Frenchman Yannick Bestaven won the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race on Thursday after a spectacular finish when one of his rivals hit a fishing trawler on the home stretch.
The 48-year-old, in Master CoQ IV, was the third to cross the line, almost eight hours behind the leader, but won thanks to his 10:15 a.m. time bonus for helping save a competitor off the cape of Good Hope.
Charlie Dalin (Apivia) was the first to finish in 80 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes and 47 seconds, followed by fellow Frenchman Louis Burton at Bureau Vallée 2, but they finished second and third thanks to the time bonus of Bestaven.
Bestaven’s victory, on his second attempt after lasting just 30 hours in 2008, capped a turbulent race when he rushed to the aid of Kevin Escoffier, whose yacht sank in rough seas.
The race then turned into an unusually close affair in the final stages, with Dalin leading a five-man sprint to the line in Les Sables d’Olonne.
“I feel like I’m living a dream, hallucinating,” said Bestaven, who was greeted by fireworks.
“We go from total solitude to that, to this party, to these lights. This result is beyond my expectations. After struggling as we struggled, a victory with Maitre CoQ IV is a dream!”
Bestaven, who lost his mind as he calmed down in the doldrums, has fought back in recent days, converging on the finish from the west rather than following Dalin and Boris Herrmann from the south.
But a crush on the German Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco), who was carrying a six-hour indemnity for the rescue of Escoffier but who hit a fishing trawler 90 miles from his home.
“I was sleeping and woke up looking at this huge wall of the fishing trawler… I heard a sail tearing and I bounced with the spinnaker pole several times in the fishing boat,” said Herrmann, who patched up his yacht and limped to the finish.
He added: “I’m really disgusted and sorry to everyone supporting us that this has happened. It’s definitely been my worst nightmare so far.”
Bestaven and Herrmann were among four yachtsmen to come to the aid of Escoffier, whose boat was split in two by a giant wave 600 nautical miles off the Cape of Good Hope, sinking in seconds.
Jean Le Cam, 61, spotted Escoffier’s life raft but then lost sight of it again, and scoured the seas for long hours before finally finding it and dragging it on board.
Earlier in the race, Alex Thomson’s quest for glory – after finishing third in 2012/2013 and second in 2016/2017 – ended in retirement.
The Briton Thomson, who had carved out a lead, had to bring his ship Hugo Boss back to the port of Cape Town.
Jérémie Beyou, aboard Charal, and also pre-race favourite, was another early victim.
Thirty-three competitors took the start of the race on November 8, but eight were forced to retire. Difficult weather conditions ruled out any hope of breaking Armel Le Cleac’h’s 2017 race record of 74 days and three hours.