Two years ago Amedeo had barely set foot on an IMOCA 60 but he set his sights on doing this pinnacle event of solo ocean racing. He found himself a good boat, set in place a comprehensive well funded programme which meant he has had the tools to do a good job. Today, hungry because he has been on limited food rations for more than two weeks, but elated he crossed the finish line to complete his race in perfect sunshine, making more than 10kts of boat speed through the flat seas, amidst an excited spectator fleet including his wife Charlotte and three young daughters Garance, Louise and Josephine.
An experienced sailor whose solo career started nearly ten years ago in the Figaro class, graduating through Class 40 to the IMOCA class of the Vendée Globe, race first timer Fabrice Amedeo, 38 years old, has sailed an accomplished measured race, finishing as second rookie some 24 hours after Arnaud Boissières who he raced closely with during the second half of the course and who was completing his third successive Vendée Globe.
Amedeo achieved backing from Newrest – an industrial catering giant and French insurance group Matmut – and took two years leave of absence from his job as a writer for Le Figaro national newspaper to train and complete in the Vendée Globe. After completing the solo Transatlantic race the Route du Rhum in Class 40 in at the finish in 2014 Amedeo announced he wanted to do the Vendée Globe. Four years later the sailor whose other passions are politics and political commentary has completed that ambition above and beyond his expectations.
A graduate of philosophy and political science, Amedeo started out sailing on his family’s 22 foot Beneteau cruiser and moved through crewed racing at France’s Spi Ouest Regatta and the Tour du France a la Voile into solo and short handed racing, notably in the proving ground of the Figaro class and then Class 40. He has written extensively on the big races, on sailors such profiling Sébastien Josse during the Volvo Ocean Race, as well as political history book. During the three years before he started the Vendée Globe he had sailed more than 20,000 miles including a good ninth place in that 2014 Route du Rhum from 43 starters. He has chronicled his race with great detail, colour and enthusiasm, diligently reporting almost every day with some of the most viewed reportage videos of the race.
The Farr designed Newrest-Matmut was originally launched in 2007 for Loick Peyron as Gitana 80. This is the fourth successful racing circumnavigation for the boat which went round the world in the second Barcelona World Race as Renault Captur with Pachi Rivero and Antonio Pires, finished the last Vendée Globe in fifth place as Jean Le Cam’s Synerciel and most recently completed the third Barcelona World Race as GAES Centros Auditivos in the hands of Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin.
Before the race started Amedeo said:
“ I really wanted this Vendée Globe. I started out from scratch to set up this project. This is the start of an adventure, but also the conclusion of two years of hard work. Just 18 months ago, I was taking the metro to get to work and between two stops dreamt of the Vendee Globe.”
After the start Amedeo enjoyed lively conditions for the first night at sea, but nothing too tough, so a pleasant way for the Vendée Globe rookie to find his feet in the middle of the fleet, at the head of second pack. When he heard of the damage suffered by Tanguy de Lamotte, he decided to ease off.
“What happened to Tanguy shows us that there is a long way to go. This brings us back down to Earth. My aim is to get into the Southern Ocean without breaking anything.”
“I’m happy about the start of my race I’m getting used to my boat. The leaders have made their getaway. But strangely enough that doesn’t worry me. They are not in the same race.”
Fabrice Amedeo entered the Southern hemisphere in seventeenth place after 12 days 4hrs and 40 mins, 2 days and 21 hrs after the leader.
Stepping up the pace initially in the southern hemisphere the skipper of Newrest-Matmut would then have to deal with an area of high pressure with light airs. During one night he only managed to sail ten miles. He was the first of this pack to be held up and was then overtaken by Louis Burton, while the others narrowed the gap.
As he escaped out of this light zone he would find himself in close contact racing with Conrad Colman and Kojiro Shiraishi.
Amedeo crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on the evening of 4th December “I’m really pleased to have rounded this first cape. I can see how far I have come on my IMOCA. I saw my first albatross… I’m down where no man goes.” Amedeo was soon to experience his first southern storm. “It was a wild night, so I decided to be prudent. I got caught by the front and for half an hour had forty knot winds and gusts of 44 knots.”
After one month in the heart of the pack in 16th place not far from Arnaud Boissières, the skipper of Newrest-Matmut was forced to climb his mast, after his halyards got entangled around the forestay.
In the Indian Ocean to avoid the worst of a big blow, Amedeo decided to head north. But with 45-50 knot winds his mainsail split open with a 3m long tear. Between low-pressure systems, he spent a lot of time repairing his sail. However, because everything was so damp, it was difficult to apply patches. This slow period allowed his rivals to gain an advantage. On 21st December, Alan Roura and Enda O’Coineen got ahead of him. His Christmas present was that he finally managed to repair and re-hoist his mainsail.
The Christmas celebrations would not last long. A few days later, he was once again forced to climb his mast, when his gennaker hook looked like breaking and was no longer working properly. The strong winds off New Zealand allowed him to accelerate again and catch the pack. But after the low, he was once again caught in light airs. “For two days now I have been five knots slower than Arnaud Boissières!”
2017 began with a problem with his fleet communication system, meaning he was unable to download the latest weather info. Fortunately as the team had decided to adopt a belt and braces approach in preparing the boat, he was able to reconnect to a second antenna.
By 3rd January, he had once again overtaken Alan Roura, but was facing the toughest conditions of his Vendée Globe. After the storm, he found himself practically becalmed at Point Nemo in the middle of the Pacific.
On 10th january, he found himself alongside Arnaud Boissières. Approaching the Horn, he was back in gale force winds with 50-knot gusts in spite of heading south after a warning from the Race Directors about the deep low-pressure system.
Amedeo rounded Cape Horn for the first time on 16th January. “I just experienced one of the highlights of my life. There was a violet light over the mountains of Patagonia, as the sun went downI was twenty miles from the rock and whaen I suddenly saw the mountains I was stunned. This was my first sight of land since 7th November when I passed Cape Finisterre. I have never been so moved seeing land. It was an incredible moment. Rounding the Horn was a moment of fulfilment. I was at one with my boat.”
After the very strong winds as he approached the Horn, Fabrice Amedeo had to deal with calms on the other side as he passed the Falklands. The transition from the southern ocean to milder climes was very sudden. For Amedeo, this was synonymous with “getting back to the civilised world.”
The climb back up the South Atlantic was far from simple. “I came to a standstill in the high.It was long and harsh. The biggest hold-up I have had since the start of the Vendée Globe. Zero knots of wind for hours. I’m pleased now to leave St. Helena behind me. I was warned that getting around Cape Frio would be hard. And it definitely was. It was torture.”
Fabrice Amedeo entered the northern hemisphere after 87 days 20 hours and 20 minutes. The duel he had been in with Arnaud Boissières changed at this point. The latter made his getaway, while Amedeo remained in light trade winds. Even if the Doldrums were not that active, they did slow him down considerably and allowed Boissières to build the margin which he increased to the finish line.