French sailor Armel Le Cleac’h has won the 2016-17 Vendee Globe, finishing the solo, round-the-world race in record time.
Alex Thomson of Great Britain finished second, almost 16 hours behind Le Cleac’h following an impressive final surge where he set a record of his own for distance traveled in a single day.
Le Cleac’h, 39, arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, Thursday at 1537 UTC aboard his IMOCA 60-class yacht Banque Populaire VIII. He finished in 74 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes and 46 second, shattering the record set four years ago during the last running of the Vendee Globe by almost four days. He finished second in the previous two runnings of the Vendee Globe.
“This is a dream come true,” Le Cleac’h said, according to a statement distributed by organizers. “I hoped to win this race 10 years ago but I finished second. Today is a perfect day. I understand that today I have done something big. My team have been amazing they're the dream team, and this is their day too.”
Twenty-nine sailors left Les Sables d'Olonne on Nov. 6, 2016 for the eighth running of the Vendee Globe, which occurs every four years. The roughly 25,000-nm race follows the “Clipper Route” — a west to east course that passes the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn then returns to Les Sables d'Olonne.
Eleven sailors have retired from competition, six of whom reported striking unidentified floating objects in the water.
Le Cleac’h and Thomson traded the lead throughout the first four weeks of racing. Le Cleac’h gained the lead position on Dec. 3 and never let up, opening a lead of 819 nm at one point. Thomson continued pushing, coming within 30 nm of the leader during the race’s final days.
“It has been very difficult with Alex behind me, he gave me a really hard time in this Vendée Globe,” Le Cleac’h said. “Each time things went his way and I got nothing. It was stressful because he kept catching me. With a lead of 800 miles off Cape Horn, I didn't think I'd be facing such pressure. I'm very happy for Alex, it is a great second place.”
Le Cleac’h’s averaged 15.43 knots aboard Banque Populaire VIII, which hit speeds of 30 knots, according to organizers. On Jan. 16, he covered 524.11 nm with an average speed of 21.8 knots.
Thomson, 42, averaged 15.39 knots during the race aboard his yacht Hugo Boss. His record-setting day came on Jan. 16 when he covered 536.81 nm at an average speed of 22.4 knots.
Conrad Colman, who sails under United States and New Zealand flags, was in 10th place as of Jan. 20, roughly 5150 nm from the finish aboard his yacht Foresight Natural Energy. Fellow American Rich Wilson, aboard Great American IV, was in 14th place, roughly 6,300 nm from Les Sables d'Olonne.
Sailor Jeremie Bayou of France aboard Maitre Coq has a firm grip on third place and is on pace to finish Monday, Jan. 23. As of Jan. 20, Bayou was about 500 nm from the finish.