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Happy Words from Virtual Vendée Globe 2017 Winner

Published on January 18th, 2017

Virtual Vendée Globe 2017 winner Matthew Johnston beat more than 450,000 virtual skippers to the top spot, taking 72 days, two hours, 23 minutes and 10 seconds to complete the race. The 38-year-old from Adelaide, Australia, spoke moments after his boat Mangina-PYR crossed the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m just your average guy from Australia with a wife and three kids. For work, I’m a computer systems engineer at a power station up in the north west of Western Australia, so I’m a bit of a nerd by trade.

What’s your sailing background?
I’ve been sailing since I was six, through local dinghy classes. I worked my way up to 14ft skiffs and was travelling round the world sailing them with a good mate of mine from Australia. Then, I had kids and all of that got put in the back pocket, but now I’ve jumped back in and I’m sailing Etchells with a couple of great mates in Australia.

How did you get into playing Virtual Regatta?
I love sailing and I’ve been playing Virtual Regatta for a few years now. I first dabbled with it in the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race and then started to take it a little bit more seriously in the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. It’s just gone from there.

How much sleep have you had over the past few months?
I’ve limited amount of sleep on some nights, whereas some nights I’ve slept like a baby. The Southern Ocean is a great thing, you can just set up your boat and forget it, and sometimes you don’t have to look at it for two days. Going through the Doldrums is a bit of a different story, you don’t get much sleep then and it feels like you’re actually on the boat.

What were the key moments in the race?
The timing between Christmas and New Year, as we were approaching the Equator close to the coast of South America was one, I jumped to the front. There was a group of 10 or 12 of us that managed to squeeze through a weather system and get to the north and the trades. That was basically the race. From there the rich got richer and that was it.

How does it feel to win?
I’m ecstatic, I’m over the moon. It’s one of those things you don’t even consider at the start of the race. I was joking with a Swedish friend of mine, who was also playing the game, that after the horrible start I had, there was every chance I’d win the race, because every time I’ve had a bad start in the past I’ve ended up going ok. The joke has become a reality.

Are you looking forward to getting back to reality now?
My wife would like me to come to bed every now and then, so that’s one thing I’m looking forward to. But I love the game, I’m basically addicted to it. If there’s a Virtual Regatta Anonymous group out there I’m ready to join it.

Virtual Regatta: With more than a million active players in 2016, Virtual Regatta’s main business is to create nautical events on the Internet. Thousands of sailing fans are able to follow the races in a unique and dynamic way: the players compete on their own boats. Details: http://www.virtualregatta.com/en/index_vendeeglobe2016.php

Vendée Globe: The eighth Vendée Globe, which began November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Twenty-nine skippers representing four continents and ten nations set sail on IMOCA 60s in pursuit of the record time set by François Gabart in the 2012-13 race of 78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes.

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Source: Virtual Regatta

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