Emerging from a Biscay storm which he later described as the worst winds he had had to deal with throughout his entire race, Armel Tripon crossed the finish line of the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe off Les Sables d'Olonne at 06:27:50hrs UTC this Monday 1dt February to take 11th place on the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe. His elapsed time is 84 days, 17 hours, 07 minutes and 50 seconds.
Considering that his progressive Sam Manuard designed scow-bowed L’Occitane en Provence was only first launched one year ago (yesterday) and the Nantes skipper started his first Vendée Globe with the highly fancied but untested boat not having completed a significant offshore race, Tripon’s achievement display’s a high level of physical and mental stamina and excellent seamanship.
Technical problems not long after the start of the race slowed him – he came close to stopping to repair – but he made a huge comeback from 32nd in the 33 boat fleet to finish 11th today
THE ARMS RACE
Before taking the start of the Vendée Globe, Armel Tripon was already a proven, top ocean racer. But 84 days since he left Les Sables d’Olonne he is recognised as one of the fleet’s most serene but passionate story tellers, always appreciative of situations which he describes clearly and concisely, ensuring that very many have shared and enjoyed his Vendée Globe.
He clearly has lost none of the teaching skills which he learned and used as an instructor at the Glénans sailing school centre in Brittany before he took to ocean racing. A victory in the Mini-Transat was enough to set him on his way. He then progressed to Class40 before the Multi50 and his spectacular victory in the Route du Rhum 2018. From there with his friend from Mini days designer Samuel Manuard and the Black Pepper yard in his native Nantes their project is hatched. Together they built this mean- looking blunt bowed, black, L'Occitane en Provence, with yellow moustaches.
He had only sailed about 7000 miles before the start, abandoning on the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables with structural issues in the bow area. But for all there might have sceptics who thought L’Occitaine en Provence too young and untested to complete the full course, Tripon has proven them wrong and along the way has proven that the design is fast and – in many conditions – more comfortable than the other latest generation IMOCAs.
Ahead off the coast of La Coruña
The striking look of his boat appealed to the sailing media which appreciated the design’s potential – as proven in the Mini and Class40 before – and Tripon and L’Occitaine en Provence were hailed as potential winners. And in the early stages he is quick, Tripon heads heads westwards to get around a depression, with Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) in his wake. But the conditions are tough and the third night is tough. The result his hook for his J3 breaks, the sail ends up the deck, there is come collateral damage and he seems to have no alternative than to head to La Coruña to repair.
Meantime the leaders escape and, while the Tripon decides to take advantage of the benign weather to repair at sea. One week in he is one of the first to climb his 28m mast with a hacksaw and a grinder. Then he had to make a composite repair to a piece of the foil shaft that had sheared off. Sanding, grinding, gluing... Tripon talks about "days in the workshop"….
But finally he get’s going at pace again and starts to engineer a steady comeback in partnership with his boat, all the time quietly and thoughtfully sharing his appreciation of his life in the race. The first albatross "I can see him, noble and majestic in his gliding flight, as if suspended". He describes the scenery from the cockpit "as when as a child you look out of the car windows on your holiday route" and the "purity of the nights where the stars shine like never before". His boat gradually becomes "my good companion on the road" with which he builds a strong, easy bond….. "It is fluid, easy and only asks to go fast".
The passage of Cape Horn, surrounded by albatrosses is a personal feeling of liberation, "a beautiful moment", "an intense joy". It stirs up memories of a dream he shared with two friends, one of whom has since died. After the Horn the seas became calmer. He then proudly recounts his conversations with his three children, who tell him about their daily life and his wife "who manages them with a perfect hand".
On January 12th with the wind at nearly 40 knots, the sea is rough and "the boat is hurting". When he speaks to those ashore, through his words on board and his videos he always seems to evoke conditions, sometimes his feelings but rarely of his comeback or his performance. Even after being part the of the very last backmarkers on the way south past the Azores has he gradually climbed up the rankings, notably by making a clean and very direct crossing of the southern oceans. 24th when crossing the equator, 17th at the Cape of Good Hope, 13th at Cape Horn, 11th on the way back to the equator and 11th across the finish line.
L'Occitane en Provence has shown that the new foilers had nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to pure performance. His fantastic comeback finished in 11th position, so that two strong depressions were able to pick him up before the finish line. Just before, Armel had done "his first almost complete night of the Vendée Globe" and above all delivered a last message of serenity: "ocean racing is about the unexpected, it is the school of patience". And Armel Tripon is certainly one of its best ambassadors.
THE STATS OF ARMEL TRIPON / L'OCCITANE en PROVENCE
He covered the 24,365 miles of the theoretical course at an average speed of 11.98 knots
Distance actually travelled on the water: 28,315 miles at 13.93 knots of average speed
Main passage times
24th on 24/11/2020 at 06h05 UTC at 5d 4h 45 mn after the leader
Cape of Good Hope
17th on 6/12/2020 at 16h48 UTC at 5d 17h 37min after the leader
14th on 18/12/2021 at 10h55 UTC, 4d 23h 29min after the leader
13th on 6/01/2021 at 08h01 UTC, 3d 18min after the leader
11th on 19/01/2021 at 20h32 UTC, 3d 01h 20 min after the leader
Architect: Samuel Manuard
Builders Black Pepper Yachts, Nantes, Launched 31st January 2020