At the head of the next Worlds, Perrine Pelen intends to “revive the taste for skiing”

A sign of fate after this white season for alpine ski resorts, the new track on which most of the men’s races in Courchevel 2023 will take place has been named L’Éclipse (1). “ It evokes the sun at the top and the shadow of the route in the trees on which the skiers will set off ”, explains Perrine Pelen, 60, patron of one of the three major sporting events that will punctuate 2023 and 2024 on French soil: the World Ski Championships, the Rugby World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Alpine skiing in competition with biathlon

“We will open the ball, and with great responsibility because the model of alpine skiing has been severely impacted by the health crisis. But he will rise again she believes, because people need sport, clean air and the mountains more than ever ”. These Courchevel-Méribel Worlds also have the mission of reviving the interest of the French in alpine skiing competitions, a discipline that is not very environmentally friendly and in competition with biathlon and other less mechanical specialties, such as free-style. The former champion relies in particular on Alexis Pinturault. The leader of the World Cup, double medalist at the Cortina Worlds, was trained like her in Courchevel and, if all goes well, will still be on track for “her” Worlds.

Before becoming the best slalom rider of her generation, Perrine Pelen knew the slopes of the famous Savoy resort well as a child. Her parents, settled in Grenoble, had bought a chalet there for their eight children – Perrine is the 7e. After her retirement from sports in 1986, she left the resort, giving up a course mapped out by her physiotherapy diploma in favor of a career in sports and tourism marketing. A radical change of course, linked to his meeting with the two men who would change his life: Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Killy, bosses of the 1992 Albertville Games, who had entrusted him with the management of the Olympic village.

“A return to the sources”

After the Games, for nearly thirty years, Perrine Pelen worked in tourist and sporting events in Savoie and Haute-Savoie. But “Never in skiing”, she specifies, before adding that the responsibility for the 2023 Worlds is therefore ” back to basics ”, in his sport and his “Heart station”. “After the Worlds I will be 63 years old, I will be able to bow out”, continues this mother of four.

Until then, many challenges stand in its way, including the thorny issue of the environment. The Trois Vallées area, one of the most equipped in the world, is often criticized for its aggressive development policy. This was still the case recently, when a road was drawn in the middle of the mountains, during a passage of the Tour de France. “All the work that we have undertaken is compensated for and we have avoided as much as possible the felling of trees to trace the track”, she defends herself today.

Still 6 million euros to find

There is also a delicate financial equation, given the lack of visibility linked to the pandemic. We still need 6 million euros (ticketing, hospitality, derivative products) to complete the budget of 43 million (2) for an event supposed to project winter tourism in the two Savoys into the future. “Of course, world championships cannot compete with the Olympic Games, but I learned from Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Killy that sport can serve the general interest”, she said before leaving Cortina d’Ampezzo to find her office in Courchevel at the end of February. Located – quite a symbol – at the foot of the 1992 Games jump.



World Ski Championships: Alexis Pinturault beaten with a breath by Macro Schwarz in the combined

Favorite and defending champion, Alexis Pinturault was beaten for four hundredths of a second by Austrian Marco Schwarz in the combined World Alpine Skiing in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy) on Monday February 15, pocketing a fifth world medal. Switzerland’s Loïc Meillard finished third at 1.12 seconds.

After his surprise bronze medal in the super-G on Thursday, he clinched the silver in the combined on Monday. Here he is on his way to a historic harvest while he has left the giant on Friday, of which he is favorite, and the slalom on Sunday. Alexis Pinturault now has five world medals after bronze in giant in 2015 and 2019 and gold in combined in 2019.

→ PORTRAIT. Skiing World Cup: the Alexis Pinturault case

He is also at the heart of an already excellent season for him, as he leads the World Cup standings by far two thirds of the winter and is approaching the Grail of the skier, the big crystal globe, who has not been kidnapped by a Frenchman since Luc Alphand in 1997.

“A little frustrating”

But a touch of bitterness remains. Title holder, Pinturault was favorite in the combined on Monday. He had started perfectly in the morning in super-G by securing the second fastest time on a fairly “easy” track, behind the surprising Canadian James Crawford but in front of the Austrian double world champion (downhill and super-G) Vincent Kriechmayr. Without however digging big gaps on the other favorites, at ease like him in slalom. He quickly realized this on the slalom when Austrian Marco Schwarz passed him by four hundredths.

