American solo sailor Bruce Schwab successfully completed the Franco-Anglo-centric Vendée Globe in late February, despite the utter lack of commercial sponsorship. He sailed Ocean Planet to a respectable ninth out of 13 who finished.
“I’m very, very proud of finishing,” Schwab said in a phone interview following the race. “I can’t say it’s a dream come true, because I never could have dreamed of such a thing: all the wonderful people who have helped me complete this race. Because of their support I have come to see myself as an ambassador for American sailors.”
Schwab completed the race in less than 110 days for an average speed of almost 9 knots. Schwab was sanguine about his place in the race. “We didn’t have the resources to shoot for a winning position. But what I’ve done I like to think is an important step for American sailing, opened up the possibility for other Americans.”
Coupled with the success of American sailor Brad Van Liew, who won Class II in the last Around Alone race with sponsorship from clothier Tommy Hilfiger, Schwab sees a growing chance for American sailors. “Brad did an amazing thing by getting professional sponsorship. His budget was probably one-fifth of what it would take to put together a modest Class I level challenge,” Schwab said. “But now that Brad has done what he did, and now that I have done what I have, there’s a network of people out there who can take it to the next level.”
Schwab said he was happiest with the support he got from landlocked areas. “There was a notion on the part of potential sponsors that the audience has to be ‘into sailing.’ But the French have shown that that’s not true. And our experience reinforces that. We had so many people in places like Colorado and St. Louis and the Midwest who followed my progress. Now we can say to sponsors, it’s not just me saying that this will be popular. This is the real thing.”