LES SABLES-D’OLONNE, France (AP) — Yannick Bestaven won the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world sailing race in a dramatic finish after rescuing a capsized rival, more than 80 days alone at sea and an unusually close final few hours to determine the winner on Thursday.
The 48-year-old Bestaven wasn’t the first to cross the finish line — that honor went to his fellow Frenchman Charlie Dalin, who arrived in Les Sables-d’Olonne Wednesday night.
Bestaven, the skipper of Maitre Coq IV, wrapped up his odyssey in the early hours of Thursday when he crossed the finish behind Dalin and Louis Burton. But thanks to the time bonus he earned for helping rescue a competitor, he was declared winner in 80 days, three hours, 44 minutes and 46 seconds.
Bestaven was given a time compensation of 10 hours and 15 minutes by an international jury for his role in the search and rescue of Kevin Escoffier, who capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn in late November.
“There are two winners on this Vendee Globe,” said Bestaven, who was greeted by fireworks in the seaside town. ”I feel like I’m living a dream, hallucinating. You go from total solitude to this, to this party, to these lights, these people who are there despite the complicated context, I don’t realize what’s going on. I’m still in my race. It’s a child’s dream.”
It was Bestaven’s second participation in the event, 12 years after he pulled out less than 24 hours into the 2008 Vendee Globe. Extremely consistent this year, he was one of the two skippers who led the fleet for the longest time, for 26 days.
The race, held every four years, also starts from Les Sables-d’Olonne. Frenchman Armel Le Cleac’h won the previous edition.
The event takes sailors around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia and South America’s Cape Horn, over some 24,000 nautical miles (about 44,500 kilometers).
“You have to look deep down inside yourself,” Bestaven said. “These boats are stressful, noisy, and life on board is difficult. There are also times you feel lonely.”
German yachtsman Boris Herrmann also took part in the rescue of Escoffier and received bonus time but his chances of winning the race vanished when he collided with a fishing boat in the Bay of Biscay late on Wednesday night, around 90 nautical miles from the end. He had to slow down because of a damaged starboard foil.