“Four hundredths, obviously, it’s always a little frustrating, especially at the Worlds. But it’s like that. It was a very good race for Marco (Schwarz), a very good race for me too. It was played in a pocket square. I’m second and you have to see the positive side of it, it’s a second medal in two races ”, he commented. “I will fight for gold again this Friday (on the giant). I have three days left to rest (in Austria in his winter residence), that will be important, that’s what can make the difference ”, he added.

World Ski Championships: Alexis Pinturault beaten with a breath by Macro Schwarz in the combined

After bronze in the combined and the slalom in 2019 in Are (Sweden), Macro Schwarz thus won his first world title at 25, he who is announced as a potential winner of the big globe in the years to come and as a potential successor. by Marcel Hirscher. Switzerland’s Loïc Meillard climbed to his first World Championship podium at the age of 24, despite a big fault in the slalom.



Ski Worlds: it doesn’t combine well for the combined event

Each year, the combined funeral oration is prepared during major meetings between the main leaders of world skiing. This alliance of a Super-G and slalom course will still be at the center of the discussions planned at the end of the Worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo, as they had been in 2019 after those of Are in Sweden. Two years ago, the oracles were clear: the combiners were going to be deprived for sure of their favorite exercise, until the white smoke announced the continuation of the test, at least until the following Worlds.

A Combined at the Courchevel Worlds in 2023?

The president of the French Federation, Michel Vion, is not for nothing in this survival operation. He has at least three good reasons to defend the handset. First, he is the first world champion of the specialty in its current form, a title obtained in 1982, thirty-seven years before the gold medal of a certain Alexis Pinturault, the best French skier of the decade which s ‘was decked out in gold in 2019.

Maintaining the combined is then the best guarantee of French medals. Finally, the boss of French skiing, Savoy, would look very favorably on the maintenance of the discipline for two more years, at least until the next Worlds, which will take place… at his home, in Courchevel, in 2023. Philosopher, the skier does not worry too much. ” For ten years the death of the handset, without seeing anything coming. So why this time? He wonders.

Faced with formidable adversaries

Still, the combined is up against formidable opponents. The bosses of the television channel, ski funders, take a dim view of this event lasting almost a day and very sensitive to weather cancellations due to its double route, one for speed and the other for the slalom.

In addition, the extension of the circuit, formerly limited to three or four traditional nations (France, Austria, etc.), to emerging ski countries such as the Balkan or Scandinavian countries limits the places in the starting gates. Coaches are thus condemned to aim for the excellence of their foals in a single discipline. Good skiers are becoming an increasingly rare commodity, and places of honor are contested among half a dozen skiers.

But if the metal of the medals is the same for the winners, the impact of a combined title has nothing to do with that of a downhill or giant award. “Alexis’ combined title in 2019 gave him great confidence for the rest of his career, it relaxed him and that’s already a lot “, says the technical director of skiing Fabien Saguez.

Covid victim

The statistics of the 29-year-old Frenchman are impressive: in 27 high-level combined (World Cup, World Cup and Olympic Games) spread over ten years of career, he has 15 podiums, 10 victories. Including four out of the six combined organized between 2019 and 2020.

The champion will however leave this year in the unknown. Like his colleagues, he has not played any combined this year. The tightening of the calendar of World Cup events due to Covid 19 has resulted in the removal of the two combined initially planned. “My last handset is old …, comments on the reigning world champion and Olympic runner-up in the specialty. But it’s the same for everyone ”.



Skiing World Cup: the Alexis Pinturault case

If the snowfall that has resulted in several cancellations of races since the start of the Cortina d’Ampezzo Worlds does not decide otherwise, Alexis Pinturault will set off on the super-G track this Wednesday, February 10 for the first part of the combined. Before facing in stride the poles of the slalom event. The Savoyard is in any case the best placed to succeed itself, Monday February 15.

Sacred world champion he is two years old, in Are (Sweden) in this discipline less and less practiced (no World Cup event has been organized this year), he dominates the circuit thanks to his versatility.

