Vendée Globe: Eighth in Eighth

Published on February 8th, 2017

(February 8, 2017; Day 95) – Hungarian solo skipper Nandor Fa brought his Spirit of Hungary across the finish line of the Vendée Globe at 10 hrs 54 m 09 secs UTC this morning to earn an excellent eighth place overall. Fa, at 63, completes this epic eighth edition of the legendary solo non stop round the world race 24 years after becoming the first ever non-French skipper to complete the Vendée Globe.

His elapsed time on Spirit of Hungary, which he designed himself, is 93 days 22 hrs, 52 mins, and 9 secs. He sailed 27,850 miles at an average speed of 12.35 knots. He enjoyed an emotional reunion with his wife Iren and two daughters Lilli, 24, and Anna, 34, both of whom were tiny when their father first returned triumphant.

Minutes after the line he said “It is over. I have done it. It was successful according to my rules, my hopes. This is such beautiful weather to finish, the gods are with me and the people, friends, family, who have come out to greet me, it is so overwhelming. I can’t find the right words. It was 92 days of fighting. Sometimes it felt endless. It was really long, really tough, all the time it was really wet.”

Questioned on the pontoon in the Port Olona marina, he smiled broadly: “You know this last moment now is the most important, to be here now. Everything that goes before is the past. It is history. It feels much, much shorter than the last time but it still feels really, really long and sometimes there were moments which seemed endless but equally there were weeks which just flew by, they were gone. All the way was cold, rainy, wet. I enjoyed some moments, especially talking to my family and friends, sending e-mails, I received a lot of messages which encouraged me and they really encouraged me. I needed them because sometimes it was really hard.”

Mental toughness was, he said, key, but there were touching human moments too: “I must not feel. I just do. If I started to live an emotional life it is endless. This is the trouble. I wanted to just finish the trip as fast as possible. I have to tell you that the second part of the race was not racing, it was just sailing a safe line. There was nobody around me. The nearest guy behind me was far away. The nearest guy in front of me was far away. I was sailing on the safe side. The race itself finished in the middle part of the Pacific. In fact after Stéphane Le Diraison lost the mast it was no longer a race for me. It was a nice, tough, trip which I loved. Now I need days, weeks, months to work out what happened. I did not want to leave this race with a feeling that there were things I would do later or another time. That was the way I went when it was cold, when it was dangerous, when I was almost flying away. When things happened and when you are really tired, mentally, physically, that was it, you have no power, mentally, physically, it is nature.”

He confirmed that last night, appropriately, he had broken his all time speed record for the boat, hours before finishing the Vendée Globe: “Since the middle of last night it has been good. Before that, the night before and the last day, I had a lot of wind and big waves. But last night I made my speed record, 28kts, I had flat water, the big sails were up and I had 26kts of wind and I had 50kts of gusts. I bore away and took off. I started to fly and I survived. Eighth place is far beyond my dreams. At the start I did not think about placings because this fleet is so strong. The boats are so prepared and good. I thought my place with my boat, my age it might have been 15th to 20th. My performance? I just wanted to be better than 100 days. That happened. Eighth is way beyond my imagination.”

But the finish line was the final full stop as far as his participation in the Vendée Globe is concerned: “I had great motivation to sail fast. Sometimes I was frustrated I am not fast enough. My new boat would be a flying machine. She is a boat, this one. The next one is a flying machine. It will never be built for me though. The time is gone. I am sorry about that. I don’t feel any energy to do it again right now. In four years time I will be 67. I am young in the way of thinking, I am fit but now I see what kind of energy, what kind of motivation second by second, day by day, that you really need and I know my time is gone. I don’t have it any more. The future is with my family. It will be difficult to forget.”

Asked about the comparisons with his 1992-3 race when he finished fifth, the first international skipper to finish the Vendée Globe, Fa said: “It was so different from the first one. Last time I was fighting the boat and the techniques. This time I was sailing, I can tell you I loved this boat, I am proud about the boat, about the rig, about the rigging. I had a few problems, with the electrics on the digital side. But we could fix them. I could really concentrate on the sailing, on the meteo tactics and I was doing a good race tactically, controlled all the time. I was running four or five routings a day. And then finally made my own decisions. Because the routing does not see the clouds, the seas, it does not have a perspective. It is digital something. I saw the routings and made my own choices and I feel like a made a nice race. My original purpose was to sail within 100 days. That is done. Sailing a correct, meteorologically correct race is done. I could see sailors who were faster and better than me. But now I am better. I am pleased about my mast and my boat.”

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And this one was tougher than he thought, or recalled. “It is winter conditions a lot of the time, cold and wet all the time, it is a winter race. Even at the end I had snow and hail showers these last few nights. I had 50kts of wind. It is a winter race with a lot of cold, a lot of frustration. You have to switch off as a human being and switch on as a machine. You have to leave behind a feeling race because sometimes it is so frightening and frustrating and you are tired and cold, if you let your feelings get to you, it is endless. In bad conditions, those that you cannot imagine, it feels endless. All together it is a very, very tough race. Sometimes I was thinking about the front runners making 30kts speeds and 22kts average and thought what is the difference between their boat and my boat, I made the same fight but I think my boat is slower.”

