After having arrived in 2nd place on the two previous editions this time Armel LeCleah had done it, he has finally won the Vendee!!!!!, that had a great finale, with a relentless pursuit by Alex Thomson, that was much luckier wind the winds, but at had bad luck with the boat, having broken a foil, way back, near South Africa.
Armel, that arrived incredibly fresh at the finish, had also some breakage that resulted in not being able to hoist the more favorable sail to go upwind in light winds, one that he missed a lot while going up on that slow Atlantic passage, that had many times very weak winds. Typically of Armel he did only said that he had problems when he arrived. 😊
Armel never break and even with Alex beating the 24 hour record (on distance) on his tails, on the final fase of the pursuit, Armel was always able to control Alex's gains, maintained a narrow lead till the final, never giving a real chance to his chaser. Alex, visibly more tired, arrived on the next day, at down and, as Armel, it was escorted by many boats and cheered by a crowd.
Alex is a great guy, besides being a great sailor, that talked about Armel saying that he was a "machine", an incredibly good sailor, a very modest and underrated one that had deserved to win the race after two successive 2th places. At the quay among the many that were waiting for Alex, to cheer him, was Armel clapping his hands and congratulating Alex for a great performance.
Would it be different if Alex had his foil intact? It is something that we will never know. Alex talked about it and he said how he was pissed when he had to sail on the side of the broken foil, not so much by a question of speed but due to the way the boat sailed. The truth is that all the final part of the race, for many days, just before the last small tack, Alex was sailing on the "good" side of his boat and he was not able to catch Armel or gain significantly over him and it is also true that if Alex had bad luck in what regards losing the foil, the luck come to him after that, in what regarding having several times, since the horn, more favorable wind conditions than Armel. A pointless exercise to talk about what could have happened on a race if something was been different.
Alex come out of this race a better sailor and I have no doubt that his reputation has grown hugely and deservedly.
No more Alex, the fast but mad boat breaker, but Alex, one of the greatest solo sailors of his generation. Contrary to several on this race he has not on his curriculum a single victory on the many races and transats with IMOCA boats. I bet that is going to change on the next years.😉
I believe Armel is going to leave IMOCA racing for now and probably will focus on the biggest accomplishment a sailor can have: To be the first man to have simultaneously the two solo circumnavigation records, the one with monohulls and the one with multihulls. What a dream!!!! If he manages that he certainly will enter sail race history with something that none had managed before and that will be very difficult to be equaled.