French yachtsman Francois Gabart won the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world sailing race after 78 days at sea, setting a world record and becoming the youngest person to win the competition.
The Vendee Globe, held every four years and now in its seventh edition, is the only single-handed, non-stop around the world sailing competition. Seven of the 20 competitors abandoned the 2012-13 race for reasons ranging from dismasting to collisions with fishing boats, while another was disqualified for receiving outside help.
Gabart set a round-the-world record for a solo sailor in a mono-hull boat. The previous fastest time of 84 days was set by France’s Michel Desjoyeaux in the previous Vendee Globe, according to the World Sailing Speed Record Council.
The winner, who competed in the race for the first time, sailed more than 24,000 nautical miles (44,450 kilometers) over 78 days, 2 hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds. Other competitors haven’t yet crossed the finish line. Gabart came in before compatriot Armel Le Cleac’h on the boat Banque Populaire and beat British sailor Alex Thomson on the yacht Hugo Boss.
Thomson overtook Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3, who continued to race after losing his keel on Jan. 21 about 2,000 miles from the finish.
The competitors set off in their 60-foot (18-meter) carbon- fiber keelboats from Les Sables d’Olonne in November to circle the globe via the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn. On average, the sailors get five hours of sleep a day of during 11 weeks or more of racing, according to the organization.
Macif was launched in August 2011, making it one of the most recent boats in the fleet, and weighs 7.7 metric tons. The Open 60-class yacht can carry a downwind sail area of 570 square meters (6,135 square feet), more than twice the surface of a tennis court.
Most boats have corporate funding, with insurer Macif SA sponsoring Gabart, Groupe BPCE’s Banque Populaire backing Le Cleac’h, clothing maker Hugo Boss AG (BOSS) for Thomson and drugmaker Virbac SA (VIRP) and waste-management company Paprec SA for Dick.
Macif is sponsoring Gabart with 8 million euros ($10.8 million) over a four-year period through the end of 2014, including 3 million euros to build his yacht, Challenges reported on Jan. 25, citing Catherine Antonetti, the insurer’s communications director.
The world record for a non-stop, single-handed circumnavigation was set by Francis Joyon in the trimaran IDEC, in January 2008, taking 57 days. A trimaran has a central hull and outriggers on both sides.
Ellen MacArthur set the record for fastest woman solo sailor around the world, in 71 days, on the trimaran B&Q in 2005. The record for a fully crewed non-stop sail around the world is held by Loick Peyron, who skippered the trimaran Banque Populaire 5 around the globe in 45 days last year.
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