A rare quality in the white circus where hyper specialization is required. His fellow slalomers from the French Team flee the giant’s long curves and the descenders do not risk themselves between the poles. But he happily jumps from one discipline to another, performing in slalom, in giant (his specialty), but also in super-G.

Two trainers at his service in Austria

A triple cap which places him this year in pole position to become the third Frenchman to win the general classification of the World Cup, thus succeeding two other famous versatile, Luc Alphand and Jean-Claude Killy. In 2014, the latter had dubbed their potential heir in a famous video broadcast by the site of the specialized magazine “Ski chrono”.

We saw the two former patters on the shoulder of the 23-year-old kid at the time and promise him the two Grails of alpine skiing: this famous big crystal globe awarded to the winner of the World Cup and an Olympic champion title. . Two cuts that still slip through his hands, seven years later.

→ THE FACTS. Skiing: ski lifts will remain closed this winter due to Covid-19

No doubt not for a very long time, given its recent results, the fruit of talent but also of a particular organization. After failed world championships in 2017, it was decided that the best French skier of the last twenty years would be allowed to train alone with a dedicated team.

A favor not understood at the time, but which the national technical director Fabien Saguez still welcomes. “ It was a good decision and it still is, his results are up to par. He takes part in a lot more races than the others, his status entails a lot more solicitations. He needed that and no Team skier complained about it. “

A van and a helicopter

Alexis Pinturault therefore took charge of the ski kingdom, Austria. White gold represents 15% of gross domestic product there and resort managers pamper the champions, not hesitating to privatize tracks permanently, including in speed disciplines that require a lot of space. Especially, in his case, since the Salzburg-based company Red Bull chose to sponsor him.

Since his installation in Altenmark Im Pongau, home of two of the greatest Austrian champions, Hermann Maier and Marcel Hirscher, he no longer wastes time in these exhausting trips from one valley to another depending on the snow conditions. And in the event of a logistical glitch, the Red Bull helicopter is never far away, not to mention the van that follows it everywhere to welcome its rest between two slalom heats.

To exceptional champion, exceptional treatments and invoices. The Federation has delegated two full-time coaches to its service and covers part of its costs. “It is certain that the operation of Alexis Pinturault is at first sight more expensive than that of another runner, continues Fabien Saguez, but it finances it up to two-thirds, thanks to its racing bonuses and sponsorship contracts. All in all, it does not cost the federation more than a regular runner, the cost of which is estimated at around 100,000 € per year. “

Especially since the Savoyard brings more than victories to the French medal counter. Since the decline of Tessa Worley, who still remains after a recent World Cup victory, he is the only one to keep the French ski racing at the top of the white basket. And his name has often come up during discussions concerning the attribution of the next Worlds in 2023, which will finally be organized in Courchevel, where he grew up.


One of the most beautiful French awards

Olympic bronze medalist in giant in Sochi (2014), bronze and silver in giant and combined in PyeongChang (2018), twice adorned gold at the Worlds (team event and combined in 2017 and 2019), Alexis Pinturault has, at almost 30 years, an impressive track record in major championships. But it is especially on the circuit of the World Cup that he imposed his paw. He climbed the top step 33 times, more often than any other Frenchman before him. Only seven men did better, including the inaccessible Ingemar Stenmark and Marcel Hirscher (86 and 67 wins).



Vendée Globe: Clarisse Crémer, the young woman and the sea

The rare spectators on the parapet of the Sables d’Olonne channel, mainly volunteers from the organization, must attend a show early in the afternoon on Wednesday 3 February: the arrival of a woman in the Vendée Globe.

No sailor had been able to complete a round the world solo since the two English women, Samantha Davies and Dee Caffari, ranked 4e and 6e in 2009. During the two following editions, the female fleet was at the bottom of the wave and the great pioneers, Isabelle Autissier or Catherine Chabot, seemed to have run out of heirs, in particular French.

→ READ. Vendée Globe, the road is still long for some

Clarisse Crémer therefore takes up the torch, unexpectedly foreman of a female fleet in full revival. They were six at the start on November 8, as many as the eight previous editions combined, and we expected instead the unsinkable Samantha Davies. But the race in the Englishwoman’s leading peloton aboard a competitive boat was abruptly interrupted by a collision with a floating object, most certainly a whale. Immediately behind, Isabelle Joscke had the favor of the forecasts. Alas, the same bad luck at sea got the better of the hopes of the Franco-German woman with an arm-length sailor’s CV.

