Breton skipper Jérémie Beyou crossed the finish line of the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe solo non stop around the world race at 1940hrs UTC this Monday evening 23rd January, four days, three hours, two minutes and 54 seconds after the winner, Armel Le Cléac’h securing third place.
The 40-year old sailor who was forced out of the 2008-9 race and the 2012-13 race during the first weeks of both with different technical problems, completed the non-stop solo round the world race for the first time today after 78 days 6 hrs 38 mins and 40 seconds. Up with the leaders from the start on Sunday 6th November, Jérémie Beyou, who struggled with numerous technical difficulties this time, has shown his considerable skill, determination and stamina. Indeed British skipper Alex Thomson, who finished second, earlier today confirmed he often felt threatened by the talented French sailor who is one of the few skippers to have won La Solitaire du Figaro, the French annual summer solo offshore stage series. Beyou was always there ready to pounce behind the two frontrunners. He showed good all-round speed with his older, 2010 boat which was retro-fitted with foils. The Breton skipper achieved his goal by making it to third place and so all three top places in this race are taken by foil assisted VPLP-Verdier designs.
After winning the New York-Vendée transatlantic race last June Jérémie Beyou was tipped pre-start as a serious contender for a place on the podium in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. This boosted the confidence of of the skipper who won La Solitaire du Figaro in 2005, in 2011 and 2014. His resilience and tenacity, honed in Le Solitaire and hard galvanised by his two previous failures in the Vendée Globe equipped him to cope with all technical hitches he would experience in this race. Two of his autopilots failed early on and then his Fleet antenna stopped working depriving him of a means of communication and preventing him from getting regular weather updates. Jérémie Beyou had to dig deep to hang on to the frontrunners. His troubles continued periodically. “When my mainsail hook broke, I almost gave up. It was pitch black and I told myself I would never be able to repair it. Afterwards, I don’t know where I got the energy, but I managed to do it. Each decent manoeuvre is a victory and you have to be pleased about that.”
Around him in the in the group of leaders, attrition struck, several skippers were forced to retire: Vincent Riou (PRB) and Morgan Lagravière (Safran) as they reached the first cape, then Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) and his long time rival and running mate Paul Meilhat (SMA) who he sailed alongside for hundreds of miles until he had to retire to Tahiti with keel ram problems. This meant that Maître CoQ found herself rather alone as the boat chasing Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss in the Pacific, then on the way back up the Atlantic.
Cape Horn, “about time!”
In spite of all the problems, Beyou has held on to the third place all the way to the finish and was never really under threat from the three skippers several hundred miles behind him (Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean le Cam). The skipper of Maître CoQ was fulsome when revealing his pleasure as he rounded Cape Horn for the first time on 27th December after 51 days of racing. Not only had Beyou started two previous Vendée Globes, but also had retired from the Barcelona World Race – the two handed round the world race, as well as an abandoned crewed attempt at the Jules Verne non stop record around the world: “I have set off in lots of round the world races with the Vendée Globe, the Jules Verne Trophy and the Barcelona World Race, but never before have I managed to get past the Horn, so it was about time.” The skipper, who like race winner Armel Le Cléac’h comes from Morlaix Bay, had to fight his way back up the Atlantic dealing with extremely variable winds and frustrating calms. “I am taking it one step at a time, one day after another, as each day spent on the water is another one gained. I am advancing like that, without thinking too far ahead,” regretted the skipper, who was treated badly by the wind gods, as he made his way through the final stretch to the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne.
Key facts and figures
Jérémie Beyou, the third skipper to reach Les Sables d’Olonne sailed 27,101 nm at an average speed of 14.43 knots. His best average was 21 knots having sailed 504 miles in 24 hours on 21st November.
The top three finishers in this edition of the non-stop solo round the world race, have made ten attempts at the Vendée Globe. Armel Le Cléac’h has finished three from three, won one second twice, Alex Thomson started four, one second one third, abandoned twice. And Beyou has started three, one third place.
This VPLP Verdier designed boat from 2010 was previously sailed by Armel Le Cléac'h, who took her to second place in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe. Four months of work were carried out on her in early 2016 with a New Zealand team to retrofit her with foils.
Quotes from Jérémie Beyou on the finish line:
"It’s a race where you have to give it your all. It took me three times. I had to fight hard and push myself and the boat. It’s a huge emotion. It started badly with the electronic problems in the second week, but everyone has their problem. I just kept at it, I never said I just want to finish. I was determined to get a good place. Once Paul wasn’t there, it was easier as I could sail my own race, but in the Indian I stuck with him as I didn’t have the weather info. It’s always better to sail your own race. I’m sorry he had to retire, but that freed me to sail my own race. I kept thinking of the finish. Until the line was crossed… I took advantage and enjoyed myself from this morning. You feel at one with your boat. The boat gave me problems, but it’s because I pushed her too hard, so she reacted, but in general, she reacted well. I didn’t have any problems with appendages or the mast. Just the communication problems. So the boat was good to me and we did this together. I can’t wait to see Armel and Alex now."
“There were moments, when I couldn’t cope. I punched my boat. I wept. But if you want to leave your boat, there’s not much you can do about it, as you are all alone. Trying to make choices without any vision, it’s frustrating. My next boat will be a foiler, easier to sail, more comfortable than this one. One from St. Pol and one from Carantec (towns that are several miles apart in Finistère -editor) on the podium. We’ve known each other since we were kids. I know all of Armel’s team. They are top class. I like Alex’s character. He brings along some fun. He dares to make bold choices. He is good for a race like the Vendee Globe.”