Two more sailors bail from Vendée Globe race

Two more skippers, including the only woman in the competition, on Friday abandoned the world's most gruelling yacht race, the solo, round-the-world Vendée Globe, organisers said.

French sailor Louis Burton, whose boat Bureau Vallée was hit by a trawler, pulled out after wind conditions made it impossible for him to return to Les Sables d'Olonne in western France to repair a damaged shroud — rigging that holds up the mast.

The collision happened about 400 nautical miles (460 miles, 741 kilometres) off the coast of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. The 27-year-old instead had to go to Corunna in northwest Spain, organizers said.

British sailor Samantha Davies, 38, dismasted on Thursday evening in strong winds about 130 nautical miles northeast of Madeira.

"I'm fine — I was inside the boat when it happened," she told organizers on a conference call on Friday morning.

She confirmed that she would take no further part in the race, adding that she was disappointed.

Davies finished fourth in the 2008-9 edition of the competition.

Twenty skippers set off from Les Sables d'Olonne last Saturday but now only 16 remain.

Two, including Burton, have pulled out following collisions with trawlers, while one of the favourites, Marc Guillemot, also quit after the keel of his boat was badly damaged.

France's Armel Le Cleac'h — nicknamed "The Jackal" — was leading the prestigious non-stop race at 0400 GMT, 7.5 nautical miles ahead of compatriot Francois Gabart and Switzerland's Bernard Stamm.

Britain's Alex Thomson, currently in fourth position, was quoted as saying in an interview with the Guardian newspaper published on Friday: "To my mind, it's the most difficult sporting challenge that exists on the planet today . . .

"Something like 100 times more people have climbed Everest than have sailed single-handed around the world, so that shows you how hard it really is."

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Gabart, the record breaking French sailor in a hurry

A sailing prodigy, Frenchman Francois Gabart on Sunday crushed the world record for the fastest non-stop solo navigation of the world on his first attempt.

Gabart, the record breaking French sailor in a hurry
Sailing prodigy Francois Gabart celebrating in Brest. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

Driven by a desire to discover the world at full speed, the sailor completed his tour in 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds.

“The job of a sailor is nothing more than managing problems and dealing with difficulties,” said Gabart, an engineer by trade.

The winner of the 2013 Vendee Globe and 2014 Route de Rhum yacht races, the 34-year-old father-of-two has been sailing for 20 years.


“He likes to be a pioneer, he is not an upstart but someone in a hurry to discover things, to demonstrate things to himself and others,” said Christian Le Pape, who has known Gabart for 10 years.

“I wouldn't classify him as a genius in terms of ease at the helm but he has an ability to process information that is out of the ordinary like Michel Desjoyeaux or Armel Le Cleach.”

Desjoyeaux, a double winner of the Vendee Globe who mentored the engineer, said Gabart was given the the name “Excel spreadsheet” by his team.

“At the arrival of the Vendee Globe, we found 74 markings on the boat, but the race had taken 78 days,” said Desjoyeaux.

“In fact, he had noted the number of times he had brushed his teeth. He's not crazy but very rational.”

Weather and poetry

Gabart comfortably recognises his square side.

“I'm pretty reasonable and rational,” said Gabart, the son of a dentist and brother to two sisters.

“I've been like that since I was 10-years-old!

“My parents tell me that when I was a kid, I was very good at certain things.”

A sailor who doesn't like to swim, Gabart first dreamed of being a metrologist as a child.

“At 10 I was reading books about whether and knew things that no one understood at that age,” he said.

“I'm passionate about the weather.

“We can be wrong but we can almost see in to the future, I find it extraordinary to be able to know what will happen.

“There is a poetic side too, to watch a cloud is beautiful.”

By Sabine Colpart