President of the HEC Sailing Club

In view of the record of these two solid clients, the service record of the young Clarisse Crémer appears as a certificate of studies. A second place in the Mini Transat 2017, some runners-up in tough races. Beautiful but recent, in an ultra-short professional career. Before going into the deep end in 2015, the twelfth of the Vendée Globe 2020-2021 sailed as an amateur, in the wake of her presidency of the HEC sailing club from which she graduated in 2013. “The way seemed marked out”, explains her mother with a touch of nostalgia in her eyes during a video posted on the browser’s Facebook site, followed by nearly 60,000 subscribers.

It was without love at first sight for an excellent professional sailor, Tanguy Le Turquais, who derailed the train of Clarisse, launched after HEC in the creation of the adventure travel site Kazaden. With her lover, the young Parisian is at a good school, she learns quickly and qualifies saber clear for the Mini transat 2017. She finishes in second place, a fine feat followed by pretty runners-up in tough races, like the formidable Fastnet . All of this is widely relayed by his lifelong companion during her solo races: a camera relaying her good humor, her lyrical flights to imitate Celine Dion in “Titanic”, even her galleys.

“An excellent communicator, but the results follow”

“Of course Clarisse is an excellent communicator, but the results follow”, before the departure in November, supported Ronan Lucas, the head of the Banque Populaire sailing program, who bet big on the Parisienne. In recent months, he has even sent him a prestigious in-house tutor, Armel Le Cléac’h, the winner of the last edition since then on multihulls. It was in the company of the 2017 winner that she learned about the Imocas of the Vendée Globe at the helm of a legendary boat: the old Macif by François Gabart, winner of the Vendée Globe in 2013 and then double winner of the Route du Rhum. Nothing less !

→ EDITORIAL. Vendée Globe: performance and elegance

Still, to face the breaking waves of the great south, the sails torn en route or the ultimate traps of the Bay of Biscay, she owes nothing to her mentors. Alone at the helm, she led her boat like an accomplished old sea bass. Just as reasonably, she chose to slow down to protect her Imoca from a mini-storm announced in the Vendée and thus avoid bad last minute encounters. “The story of Boris (German Boris Herrmann hit a trawler on the last night) gave me a little cold in the back, I will be on the lookout until the finish “, she confided in a final video.



Vendée Globe, the road is still long for some

The arrival in February 2001 of Michel Desjoyeaux in Les Sables d’Olonne as the winner of the Vendée Globe, Catherine Chabaud is not about to forget it. After bringing her boat back to last place in the previous edition (1996-1997), this time she is fighting at the forefront with podium hopes. “Of course the arrival of the first marks the approach of the port and the deliverance for all, but we can not hide a form of disappointment not to be in the place of the winner, she said, Wednesday evening January 27, when the first skippers arrived. So we console ourselves by telling ourselves that there is still the fight for the places of honor … But there is also the fear of damage which can call everything into question. “ Three days after the winner’s arrival, his mast broke less than a thousand kilometers from the finish. End of the adventure.

→ STORY. Vendée Globe: Yannick Bestaven winner at the end of the night

Twenty years later, far from this racing atmosphere, 11,000 kilometers from Les Sables d’Olonne, the Finnish Ari Huusela brings up the rear with complete peace of mind. “I’m happy for the winner. When I embarked on this adventure, I knew that I would arrive at least a month after the first arrivals. That they are already finishing their race is anything but a surprise. “

Same refrain at Alexia Barrier, at the helm of Catherine Chabaud’s former boat, which does not sail very far from the Finn. On the phone this Thursday, January 28, she especially admits her relief at having crossed Cape Horn, after one of the worst storms of her career. She confronted her, taking refuge in the cockpit, with emergency beacon and survival suit close at hand.

