After an emotionally exhausting race-within-a-race across the North Atlantic on their three powerful but damaged boats, Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel - Virbac) and Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir) finished within an hour of each other in the small hours of Sunday morning. Lagravière held on to his slender lead across a sympathetic Bay of Biscay, finishing just over 20 minutes ahead of Dick, with Eliès a further 35 minutes back.
They finished 9th, 10th and 11th respectively overall in the inaugural 2016 New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode, but that had long since stopped being their most important statistic. The three skippers had started as contenders for the podium, but the damage from collisions the morning after the start, meant all three had to head back to Newport. Both Lagravière and Dick damaged port foils on their new generation boats and Eliès damaged the port daggerboard on his older generation boat (the former Safran).
There was a more muted atmosphere on the pontoons than usual as all three stood by their boats missing an appendage; glad to be finished, but frustrated at not being able to properly unleash their machines and test them against the others in such a high-level fleet.
“This disappointment can be a driver for the Vendée Globe, because I want some revenge now,” Eliès said. “It's good that it hurts, it proves that I’m a competitor at heart. This result is going to stay stuck in my throat until the start of the Vendée Globe, then we’ll be back.
The match with the (half) foilers was interesting, it was about sailing intelligently. You have to be better than them to get to finish with them or in front. If you stay with them, they’ll always go faster.”
But all were able to take some positives along with the 4,000 hard-earned miles across the North Atlantic (inclusive of their sail back to Newport and the more southerly route that the weather dictated and Dick gambled on, compared to a theoretical course of 3,100 miles). For Eliès it was that he sailed the 1,500 miles he needed to complete his qualification for the Vendée Globe.
For Dick it was that: “even without foils, our boats showed how high-performance they are; they have great hulls. Everyone’s focused on the foils so far, but this unfortunate experience has shown that this new generation of boats is not just about the foils.”
Dick knows something about good hulls, having nursed his old boat home without a keel over the final 2,650 miles of the last Vendée Globe.
Like Eliès, Lagravière, at 29 the youngest skipper in the fleet, was also able to complete a first solo transat race in his boat. “What I learned is that I was able to finish ahead of Quéguiner and StMichel – Virbac, despite re-starting 24 hours after them,” he said. “That’s a big positive. The competition with Yann and Jean-Pierre is what made it a really great transat for me. Our race was electrifying, it was really exciting. That’s what helped me to get over everything else.”
For all three there was actually a race-within-a-race-within-a race. “Time is running out,” Dick said, “we’re already in a race to prepare for the Vendée Globe - the race before the race.”
The finishing times
Morgan Lagravière (Safran), the French skipper, crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, June 12 at 03:39:45 (French time) in 9th place. Lagravière covered the course in 13 days 05 hours 59 minutes and 45 seconds. He finished 3 days 13 hours 01 minute and 53 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ), having sailed 4,043 miles at an average speed of 12.71 knots.
Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel - Virbac), the French skipper, crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, June 12 at 04:01:24 in 10th place. Dick covered the course in 13 days 6 hours 21 minutes and 24 seconds. He finished 3 days 13 hours 23 minutes and 32 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ), having sailed 4,319 miles at an average speed of 13.57 knots.
Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir), the French skipper, crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, June 12 at 04:36:36 (French time) in 11th place. Eliès covered the course in 13 days 6 hours 56 minutes and 36 seconds. He finished 3 days 13 hours 58 minutes and 44 seconds behind the winner, Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ), having sailed 3,948 miles at an average speed of 12.38 knots.
And then there were two…
The American-New Zealander, Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy), should be next home overnight from Sunday to Monday as he leads the Dutch skipper, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) by 50 miles. Colman gybed onto direct finish to Les Sables d’Olonne at midday (French time) and both should have solid westerlies all the way to the line.