Parisian political journalist turned solo ocean race Fabrice Amedeo secured 11th place in the Vendée Globe when he crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 09 hrs 03 m UTC this morning Saturday 18th February. His excellent finish represents the culmination of a dream to take part in the famous solo ocean race around the world. Sailing Newrest-Matmut, Amedeo’s elapsed time for the course is 103 d 21h 1 m. He finishes 29 d 17 h 25 m after winner Armel Le Cléac’h and 01d 00hrs 36m after thenth placed Arnaud Boissières. His average speed for the theoretical course is 9,8 kts. In reality Amedeo sailed 27700 miles at an average of 11,1 kts.
Hungry, because he has been on limited food rations for more than two weeks, but elated today he crossed the finish line to complete his race in perfect sunshine, making more than 10kts of boat speed through the flat seas, amidst an excited spectator fleet including his wife Charlotte and three young daughters Garance, Louise and Josephine.
On the dock in the pleasant sunshine he said:
” It is a great story. I made a good Vendée Globe in 104 days, it is long but to finish in a good place and to have had an incredible adventure. I learned a lot every day. Maybe not so much going down the Atlantic as I knew I bit, but from the Saint Helena high after three weeks I have had things to learn and do. It is incredible. I had to fix the mainsail, I had to climb the mast, it is a hard rhythm. In the south I was more and more into adventure mode. And what a feeling to pass Cape Horn, the modd to have got out of the southern oceans. To climb back up the Atlantic with the light winds areas to negotiate, to have such a close race with Arnaud Boissières, it is amazing. And to be running out of food for the last 15 days has been hard. I was tired and had no energy but the spirit was there. That is the magic of the Vendée Globe.”
” To finish on a beautiful Saturday morning, to come back in to this welcome in to the channel, it is amazing. What a reward.” Although an accomplished racer in other classes with several Transatlantics under his belt, two years ago, Amedeo had barely set foot on an IMOCA 60 but in 2014 he had set his sights on doing this pinnacle event of solo ocean racing.
He found himself a good boat, set in place a comprehensive well funded programme which meant he has had the tools to do a good job. An experienced sailor whose solo career started nearly ten years ago in the Figaro class, graduating through Class 40 to the IMOCA class of the Vendée Globe, race first timer Fabrice Amedeo, 38 years old, has sailed an accomplished measured race, finishing as second rookie some 24 hours after Arnaud Boissières who he raced closely with during the second half of the course and who was completing his third successive Vendée Globe. Amedeo achieved backing from Newrest – an industrial catering giant and French insurance group Matmut – and took two years leave of absence from his job as a writer for Le Figaro national newspaper to train and complete in the Vendée Globe. After completing the solo Transatlantic race the Route du Rhum in Class 40 in at the finish in 2014 Amedeo announced he wanted to do the Vendée Globe. Four years later the sailor whose other passions are politics and political commentary has completed that ambition above and beyond his expectations.
A graduate of philosophy and political science, Amedeo started out sailing on his family’s 22 foot Beneteau cruiser and moved through crewed racing at France’s Spi Ouest Regatta and the Tour du France a la Voile into solo and short handed racing, notably in the proving ground of the Figaro class and then Class 40. He has written extensively on the big races, on sailors such profiling Sébastien Josse during the Volvo Ocean Race, as well as political history book. During the three years before he started the Vendée Globe he had sailed more than 20,000 miles including a good ninth place in that 2014 Route du Rhum from 43 starters. He has chronicled his race with great detail, colour and enthusiasm, diligently reporting almost every day with some of the most viewed reportage videos of the race.
The Farr designed Newrest-Matmut was originally launched in 2007 for Loick Peyron as Gitana 80. This is the fourth successful racing circumnavigation for the boat which went round the world in the second Barcelona World Race as Renault Captur with Pachi Rivero and Antonio Pires, finished the last Vendée Globe in fifth place as Jean Le Cam’s Synerciel and most recently completed the third Barcelona World Race as GAES Centros Auditivos in the hands of Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin.