His one regret is that even though he loves his boat, he wishes he had designed it as a faster more aggressive machine: “I have to share with you that I was 62 when I designed this boat. By that I mean with all the people who helped when I say me, but I was thinking of a 62 year old man. I built a boat for that. I love my boat and she is fantastic. It is easily able to make less than 90 days. But I was sailing like I was 40 year old but I could not make the speeds. It was frustrating not to be able to do the speeds I wanted to do. In spite of that my speed record was 434 miles in a day. If I would do it again I would build a flying machine. I would like to do a faster boat. It is a race for machines with machines, it is not a human race. Sometimes you do switch the modes to human modes. I was in a good relationship with Kojiro (Shiraishi of Spirit of Yukoh) and when Koji lost his mast I told Koji I took the Spirit of Yukoh with me. Yukoh was a friend of mine. We had a similar personality. Koji was very important to me and so also with Stéphane Le Diraison. He was faster than me but sometimes I could get back at him by tactics and so when he lost the mast it was a bad moment for me.”

His darkest moment did not last long, his conclusion that in the end you must respect the sea an nature: “I always trusted my boat. Always. But once I lost control and was shouting, frustrated. I was out in the cockpit and screaming at God. I was shouting ‘Do What You Want, but I Will Go Home to my Family. Do What You Want….’ It was an interesting moment because one hour later I had cooled down and I thought ‘What a stupid guy I am. Why am I upset? This nature. This is what it is like here. In my mind I never once thought I would not come back. I always thought the finish line is there and I will get there. I am proud of my boat and my mast. I finished the race and I was able to concentrate on the race. I am proud of my race from a meteo point of view.”

And although he considers his Vendée Globe is over as a competitor he would still like to contribute his thoughts and experience in the future: “I spent so much time thinking about a new boat, drawings and points to memorise, and so I have a complete new boat in my head. I have a vision of how to do it and what to do. I would be very happy to build it for someone, but not for me. The Vendée Globe is forever a love for me. But the time is gone. I must be realistic. I must know the time is gone. In four years time it will not be me. I would love to sail one of these new machines like a machine. But it is not in my life now. It is not me anymore. My future is with my family and with my grandchildren. The Vendée Globe is a love. If anybody wants my help I am here. I don’t want a trophy for the oldest man in the Vendée Globe, that is not what it is about. In this Vendée Globe there were four skippers over 60. But I would say that if you are racing, not just travelling, doing the race, this is a professional race, I don’t have a place in this race anymore.”

After the arrival of Fa, there are now ten skippers left at sea. The next to finish should be Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme) and Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy). They are both facing tricky conditions off the Azores and have changed course to avoid the worst conditions associated with a new low. It is certainly not easy either for Alan Roura (La Fabrique) sailing upwind around 2430 miles from the finish in a boat designed for downwind sailing. At the rear of the fleet, Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is also aware of the need to be cautious in his final month at sea.

Current Ranking – Finished
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), Finished, 74d 03h 35m 46s (1/19/17)
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), Finished, 74d 19h 35m 15s (1/20/17)
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), Finished, 78d 06h 38m 40s (1/23/17)
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), Finished, 80d 01h 45m 45s (1/25/17)
5. Queguiner – Leucemie Espoir, Yann Elies, (FRA), Finished, 80d 03h 11m 09s (1/25/17)
6. Finistère Mer Vent, Jean Le Cam (FRA), Finished, 80d 06h 41m 54s (1/25/17)
7. Bureau Vallée, Louis Burton (FRA), Finished, 87d 21h 45m 49s (2/2/17)
8. Spirit of Hungary, Nándor Fa (HUN), Finished, 93d 22h 52m 09s (2/8/17)

Race detailsTrackerRankingFacebookVendeeGlobe TV

Background:
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.

For the first time in the history of the event, seven skippers will set sail on IMOCA 60s fitted with foils: six new boats (Banque Populaire VIII, Edmond de Rothschild, Hugo Boss, No Way Back, Safran, and StMichel-Virbac) and one older generation boat (Maitre Coq). The foils allow the boat to reduce displacement for speed gains in certain conditions. It will be a test to see if the gains can topple the traditional daggerboard configuration during the long and demanding race.

Retirements (11):
November 12, Day 7 – Tanguy de Lamotte, Initiatives Coeur, masthead crane failure
November 19, Day 14 – Bertrand de Broc, MACSF, UFO collision
November 22, Day 17 – Vincent Riou, PRB, UFO collision
November 24, Day 19 – Morgan Lagravière, Safran, UFO collision
December 4, Day 29 – Kojiro Shiraishi, Spirit of Yukoh, dismasted
December 6, Day 31 – Kito de Pavant, Bastide Otio, UFO collision
December 7, Day 32 – Sébastien Josse, Edmond de Rothschild, foil damage
December 18, Day 43 – Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord, UFO collision
December 24, Day 49 – Stéphane Le Diraison, Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt, dismasted
December 24, Day 49 – Paul Meilhat, SMA, keel ram failure
January 1, Day 57 – Enda O’Coineen, Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland, dismasted

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Source: Vendee Globe

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