Thursday, January 8, 2009
Updated: February 1, 1:39 PM ET
Vendee Globe rescuer out of race
LES SABLES D'OLONNE, France -- French skipper Michel Desjoyeaux won his second Vendee Globe solo around-the-world yacht race in record-setting time after more than 80 days battling rough seas and high winds.
Desjoyeaux steered his yacht Foncia into port on the west coast of France to finish in 84 days, 3 hours, 9 minutes, and 8 seconds. Roland Jourdain of France was in second place, more than 1,000 nautical miles behind, on Veolia Environnement.
"It's indescribable. Even though I won it eight years ago, this is huge," Desjoyeaux told LCI radio station. "Paradoxically, I don't feel like I suffered. Either I'm getting old, or I was really at ease."
Approaching land, the 43-year-old Desjoyeaux stood on deck and leaned against his mast and then pumped his fists in the air.
The previous record, set by Vincent Riou four years ago, was 87 days, 10 hours and 47 minutes.
Grueling conditions forced more than half of the 30-strong field to abandon the event, including Riou, the defending champion.
"We know that the Vendee Globe is hard and so it's a little bit normal [for] not many of us finish," Desjoyeaux said.
Desjoyeaux said he could have completed the race in under 80 days with better weather conditions.
Desjoyeaux adds a second Vendee Globe title to other prestigious wins. He won the Solitaire du Figaro in 1992, 1998 and 2007, the Route du Rhum in 2002, and the single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race in 2004.
Jourdain is among the 11 skippers who have yet to finish the race.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy was quick to praise Desjoyeaux.
"With this latest extraordinary victory, Michel Desjoyeaux confirms his status as the most titled sailor in solo [yacht racing]," Sarkozy said.
In early November, the fleet sailed from Les Sables on a route that would take it around the three great capes -- Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn -- the southernmost tips of Africa, Australia and the Americas.
But the sixth edition of the race began badly for Desjoyeaux when he had to turn back to port after just two days with electrical problems after a leak caused damage in one of the ballast tanks.
He then had to catch up with the rest of the field.
"I was always in contention. I never thought about how much I was trailing by," Desjoyeaux said. "I won this Vendee Globe before the start, in the choices I made, the team [members], the experience I had gained."
Jourdain praised his rival.
"He was above everyone else. He is in peak form," Jourdain said.
Not everyone felt the same about Desjoyeaux's success, with rival Marc Guillemot criticizing him for being aloof.
"My criticism is that sometimes he doesn't show any warmth or any emotion. He isn't really attentive to others," Guillemot said. "His comments are sometimes a bit difficult to accept. I think he can be a bit pretentious."
Extremely tough conditions decimated the field, with several skippers abandoning very early.
Last month, Riou lost his mast in rough waters off Cape Horn after damaging his rigging while rescuing his rival and friend Jean Le Cam from his overturned sailboat the day before.