Before the race started Amedeo said:
“ I really wanted this Vendée Globe. I started out from scratch to set up this project. This is the start of an adventure, but also the conclusion of two years of hard work. Just 18 months ago, I was taking the metro to get to work and between two stops dreamt of the Vendee Globe.”
After the start Amedeo enjoyed lively conditions for the first night at sea, but nothing too tough, so a pleasant way for the Vendée Globe rookie to find his feet in the middle of the fleet, at the head of second pack. When he heard of the damage suffered by Tanguy de Lamotte, he decided to ease off.
“What happened to Tanguy shows us that there is a long way to go. This brings us back down to Earth. My aim is to get into the Southern Ocean without breaking anything.”
“I’m happy about the start of my race I’m getting used to my boat. The leaders have made their getaway. But strangely enough that doesn’t worry me. They are not in the same race.”
Fabrice Amedeo entered the Southern hemisphere in seventeenth place after 12 days 4hrs and 40 mins, 2 days and 21 hrs after the leader. Stepping up the pace initially in the southern hemisphere the skipper of Newrest-Matmut would then have to deal with an area of high pressure with light airs. During one night he only managed to sail ten miles. He was the first of this pack to be held up and was then overtaken by Louis Burton, while the others narrowed the gap.
As he escaped out of this light zone he would find himself in close contact racing with Conrad Colman and Kojiro Shiraishi.
Amedeo crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on the evening of 4th December “I’m really pleased to have rounded this first cape. I can see how far I have come on my IMOCA. I saw my first albatross… I’m down where no man goes.” Amedeo was soon to experience his first southern storm. “It was a wild night, so I decided to be prudent. I got caught by the front and for half an hour had forty knot winds and gusts of 44 knots.”
After one month in the heart of the pack in 16th place not far from Arnaud Boissières, the skipper of Newrest-Matmut was forced to climb his mast, after his halyards got entangled around the forestay.
In the Indian Ocean to avoid the worst of a big blow, Amedeo decided to head north. But with 45-50 knot winds his mainsail split open with a 3m long tear. Between low-pressure systems, he spent a lot of time repairing his sail. However, because everything was so damp, it was difficult to apply patches. This slow period allowed his rivals to gain an advantage. On 21st December, Alan Roura and Enda O’Coineen got ahead of him. His Christmas present was that he finally managed to repair and re-hoist his mainsail.
The Christmas celebrations would not last long. A few days later, he was once again forced to climb his mast, when his gennaker hook looked like breaking and was no longer working properly. The strong winds off New Zealand allowed him to accelerate again and catch the pack. But after the low, he was once again caught in light airs. “For two days now I have been five knots slower than Arnaud Boissières!”
2017 began with a problem with his fleet communication system, meaning he was unable to download the latest weather info. Fortunately as the team had decided to adopt a belt and braces approach in preparing the boat, he was able to reconnect to a second antenna.
By 3rd January, he had once again overtaken Alan Roura, but was facing the toughest conditions of his Vendée Globe. After the storm, he found himself practically becalmed at Point Nemo in the middle of the Pacific.
On 10th january, he found himself alongside Arnaud Boissières. Approaching the Horn, he was back in gale force winds with 50-knot gusts in spite of heading south after a warning from the Race Directors about the deep low-pressure system.
Amedeo rounded Cape Horn for the first time on 16th January. “I just experienced one of the highlights of my life. There was a violet light over the mountains of Patagonia, as the sun went downI was twenty miles from the rock and whaen I suddenly saw the mountains I was stunned. This was my first sight of land since 7th November when I passed Cape Finisterre. I have never been so moved seeing land. It was an incredible moment. Rounding the Horn was a moment of fulfilment. I was at one with my boat.”
After the very strong winds as he approached the Horn, Fabrice Amedeo had to deal with calms on the other side as he passed the Falklands. The transition from the southern ocean to milder climes was very sudden. For Amedeo, this was synonymous with “getting back to the civilised world.”
