Race time: 109 days, 19 hours, 58 minutes, 57 seconds. (The record now for an American solo, nonstop circumnavigation)
Over the past several years, I have stubbornly struggled to achieve the impossible fantasy of finishing the legendary Vendée Globe race. During this time, I had heard several times that the reception the finishers receive in Les Sables is really something. But never could I have possibly imagined the magnitude of the tumultuous greeting that was given to me and Ocean Planet on Friday, February 25, 2005 after 109 days at sea.
Early on a very cold, but beautiful morning, we approached the finish with great anticipation:
Despite the cold there were many of our enthusiastic supporters out on the press boats, whooping it up for the last couple of hours as we reached the end of the journey. Minutes before the line, we were enveloped in a cold fog that added a bit of mystery and suspense, but nothing could stop the feeling of accomplishment that I felt as my finishing time blasted over the radio and the blasting of horns began:
We moored on a buoy outside the harbor for a few hours waiting for high tide before entering the channel. At 1500 local time, we released our mooring, and began our way down the channel. Nothing could have prepared me for the next several hours…
THOUSANDS of people lined the channel as we slowly paraded into the harbor amid deafening horns, cheering, and bell ringing! It was UNBELIEVABLE!!
This was just the beginning! When we arrived at the pontoon, it was nearly sinking with hundred of kids chanting “we love Bruce,” along with all the reporters, officials, and everyone else. What a scene.
After spraying everyone within range with champagne, I was then brought up on an outdoor stage for the first press conference:
This part finished with rocking out on the stage with about a hundred kids to a tune that I had previously selected by a local musician, “Stephan Kolodiez.” What fun!
Then it was inside to an absolutely PACKED auditorium for the next press conference. I was joined on stage by two special friends of Ocean Planet, Alice and Melissa, two young French students who sent me great emails for the entire trip around the world. They also had been aboard for our trip down the channel! This finished with my playing a tune on the guitar (by popular demand….) and with our entire team onstage.
We did it!
Yes, I mean WE! Ocean Planet carried a lot more hopes and dreams around the world than those of my own!
My thanks go out to all of YOU who have supported to this dream in so many ways, especially the Ocean Planet Official Supplier Sponsors and partners of our Ocean Sciences program! There are countless others that have made this possible…. stay tuned for more updates about them and upcoming special shows I will be doing about this once in a lifetime adventure!
Why did I race the Vendée Globe? I hardly remember what started me on the path, but now I truly know why. It is hard to explain, but perhaps the faces of Alice and Melissa who followed me around the world will begin to give you the idea…
Thanks to all,
Bruce Schwab, Skipper
USA 05/Ocean Planet