Former Vendée Globe leader Yves Parlier nears the end of an extraordinary race

Yves Parlier’s Aquitaine Innovations was about 60 miles west of Cape Finisterre at 0900 this morning, making nearly 10kn on 21° as he reeled off the remaining 426 miles to the finish off Les Sables. Parlier is pictured here preparing a little kelp for lunch – he didn’t plan to be gone this long and received permission from the race committee to attack his emergency rations soon after rounding Cape Horn.

“I’m on a broad reach for a descent towards Les Sables d’Olonne,” said Parlier. “I have passed quite a few boats this morning, they smell of the coastline. There was a container ship and two fishing trawlers stretching out a line between them both. Thankfully I didn’t end up passing between them either. I’m actually parallel to the shipping lane, so when I will gybe, I’ll cut through the lane squarely so as to sail through it for the least amount of time as possible.

“The genoa, which I managed to repair a bit, is flying again, so I have about 228sqm of sail up between the genoa, staysail and the main with two reefs. That’s a fair amount of cloth, I’d say.

“The weather forecasts still confirm my ETA for Friday afternoon. For now, Hervé Corbière and my shore team are taking care of everything for my arrival, I am trying not to stress about it myself. I’ve had so many things to think about and I don’t want to lose my head, but enjoy these final moments of such a magnificent project.”

Magnificent, indeed. Before breaking his mast south of Cape Town on 17 December last year, Parlier was leading Michel Desjoyeaux’s PRB into deep southern latitudes, waiting for Le Professeur to blink, head back north and concede their battle of brinkmanship. Desjoyeaux certainly flipped onto the other gybe first but not for the reasons Parlier assumed: he moved to catch a favourable weather system and pulled clear while Parlier struggled in light headwinds and confused seas.

He was beginning to claw his way north into a decent weather system when his mast snapped below the spreaders. He was left with a 10m carbon wing section still stepped and a six-metre section salvaged on deck. Parlier refused to retire, having completed all four Vendée Globes to date and the engineering and survival odyssey that resulted from his decision is unlikely ever to be repeated.

Parlier is a complete one-off and no doubt the French will demonstrate their admiration for this extraordinary yachtsman, his tenacity and ingenuity, when he arrives back in Les Sables. His name sits contentedly alongside those of the greatest singlehanded French mariners: Alain Colas, Eric Tabarly, Bernard Moitessier, Philippe Jeantot? It’s been an arduous trip for the man who turned 40 in the Southern Ocean but will it be his last?

“I will still be hungry to get sailing after the Vendée Globe,” said Parlier, “and nothing else will satisfy me.”

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