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Ocean Planet Vendée Globe Update:
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Brian Hancock – Race Report

A Mile at a Time

The rough and tumble of the Vendée Globe is squarely behind Bruce as he sails up the Atlantic towards France and the finish. The deep south, where killer waves can decimate boats in mere seconds is a thing of the past, but that does not mean that the road ahead is easy. The North Atlantic, especially the higher latitudes, can be some of the cruelest waters on the planet. So while Bruce can rightfully be pleased with his progress to date, there is still a long way ahead and he needs to be vigilant.

By the time the Vendée Globe fleet has sailed this far around the world there is a bond between the sailors that transcends mere respect and friendship. Only this band of sailors knows what the Vendée race course has thrown at them. It’s therefore that much more painful when one of the boats falters, as happened with Australian Nick Moloney aboard Skandia. It’s painful to see boats retire to Cape Town and just as sad to see boats pull in to New Zealand, but after 82 days at sea with the end almost in sight, it must be especially difficult for Nick as his dreams of a solo circumnavigation are crushed.

Moloney is a soft spoken Australian with a big heart. He was hoping to become the first person to sail around the world in three different disciplines; fully crewed with stops (Whitbread race), fully crewed non-stop (aboard Orange in the Jules Verne) and finally the ultimate challenge, solo, non-stop in the Vendée Globe. Of the three, Moloney freely admits that the Vendée was the most daunting and by far the most challenging. He left Les Sables d’Olonne with a heavy heart afraid of the challenge that lay ahead, not sure if he was up to the task. I know Nick well and co-wrote a book with him about his experiences on Orange (entitled Chasing the Dawn). As I followed his progress around the world reading his logs and listening to his radio interviews, I could detect that Nick was struggling. Not with the physical aspect of sailing the boat, but with the mental aspect, the solitude and time spent with his own thoughts. From day one he struggled. The thought of giving up and turning back must have been a daily constant, but Nick, like all the Vendée skippers is not a quitter. Despite his trepidation there was no way Moloney was going to bail. Once around Cape Horn with the bow of Skandia pointed directly toward France he seemed to come to terms with the race. That makes it that much more heartbreaking to learn that his keel had snapped and the boat was crippled. So near yet so far.

The problems on Skandia are another reminder, should anyone need one, about how fine the line is between success and failure. As an experienced solo sailor Bruce understands this fine line and, in my opinion, has sailed a near perfect race so far. While winning the Vendée would have been great, it would be near impossible for him to beat the big budget entries like PRB, Bonduelle and Ecover. A grass roots American effort is no match for the big guns. Bruce undertook this race with different goals, the most important being to finish safely. Now 20,000 miles and 86 days into the event, Ocean Planet is in good shape and the skipper is in good spirits, two key ingredients to a successful completion to the circumnavigation.

While the eyes of the sailing world are fixed squarely on the three leading boats who have given us armchair sailors an exciting few months of internet browsing, let’s not forget that finishing the Vendée is just as important as winning it. So with the Skandia’s tragedy foremost in our minds and the glory of the leaders about to hit land to a tumultuous welcome, let’s send good vibes to Bruce, Ocean Planet and all the skippers who are slogging it away taking it a mile at a time, a day at a time.

— Brian Hancock


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