France's Bestaven wins dramatic Vendee Globe round-the-world race

Sabine COLPART
·3 min read

France's Yannick Bestaven won the Vendee Globe round-the-world solo yacht race on Thursday after a dramatic finish when one of his rivals hit a fishing trawler in the home stretch.

The 48-year-old, in Maitre Coq IV, was the third across the line, nearly eight hours behind the leader, but won because of his 10hr 15min time bonus for helping rescue a competitor off the Cape of Good Hope.

Charlie Dalin (Apivia) was the first to finish in 80 days, six hours, 15 minutes and 47 seconds, followed by fellow Frenchman Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee 2, but they were placed second and third owing to Bestaven's time bonus.

Bestaven's win, in his second attempt after he lasted just 30 hours in 2008, caps an eventful race when he rushed to the aid of Kevin Escoffier, whose yacht sank in heavy seas.

The race then developed into an unusually tight affair in the closing stages, with Dalin heading a five-way sprint to the line at Les Sables d'Olonne.

Bestaven, who lost the lead when he was becalmed in the doldrums, has battled back over the last few days, converging on the finish from the west rather than following Dalin and Boris Herrmann from the south.

Fireworks lit up the night sky as the victorious Bestaven, 48, approached the pontoon at Les Sables d'Olonne on France's Vendee coast.

- 'Worst nightmare' -

But there was heartbreak for Germany's Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco), who was carrying a six-hour time compensation for the Escoffier rescue but ran into a fishing trawler 90 miles from home.

"I was sleeping and I woke up looking at this huge wall of the fishing trawler... I heard a sail ripping and I was bouncing a few times with the outrigger into the fishing vessel," said Herrmann, who patched up his yacht and limped towards the finish.

He added: "I'm really gutted and I'm sorry for everyone that supports us that this happened. It's certainly the worst nightmare that happened to me so far."

Bestaven and Herrmann were among four yachtsmen to come to the aid of Escoffier, whose boat was snapped 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 him again, and scoured the seas for long hours before finally finding him and dragging him aboard.

Earlier in the race, Alex Thomson's bid for glory -- after finishing third in 2012/2013 and runner-up in 2016/2017 -- ended in a retirement.

Britain's Thomson, who had carved out a commanding lead, had to nurse his Hugo Boss vessel back to port in Cape Town.

Jeremie Beyou, on board Charal, and also a pre-race favourite, was another early casualty.

Thirty-three competitors started the race on November 8, but eight were forced to withdraw. Harsh weather conditions ruled out any hopes of breaking Armel Le Cleac'h's 2017 race record of 74 days and three hours.

bur/th/dh