Congratulations to Dee Caffari of the United Kingdom, whose sixth-place finish in the Vendée Globe 'round-the-world sailing race made her the first woman ever to successfully sail solo and nonstop around the world in both directions. She accomplished the feat only 18 months after taking up sailing in Open 60s...which is like placing sixth at the 24 hours of Le Mans 18 months after getting your driver's license.
Her countrywoman Samantha Davies finished fourth, another splendid accomplishment. Arnaud Boissières placed seventh, Brian Thompson fifth, and Armel Le Cléac´h second.
The race was won this year by Michel Desjoyeaux of France in the yacht Foncia in an official time of 84 days, 3 hours, 9 minues, 8 seconds.
The Vendée Globe (which, like the Olympics, takes place once every four years) is one of the world's most arduous and hazardous sporting events. The rules are simple: you must sail around the would, alone, without aid or pause.
Of the thirty skippers who started the race, seven have finished, four are at sea (including Rich Wilson and Great American III, the only American entry), eighteen have retired, and one, defending champion Vincent Riou, is at Puerto Williams having been dismasted in a successful attempt to go to the aid of a fellow sailer in distress, Jean le Cam. (At the tip of Cape Horn, in Tierra del Fuego, Puerto Williams is the southernmost town in the world.) Under the rules of international sailing, Riou has been given redress, which means he will be able to continue the race when his boat is repaired. Redress is given when a racer has to change course to attempt a search or rescue.
Rich Wilson on Riou's coming to the aid of Le Cam: "Huge relief at hearing the news of Jean Le Cam's rescue. The whole episode was 200 miles east of where we capsized in 1990, so that brought back many scary memories, of the dark, the cold, the water, inside the boat. I think that Jean Le Cam showed incredible courage, courage beyond description, to depart the bow compartment. Think of it, he must have had to go down into the cold water, the survival suit wanting to buoy him upward, against the deck, sails in the water, or ropes or stays, could trap him, or tangle him, or hook onto him, he would have had to go down deeper to get past the lifelines and outside the perimeter of the boat to then get back to the stern to hopefully climb on the bottom and hold onto a rudder. He really had no idea what he would find then. He had heard Vincent, but...stunning courage, no words to describe...and Vincent, to make 3 passes and on the fourth push it so close to save his friend that he damages his own boat, deck spreader against the keelfin, to do anything for a friend, what skill, what courage he showed himself. Speechless here...."
An Open 60 in ideal conditions can reach speeds of around 40 knots, about the speed of an average small speedboat of the type used for waterskiing (albeit a considerably hairier ride!).
More race photos here.