The climb back up the South Atlantic was far from simple. “I came to a standstill in the high.It was long and harsh. The biggest hold-up I have had since the start of the Vendée Globe. Zero knots of wind for hours. I’m pleased now to leave St. Helena behind me. I was warned that getting around Cape Frio would be hard. And it definitely was. It was torture.”
Fabrice Amedeo entered the northern hemisphere after 87 days 20 hours and 20 minutes. The duel he had been in with Arnaud Boissières changed at this point. The latter made his getaway, while Amedeo remained in light trade winds. Even if the Doldrums were not that active, they did slow him down considerably and allowed Boissières to build the margin which he increased to the finish line.
On the dock Fabrice Amedeo said:
“The best memories will be my passage in the south which I did not know. In fact I was expected something more calm, thinking it would be like spending three days or more on the same tack with the long surfs of the Pacific but instead we had zones of calm which slowed us, very brutal transitions, the depressions were hard and active, the transitions were hard, to be having a front of 40-45kts and fifteen minutes earlier you were sitting in sunshine, or to be sailing at night in 15kts with so many stars overhead, that is what really impressed me. We don’t have that at home.
” I found time to communicate. I wrote a paper every week in Le Figaro. I told the stories for the followers on the internet writing and making videos. And I had a little dictaphone and made many many notes every day as I have so many incredible experiences so I want to put them into words.
I did not have many real moments of doubt. I tore my mainsail and lost 600 miles on the group of boats that I should have been at the front of. But I never thought of abandoning. I reached by objectives, all of them, and fulfilled my dream. I really profited from the finish line. I profited from the last few days. To have passed these difficulties, to have got through everything is big for me. I set my goals high and achieved them. Every day on the Vendée Globe you have to a bit more, I had some moments, so tough moments when I was down, but I never thought to stop. you push through, you always want to keep going, to make good decisions. It is hard. But I learned that.
Arnaud Boissières is a good friend. In fact we mostly did the round the world together. Down the Atlantic I got away with a bit more wind, he caught up, in the Pacific we were together. We spoke by mail.
Two years ago I was in the offices of Le Figaro in the Boulevard Hausman. Here I have completed the Vendée Globe round the world. I measure my race by how much I have improved, each day you have to improve on the Vendée Globe. I had ambitions higher than my technical skills were at, sometimes I had to raise the bar, I was sometimes really frustrated, but I told myself ‘Fabrice sort it out, you could be in an office.’
On the future:
” I made two Route du Rhums in Class 40. The first one was about discovery. The second one was competition. I would like to do the same with the Vendée Globe. So of course I will not go to win nect time because there will always be exceptional people in front of me, but why not be a good outsider?”
” I will stay at Les Sables until Wednesday. The girls will, on this occasion, miss a bit of school. But next Thursday morning I will take them to school, and I will treasure my luck. In the middle of the Indian Ocean I had doubts and I thought about them and was I doing the right thing. So I will be there to to my children to school. And will squeeze their hands very hard.”
” I never thought of giving up. Once or twice I thought I had to be careful because the race got away from me a bit escaped me at the Kerguelen when the halyard got entangled in the mast, or when the mainsail was torn.”
” Basically DIY is not my strong point. I discovered myself. I discussed it with the technical team a few days ago. I had to change the mainsail cars for example. An hour and a half later I called the team and told them it was done. Everyone was surprised, maybe me most of all! This was a a real learning in this area. Every day I did things I thought were out of my reach. This is also the magic of Vendée, see what can be imposed in adversity.”
” But it is in the head, mentally, that the Vendée Globe is the hardest. When you’re in the middle of the Pacific, 15,000 miles from the finish and for three days your are slowed in a high because you’re blocked by the Antarctic Exclusion Zone you have to hold it together. You just cannot crack.”
Photo Credit : JM Liot / DPPI / Vendée Globe