Francois Gabart has won the Vendee Globe, finishing in just over 78 days. This time was unimaginable just a few years ago, and is just three days short of the time recorded by Ellen MacArthur on a 75-foot trimaran. As if this wasn't enough, Armel Le Cleach finished just over three hours later to claim second. Imagine racing around the world and finishing so close.
These two battled the entire way, with neither ever gaining a significant advantage. There was no dramatic move behind Gabart's win, just slightly better speed a few times, slightly better course choices on a few occasions and slightly fewer problems with his boat and gear.
And the drama isn't over yet. Alex Thomson is now set to finish third, as Jean Pierre Dick lost the keel to his boat with about 2,000 miles to the finish. In a remarkable display of what makes this race a unique adventure, Dick has not dropped out, and is attempting to finish fourth, if he can just get a break from the weather. He was able to respond immediately and turn downwind when his keel fell off; and by pumping his water ballast full he has been able to sail his boat like a big dinghy. The Azores were on his way to the finish and were the closest point of land for him, so he kept on course while learning how to control his boat in its new configuration. Thomson throttled back for a while after passing him to give Dick a chance to try his boat in the stronger winds and waves he must manage if he is to finish. When Dick satisfied himself that he could manage, Thomson opened the throttle on his boat and is expected to finish Wednesday. Dick has an enormous cushion of time ahead of the next boats so he is making for the coast of Portugal just in case, but appears to have a routing that will get him to the finish without having to experience winds over 30 knots.
If he succeeds, the outpouring of adulation at the finish will be extraordinary. The fans admire the winner, but they admire courage and resourcefulness above all and Dick will take his place in the pantheon of Vendee heroes with other sailors like Golding and Parlier that have overcome huge obstacles just to reach the finish line. You can watch the drama on the tracker here.