Relief to have passed Cape Horn

The course, in the community of sailors, is the major criterion. Landing in Les Sables d’Olonne is certainly the Holy Grail that everyone hopes to win, but the essential thing is to have passed the test of the capes – Bonne Espérance, Leuwin and Horn – without which one is not considered a lap- du-mondiste. Getting off his boat on Thursday 28 night, winner Yannick Bestaven said he had “Realized a childhood dream”. Alexia Barrier says nothing else, especially since this satisfying first round-the-world trip with the slowest boat in the fleet opens up horizons for her for a Vendée Globe 2024 on a competitive monohull. “I am happy with my lot, she says. Of course, I dream of a fruit basket, a good shower and a nice outfit for the arrival, but I refuse to think too much about it, otherwise I turn left to go and treat myself to a caipirinha. Rio! “

Closer to the goal, the youngest of the race, the Swiss Alan Roura, believes he has “About thirteen days at sea before seeing land again”. “Thirteen days is nothing! Absolutely nothing ! And at the same time … it’s long, he notes. So much can still happen … What is cool, however, is that four years ago, when the winner arrived, I had just passed Cape Horn. This year, I will only be two short weeks behind, despite all my technical concerns. Not so bad ! “

“When Le Cléac’h arrived in 2007, I envied him”

Éric Bellion, ninth in 2017 after having sailed alongside the Swiss for a long time, does not remember having shared such serenity. “When I learned of the arrival of Armel Le Cléac’h, I found it interminable, I was tired, my boat too, and I had the impression that everyone was forgetting me. I wanted to shout: “And oh I’m still at sea”. I imagined Armel freed from the permanent anxiety of the accident, I saw him having a good steak and fries, using a stable toilet. And then there was this obsession with the classification which I couldn’t get rid of… ”

The closer you get to the outposts of the fleet still at sea, the less relaxed the atmosphere is. “I can imagine guys like Armel Tripon who are going to have a monstrous depression just before the finish line, they must have the balls not to have arrived at the port, especially since they had boats cut out for the win, continues Éric Bellion. The worst, however, must be for Jérémie Beyou. He lost ten days at the start by returning to port to repair when he was one of the big favorites. He must be very bad… ”


Eight arrivals in almost twenty-four hours

Never in the history of the Vendée Globe, had there been more than two arrivals on the same day. This time, they will have been seven to cross the line in twenty-four hours, maybe even eight if Jean Le Cam had to cross the line before 8:35 pm, Thursday January 29th. This ninth edition, exceptional in many respects with its very low dropout rate, slow speed and number of participants, is not to an originality. Its winner, Yannick Bestaven, arrived eight hours after the first, Charlie Dalin, relegated to second place due to the bonus system favorable to Bestaven.



Vendée Globe: Yannick Bestaven winner at the end of the night

Thirteen years that Yannick Bestaven, 47, was waiting to see the tide turn in his favor. Exactly since that day in November 2008, when her mast was washed away in the Bay of Biscay, the day after the start, by a gale that decimated a good part of the Vendée Globe fleet. Years of maritime galleys followed, chomping at the bit in class 40 (13 m monohulls), piling up victories or places of honor that hardly resonated outside the closed circle of sailors.

Before finding a boat thanks to the buyout by its sponsor “Master Rooster” from the old Saffron, of Morgan Lagravière, the sailor alternated races against time at sea and in business. After his failure in 2008, he had chosen to set up a business and promote his technical choice, during his interrupted Vendée Globe, to take a hydrogenerator of his invention on board. A frustrated sailor, Yannick Bestaven would become a successful entrepreneur through his company Watt § Sea, which equips most of the Imocas in this Vendée Globe.

Once again, the sailors’ evil eye seemed to be on him again. After a month in the lead in the Pacific, an unfavorable weather front and a succession of damages allowed the pack of his pursuers to pounce on him. Dropped to fifth place at the equator in the Atlantic, held back by a final concern for rudder the day before the finish, his chances of getting on the podium seemed very slim, in view of the cavalcade in front of Charlie Dalin and Boris Herrmann, perched on two more recent foilers and theoretically faster.

Boris Herrmann hits a trawler

But the wind gods finally blew in its sails. Charlie Dalin arrived first, Wednesday 27 at 8:35 pm But Le Havre knew his provisional triumph, given the announcement of the arrival of Boris Herrmann, expected five hours late. The German had a six-hour time credit following his participation in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier in December.

