LES SABLES D’OLONNE, France (AP) Armel Le Cleac’h held off a late surge from British sailor Alex Thomson to win the Vendee Globe round-the-world race in record time on Thursday.
The Frenchman finished the race in 74 days. Francois Gabart held the previous record of 78 days in the 2012-13 edition of the race, which is held every four years and sailed entirely without assistance.
Le Cleac’h, the runner-up in the previous two races, stood up on his boat, pumped his fist and threw both arms up in the air as he crossed the finish line.
Article continues below ...
”It’s huge, the emotion is incredible. I can’t really take on board what just happened,” he said. ”The last few days were intense. I’ve achieved something huge.”
Le Cleac’h, who is from the Brittany region, was struggling to hold back tears as he spoke.
”I wanted this win so much. The weather wasn’t easy, but I held on and fought,” said Le Cleac’h, who hugged his two children as they joined him on his boat. ”The last mile was great, even if it was very cold.”
Thomson, meanwhile, was expected to arrive at Les Sables d’Olonne early Friday. He was competing for the fourth time and looking to become the first British sailor to win it.
This week, Thomson set a world record for the most distance sailed solo in 24 hours when he covered 536.8 miles to narrow the gap on Le Cleac’h, beating Gabart’s previous mark of 534.48 miles, which was also set during the last edition.
By early Wednesday, Thomson moved his Hugo Boss 60-foot single-hull yacht within 40 miles of Le Cleac’h. But his challenge then faded as Le Cleac’h pulled away again in his Banque Populaire boat.
”It was intense from start to finish and I didn’t see the time passing. There was just no respite,” Le Cleac’h said. ”I had a few technical problems, but nothing major.”
Le Cleac’h is the seventh Frenchman to win the race in its eight editions.