he was 10,000 miles behind the leader, Armel Le Cléac’h.
- 4th January: Louis Burton (Bureaux Vallée) rounded Cape Horn for the first time in seventh place.
- 7th January: at 0023hrs UTC, Le Cléac’h crossed the Equator and returned to the Northern Hemisphere, but Alex Thomson had better weather and remained a threat.

Week 10 (9th to 15th January):
 

Close to the end…

- 9th January: the Hungarian sailor, Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) rounded Cape Horn for the fifth time in his career. Two days later, Eric Bellion became the first rookie in this Vendée Globe to round the legendary cape, followed shortly afterwards by Conrad Colman.
- 12th January: ready to pounce, Alex Thomson put the pressure on Armel Le Cléac’h, who held on tight. Contacted during the radio link-up, Armel could not hide how annoyed he was and complained about the weather that was always against him. In spite of lacking luck, the sailor from Morlaix Bay held on and kept a lead of around a hundred miles. “We’re going to have to fight all the way to the finish,” announced Armel.
Jérémie Beyou, 3rd, was still doing well, while Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, who had been in contact with each other since the south of Tasmania, tried to catch Jean-Pierre Dick to make it to the podium.

Week 11 (16th to 22nd January):
 

A triumph for Armel

- 16th January: Alex Thomson pushed hard beating the 24-hour sailing record for a solo sailor on a monohull, clocking up 536.81 miles at the average speed of 22.4 knots. He beat François Gabart’s record set in 2012, which was 534.48 miles. 78 miles separated the two frontrunners with three days to go to the finish.

- 16th January: Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest Matmut) and Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) rounded Cape Horn 4 hours apart. It would take the long climb back up the Atlantic to determine who would come off best. Alan Roura rounded Cape Horn on the same day, followed by Rich Wilson.

- 19th January: at 1537hrs UTC, Armel Le Cléac’h crossed the finish line and won the eighth Vendée Globe. On his third attempt, the skipper of Banque Populaire VIII, achieved a remarkable performance setting a new record time in the solo round the world race: 74 days 3 hrs 35 mn 46 s (or 3 days 22 hrs and 41 minutes less than François Gabart in 2013).
- 20th January: 16 hours after Armel, Alex Thomson took second place. Without his foil since 19th November, Alex kept up the pressure on his rival, Armel Le Cléac’h. He made it to the podium for the second time in four attempts. The British sailor could be proud of his result and has already announced he will be back. “I can’t stop after getting second place. I could never be satisfied with that result... If I think that I have what it takes to win, I will be back in four years from now.”

Week 12 (23rd to 29th January):
 

Jérémie Beyou took third place and then three boats finish within 3 hours

- 23rd January: after 78 days 6 hrs and 38 minutes, Jérémie Beyou made it to the podium in spite of all his technical problems (autopilot failures, Fleet antenna not working, problem with his gennaker and mainsail hooks…). He took third place thanks to his determination and hard work.
- 24th January: The fight for fourth place continued between Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam. Dick held on, but remained under threat from the two three times winners of the Solitaire du Figaro, experts at such close contact racing, who refused to give up.
- Wednesday 25th January – a date for the history books... With just three days between them, three legendary figures from the Vendée Globe crossed the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne: Jean-Pierre Dick (4th) at 1347hrs, Yann Eliès (5th) at 1513hrs and Jean Le Cam (6th) at 1643hrs. It was the first time in the history of the Vendée Globe that three competitors completed the race on the same day. Yann Eliès crossed the finish just 1hr and 26 minutes after Jean-Pierre Dick...
- 26th January: there were still twelve sailors racing – six Frenchmen, one Hungarian, one New Zealander, one from Switzerland, one American, one Spaniard and one from the Netherlands. Arnaud Boissières and Fabrice Amedeo had been sailing close to each other for several weeks and had become friends. There was another duel between Romain Attanasio and Didac Costa. Louis Burton was the next competitor expected to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.
- 29th January: a big day for Sébastien Destremau, who rounded Cape Horn at 1336hrs after 84 days and 1 hour of sailing. All of the boats still racing were now in the Atlantic.

Week 13 (30th Janaury to 5th February)
 

Louis Burton makes it back, 11 sailors still racing

- 2nd February: Louis Burton crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne to take seventh place in the 2013 Vendée Globe. His first round the world voyage after being forced to retire after colliding with a trawler in the2012-2013 race. His race time was 87 days, 21 hours, 45 minutes and 49 seconds.
- 5th February: “I haven’t lost all my strength, but I can feel that my physical condition is very different from a few weeks ago. It is high time I got back to Les Sables.” The Spaniard Didac Costa summed up what the eleven sailors still racing were thinking in this eighth Vendée Globe. After three months at sea, they were feeling tired and the equipment was suffering too.