Herrmann holding the rope, would the ten hours credited to Yannick Bestaven, also a stakeholder in Operation Escoffier, be enough, at least for the podium? An hour after the arrival of Charlie Dalin, the calculators were going well, until the thunderclap of the evening: the collision between Boris Herrmann’s monohull and a trawler in the congested waters of the Bay of Biscay.

→ TICKET. Vendée Globe, the bonus has the last word

In the early morning hours of Thursday January 28, Boris Herrmann, safe and sound but severely damaged foil, is sailing at low speed towards Les Sables d’Olonne, which he will not join before the end of the morning. Leaving the three medalists Yannick Bestaven, Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton, the care of savoring the podium after a hot shower and a first meal of land.

Jean Le Cam still in the running for third place

Fine players, the two beaten did not shy away from their pleasure. Perfectly aware of being a very provisional first, Charlie Dalin will cut short at a press conference any controversy concerning the overturning of the classification because of the bonuses. “If the race director had called me (to take care of the castaway Kevin Escoffier), I would have done it without hesitation, even if I had to back up and sail into the wind. It is normal that the skippers who are diverted have bonuses ”, did he declare.

Louis Burton, brilliant third after having cut the line behind Dalin, enjoys a first podium after ten years of chasing the best. He did not even think of bringing up the subject of bonuses by setting foot on the ground, too happy to be there.

“There is great joy in reuniting with my loved ones and being out of any danger. Cut the line in 2e position, it’s a crazy thing, especially with the race that I lived, he said, I haven’t said anything in recent days. I had a fire at the entrance to the doldrums so a general blackout of the entire electrical system. There is hardly any electricity in the boat, only the pilot was working. “

After that crazy night, one of the most beautiful in the history of ocean racing, there are still many chapters to write. Starting with that of fourth place, provisionally assigned to Thomas Rettant, arrived around 6 am, Thursday 28, in the bay of Sables d’Olonne. Here again, the Northerner is not sure to keep this consolation prize, because the third of the skippers holding a bonus following the sinking of Kevin Escoffier, Jean Le Cam (4:15 p.m. credit) is tacking all sails out. towards the Vendée.

Will King John head to the post for fourth place Thomas Rettant and his discreet pursuer Giancarlo Pedote? This is one of the many questions still open for a race that is far from over. More than twenty competitors are still at sea and the last one is expected in Les Sables in a month.



Vendée Globe: Charlie Dalin first in Les Sables d’Olonne but perhaps not the winner

A crazy and new scenario. Charlie Dalin, aboard his monohull Apivia, was the first to cross the finish line of the 9eVendée Globe Wednesday January 27 after 80 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes and 47 seconds at sea. But the 26-year-old sailor from Le Havre is not yet sure of winning the race, two of his pursuers benefiting from compensation for having taken part in the rescue by Kévin Escoffier on November 30th.

Dalin completed his round-the-world tour at 20 hours, 35 minutes and 47 seconds very precise, but the German Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco) has six hours to cross the line to get ahead of Dalin, while the Frenchman Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) has ten hours and fifteen minutes of compensation for doing the same.

Boris Herrmann hits fishing boat within 100 miles of finish

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2), currently second (with no future bonuses), must complete the loop “Between 12:30 a.m. and 1:00 a.m.”, according to the organization of the race, with Boris Herrmann not far in his wake. But, on the evening of Wednesday, a setback slowed down the progress of the German skipper, in the fight for the final victory: at 8:50 p.m., while he was some 90 miles from the finish line, he was collided with a fishing boat.

A foil of his monohull was damaged but the sailor from Oldenburg is fine and ” now heading towards the finish line at low speed », According to the organization of the race. Still in the race, but at a slow pace, Herrmann had to cross the finish line before 2:35 in the night to get ahead of Charlie Dalin at the top of the standings.

However, the winner should only be determined once Yannick Bestaven crosses the line in his turn. While he must have arrived before 6:50 am Thursday morning to pass Dalin, the Nazairien is currently expected between 3:30 am and 5:30 am Thomas Rettant (LinkedOut), he is currently sailing just in front of Bestaven but does not benefit bonuses.

