When the Vendée Globe fleet set off Nov. 10 from Les Sables d’Olonne, France, young French sailor François Gabart, 29, was seen as a talented outsider.
On Sunday, Gabart finished the race around the world — after leading for most of the two-plus months at sea — as the victor and new holder of the course record: 78 days, 2 hours, 16 minutes, 40 seconds. Gabart’s time beat fellow French sailor Michel Desjoyeaux’s record by 6 days, 53 minutes. His average speed was 15.3 knots over 28,646.55 miles.
Click play for highlights from Gabart’s record-setting victory.
Fellow Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h also finished the race in record time but had to settle for second place — by the smallest margin in the history of the race: 3 hours, 17 minutes, 4 seconds behind Gabart.
“When the race started, I didn't think of myself as a contender for the victory,” Gabart said on his log immediately after finishing. “I knew it was a possibility, but that was not a goal I would think about all the time. In the Indian Ocean, I started thinking about possibly winning, and when Armel and I started having that close fight, that regatta around the world, I realized I had a 50 percent chance of winning. And then, once we were in the Atlantic, I started believing.”
The Vendée Globe, a non-stop solo circumnavigation held every four years, is considered the Mount Everest of sailracing. The race may not attract the attention of Americans the way other major sporting events do, but Europeans, particularly the French, embrace it.
There were 650,000 connections to the 7-hour live feed of the Jan. 27 finish via the Vendée Globe website, Dailymotion.com and other websites that broadcast the finish. There were more than 45 million visits to the race website.