Week 14 (6th to 12th February)
 

Nandor Fa a great eighth place, Conrad Colman dismasts

- 6th February: Eric Bellion had to deal with an engine problem forcing him to limit his energy consumption. He had to rely on his hydrogenerators to produce energy.
- 8th February: the Hungarian, Nandor Fa crossed the finish line off Les Sables-d’Olonne at 1054hrs UTC. He took a fantastic eighth place on his third attempt at the Vendée Globe. His race time was 93 days 22 hrs 52 minutes and 9 seconds.
- 9th February: Romain Attanasio informed the race Directors that he had suffered damage to his port daggerboard after hitting a UFO. He could no longer use his daggerboard and noticed an ingress of water in the housing, but he managed to race on his Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys.
- 10th February: Eric Bellion faced horrendous conditions a few days from the finish. He was forced to change course to avoid the worst of a violent low, but still experienced gusts in excess of 70 knots.
- 10th February: the New Zelander, Conrad Colman was not spared by the storm either. At 2200hrs, Conrad contacted his team to inform them that his IMOCA Foresight Natural Energy had been dismasted, as he sailed in 30-35 knot NE’ly winds under J3 with three reefs in the mainsail. A huge disappointment for Conrad, who had already sailed 97% of his first Vendée Globe and was only 739 miles from Les Sables d’Olonne. But the New Zealander had one idea on his mind and that was to make it to Les Sables d’Olonne under jury rig.
- 11th February: Eric Bellion suffered damage to his mainsail track. This happened less than 500 miles from Les Sables-d’Olonne, off Spain in 30-40 knot winds.

Week 15 (13th to 19th February)
 

Bellion 1st rookie, Boissières and Amedeo 10th and 11th

- 13th February: exhausted, but motivated, Eric Bellion showed incredible determination and crossed the finish of the 8th Vendée Globe at 1658hrs UTC. Ninth overall and first rookie in this race, the 40-year old completed his round the world voyage in 99 days 4 hrs 56 minutes and 20 seconds.
- 15th February: excellent news for Conrad Colman, who managed to set up a jury rig using his boom and a piece of his mainsail, which he recovered after dismasting.
- 17th February: Arnaud Boissières took tenth place in the Vendée Globe after 102 days 20 hrs 24 minutes and 9 seconds. He completed his third Vendée Globe in a row.  A performance only equalled by Armel Le Cléac’h before him.

- 18th February: Fabrice Amedeo took 11th place and was the second rookie to make it back to Les Sables d’Olonne, after 103 days, 21 hrs, and 1 minute. He announced that he would be back again in 2020 aiming to do even better…

Week 16 (20th to 26th February)
 

Five boats finish one after the other: Roura, Wilson, Costa, Attanasio and Colman

- 20th February: the Swiss skipper Alan Roura crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 0812hrs. He took 12th place in the Vendée Globe (3rd rookie), which he completed for the first time on the eve of his 24th birthday. His race time: 105 days, 20 hrs, 10 minutes, 32 seconds.
- 21st February: after the youngest, the oldest. Rich Wilson, aged 66, finished after 107 days of sailing. It was the second time that the American completed the Vendée Globe (9th in 2008-2009). The crowds were out to greet a true gentleman.
- 23rd February: after setting out from Les Sables d’Olonne four days after the rest of the fleet, Didac Costa succeeded completing his first Vendée Globe after 108 days 19 hrs 50 minutes and 45 seconds. He did this aboard an older generation IMOCA, the former Kingfisher aboard which Ellen MacArthur finished second in 2000-2001.
- Friday 24th February will remain in the annals of the Vendée Globe with Romain Attanasio and Conrad Colman finishing. It took a lot of courage and hard work for them to complete their first Vendée Globe. Romain hit three UFOs, which damaged his rudders and daggerboard. Conrad Colman dismasted 700 miles from the finish and made it to Port Olona under jury rig.

Week 17 (27th February to 5th March):
 

Tricky finish for Pieter Heerema, Sébastien Destremau alone

- 27th February: after the five boats arriving the previous week, only two were left racing: Pieter Heerema and Sébastien Destremau. The Dutchman was forced to slow down (and practically stop) to let a storm go by, which was causing very heavy seas in the Bay of Biscay. His finish was postponed, but Pieter was ready to remain patient.
- 2nd March: at 2126hrs, Pieter Heerema, aged 65, crossed the finish line after a battle which lasted 116 days 9 hrs 24 minutes and 12 seconds. The first Dutchman in the race was successful in his personal challenge of completing the Vendée Globe aboard a new generation IMOCA fitted with foils.
- 3rd March: Sébastien Destremau was the only one left after Pieter Heerema finished in 17th place. The Frenchman was the final skipper still at sea. 

Week 18 (6th to 12th March):
 

The curtain comes down on the 8th Vendée Globe 

- 11th March: Sébastien Destremau took 18th place in the Vendée Globe at 0040hrs. He had to wait until 1200hrs UTC to enter the harbour, where he received huge applause. His voyage lasted 124 days, 12 hrs, 38 minutes and 18 seconds. The skipper from Toulon finished his eighth Vendée Globe, 50 days after the winner, Armel Le Cléac’h. With 29 competitors setting sail and eighteen finishing, the outcome was unprecedented. The eighth edition of the Vendée Globe set another record in the history of the race.

Olivier Bourbon / M&M

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