Six days behind the record

Such a scenario is unprecedented in this solo race around the world, without assistance and without stopover which often ends in a duel, but never so close.

→ PORTRAIT. Charlie Dalin, the Vendée Globe sailor-pilot-architect

Also unprecedented, the absence of the public along the channel of the port of Vendée due to the health crisis linked to Covid-19. Only 300 volunteers of the race, masked and distanced, were authorized to make a guard of honor to greet the arrival of the first sailors.

→ READ. Vendée Globe: lying is part of the game.

On November 8, 33 skippers took the start and eight retired during this race marked by difficult weather conditions that did not allow us to break the record of 74 days and 3 hours set in 2017 by Armel Le Cléac’h.



Vendée Globe: at the finish, a race always driven by the spirit of adventure

The first sailor to go under the hundred days during the 2000-2001 edition, Michel Desjoyeaux inaugurated a line of records set to fall every four years, from one Vendée Globe to another. From 2000 to 2017, more and more sophisticated boats, helmed by sailors who sometimes hold an engineering degree, such as François Gabart or Armel Le Cléac’h, have gained twenty days. By making landfall in January 2017 after 74 days of racing, Armel Le Cléac’h was already announcing the rest of the story: the Vendée Globe in 70 days for 2020-2021.

Everyone believed in it, some like Armel Tripon even advanced on a possible navigation in 65 days, lightening their boat by taking only 70 days of food. Alas, 79 days after the start, Armel Tripon was still 2,500 km away from a line that the first will cross this Wednesday 27, after 80 days at sea. Beautiful symbol for a race more contested than ever and finishing on time. the adventure imagined by Jules Verne in the 19th centurye century, at a time when it seemed almost impossible.

The paradox is that this “slowness” of machines built to navigate fast is good news, including for the organizer. “It is beneficial for the spirit of adventure. Always faster has found its limits, machines have lost in the face of nature, that is also the beauty of ocean racing ”, comments the race director, Jacques Caraës.

A shipwreck that calms the ardor

What happened so that the nine new boats equipped with foils did not leave the fleet of older monohulls in place? The answer lies in the five letters conditioning this natural sport: the weather. “The descent of the Atlantic, at the start of the race, was slowed down by difficult weather conditions which tired both men and machines”, details the race doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve. Heckled in the Atlantic, the foilers were then taken back in the southern seas by a late southern summer. Which never brought them the long expected regular swell, which would have allowed them to soar over the water and in the standings.

→ READ. Vendée Globe: these foils that can turn against their skippers

“The sinking of Kevin Escoffier, whose boat broke in two before sinking in a few minutes, also calmed the enthusiasm of the first: they had to slow down for safety”, continues Doctor Chauve. This almost direct rescue, which risks playing a decisive role in the final classification through the bonuses granted to the three skippers who came to the rescue of the castaway, will remain the greatest adventure of this Vendée Globe. But there were many others, which for the most part ended well. We can no longer count the dangerous ascents at the masthead, including for the one-handed private navigator Damien Seguin, which allowed the sailor to continue his journey.

More tenacious sailors

This ninth edition is also characterized by a very low number of abandonments in view of the weather conditions. Barring further bad luck, there could be 25 of them making landfall, twice as much as usual. Here too, this astonishing statistic is a matter for men and women. “I think that the desire to stay at sea as long as possible marks the arrival of a new generation”, analyzes the former race boss Denis Horeau, author of a reference book (1).

During the last two editions, many skippers who left for the podium immediately threw in the towel after losing any chance in the standings, when they could have reached Les Sables-d’Olonne at low speed. “The spirit of adventure has taken over. Of course, the champions want to win but I believe that victory is no longer enough for them and we should be happy about it ”, continues Denis Horeau. Evidenced by the reaction of Samantha Davies, disqualified after having made a stopover to repair her damaged boat. And left for the beauty of the gesture and the interests of its humanitarian sponsor, Cardiac Surgery Patronage.


Controversy over the ranking

The arrival was to be played Wednesday evening 27 between the three leading men, Charlie Dalin, Boris Herrmann and Louis Burton. But the final classification will be established after the arrival of three sailors credited with bonuses following their participation in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier, Boris Herrmann (6 hours), Yannick Bestaven (10:15 a.m.) and Jean Le Cam (4:15 p.m. ). Some teams are claiming for their foals at risk of being downgraded the opportunity to share a place on the podium, in a tie. But the organization swept away this initiative, offering litigants to share their… bonuses (€ 200,000 at 1er, 140,000 € to 2e, 100,000 € to 3e, € 80,000 to 4e and € 50,000 at 5e).



Vendée Globe: victory will be played in the minds

Never had we known such a crowd approaching the line. Since the creation of the race in 1989, only three editions had seen two arrivals on the same day, with a gap of only four hours in 2012-2013 between Armel Le Cléac’h and the winner François Gabart. This year, six men – and up to nine more improbably – are able to finish Wednesday, January 27 in the same twenty-four hours.

Misleading classification

Anything can still happen between the current leader Charlie Dalin (it was still the case Thursday 21 at the end of the day) and the ninth Benjamin Dutreux, 700 kilometers away, that is to say a day and a half at sea. And again this classification, established on the base of the shortest road leading into the Vendée through an imaginary point (called “Way Point”), is misleading.

→ READ. Vendée Globe, two sailboats side by side under the equator

“It should be taken with a grain of salt, says Sébastien Josse, the organization’s weather consultant. A skipper ranked ahead on the chart may actually have more distance to cover depending on his wind resistance ”. To avoid the calm looming south of the Azores, the fleet turned north-west to seek downwind winds. The large foilers, very efficient under her tack, will round off the trajectory even more and lengthen their route while the less recent boats will dive earlier to the northeast towards the finish.

Wind against distance, a classic of sailing, which turns into a puzzle for the most modern boats, those of Thomas Rettant and Charlie Dalin. Under normal conditions, these two would easily take the risk of doing a lot of extra miles, even if it means catching up on speed. But they have experienced foil damage and can no longer take full advantage of their appendages. “We are sailing on one foot and our two damaged foils are on the wrong side, where we would have needed them most to take off in the last days”, explains Thomas Rettant, worried about the outcome.

→ ANALYSIS. Vendée Globe: these foils that can turn against their skippers

This fear, which turns to stress for some, like Yannick Bestaven, whose boat has suffered a lot of damage since Cape Horn, will weigh even more in the last days. “The road was very hard and longer than expected, men are physically and psychologically tired, explains doctor Jean-Yves Chauve, race doctor. This deep fatigue, of which they are not always aware, can cause them to make maneuvering errors, we are also seeing more and more typing errors in email exchanges with them, this is a sign ”.

The stress of the straight line

Propelled by the adrenaline of the final sprint, the leading men will still have to endure the home stretch, and the stress of missing the podium within seconds. Because at this decisive moment, the four hours between the first and the second of 2013 will perhaps be a figure of eternity. The boats appear close on the map, but in reality they are spread out over a territory twice the size of France, which will no longer be the case when the trajectories meet in sight of the Vendée. “They have all been very well prepared, they have learned to sleep, none is at the end of the roll physically in my opinion, but mentally, the situation is unprecedented. When they run into their main rivals in the home stretch, it will be tough ”, continues Doctor Chauve.

In these last miles, it will be necessary to fine-tune the settings, but above all to take out the calculator. Among the contenders for victory, three benefit from significant bonuses linked to their participation in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier: Boris Herrmann has six credit hours, Yannick Bestaven has ten and Jean Le Cam sixteen. “We can very well imagine that the Vendée Globe is played out on this and that the first to make landfall then decline in the standings, explains race director Jacques Caraës. It is a difficult situation for us and for the men at sea who did not need it. “


Five days behind the record

To beat the speed record around the world on a single-handed monohull set by Armel Le Cléac’h during the Vendée Globe 2016-2017, that is to say 74 days and three hours, the leader of the Vendée Globe should have touched earth Friday January 22 around 5 pm. If at the start of this edition some skippers were able to consider going below the 70-day mark, the result will actually be close to 79 days, Wednesday January 27, depending on the time of arrival. This was due to unfavorable weather conditions throughout the course and to very formed southern seas which forced the skippers to hold back their machines to preserve them.