Vendée Globe: An epic story in the works

Published on January 16th, 2021

While the 9th edition of the Vendée Globe lost some of its superstars, it is a very good story when older boats and lesser known talents are pushing the big budget efforts. That’s what Louis Burton is doing, just 2 nm off the lead on January 16 in his 2016 VPLP-Verdier designed BUREAU VALLEE 2. Who is this guy? Paulo Pernão of Interesting Sailboats provides the story:


If Burton wins the race a new legend will be born and he will be the man who on a Vendée made the biggest recovery ever, to the victory. Close in 2nd from the first, Charlie Dalin, and both are fighting a huge battle leaving all the other behind.

He was one of the good surprises of this race, not a favorite, never having won any significant solo race, neither in Mini nor in Class 40 or Figaro and his best result was a 7th place on the last Vendée, a remarkable place since he was racing an old boat.

This was his third Vendeé (abandoned early on his first one after being hit by a fishing boat) and that is remarkable for a 35-year-old sailor and maybe only possible because he married into a legendary sail family, the Escoffier family.

Louie Burton’s wife and Kevin Escoffier are cousins. For the ones who don’t remember Escoffier was the one that was racing in 3rd place when his boat broke in two and was rescued by Le Cam.

His wife, Servane Escoffier, is also a good solo sailor with many transats raced and a circumnavigation race. She learned from his father, Bob Escoffier, also a solo sailor with whom she made some races in duo. But her uncle Franck-Yves Escoffier (Kevin’s father) was an even bigger solo sailor.

Franck-Yves was a fishing sailor who became one of the best solo-sailors of his generation, having won many races including three Transat Jacques Vabre and Three Transat Route du Rhum, most of them on a Multi50 that became a legend, “Crêpes Whaou!”, a very beautiful trimaran, a boat that surely is remembered by many of you.

So, with a family like that he had something to prove. Well, not anymore after this race, where his performance was unexpectedly good, I would even say extraordinary. This time he is racing in a relatively competitive boat, not one of the new and fastest ones, but one of the best of the older generation, the one that has won the last Vendée Globe.

But having a good boat on this race and being a good sailor is not enough to be among the fastest. Look at Kojiro Shiraishi that with a new top boat and the experience of another Vendee Globe and the 2nd place on a less demanding IMOCA circumnavigation race, was never able to sail consistently among the 13 first and now, after some problems with his mainsail, is racing on the tail of this Vendée.

Due to the big number of fast boats on this race, with its small racing pedigree it was already good if Burton was able to race among the 10 first, especially, after having stopped for five hours, a penalty for jumping the start line, but after the Cape of Good Hope and on the Indian Ocean, racing near the exclusion line, where the winds were stronger and seas bigger, and for many days, he was 2nd, chasing Dalin that was sailing on a new and faster boat.

Contrary to him Dalin, a year older, is a racing champion with many victories and podium places on the minis, Figaro and IMOCA and one of the big favorites to the victory. All, me included, even if impressed with Burton’s performance, did not really think that he was able to beat Dalin or even Thomas Ruyant, also with a new boat and an impressive racing pedigree.

And even less when Burton started to have huge problems, first with a malfunctioning auto-pilot then with a damaged mainsail rail, forcing him to reef it on the 2nd reef and preventing the full use of the sail. That handicapped him seriously, he lost time trying to repair, unsuccessfully and was not able to recover to the head of the race.

He then sailed for many miles with the group of four that included Jean Le Cam and Boris Herrmann, but having difficulties in keeping the pace, and even that was only possible due to great navigation.

He stopped again for several hours trying to repair the mainsail mast rail and the fixation point of one of the forward sails but it proved to be impossible on the big waves of the southern ocean. Pissed with not being able to compete in speed with the others he decided to make way to a small desolate Island on the Southern Ocean (Macquarie), to look for shelter to do the needed repairs.

Due to the problems with the autopilot, he was not able to sleep and arrived there completely exhausted and needing to sleep some hours. He was planning to do the repairs in four hours but things proved to be much more complicated and he lost about 20 hours till he started making his way towards the finishing line.

At that time, the first, Yannick Bestaven, was 938 nm away and he didn’t even think he had a chance to overtake him again. But amazingly he did not lose motivation and happy with having again a fully functional boat, attacked relentlessly all the time and after 23 days he overtook Bestaven who in the meantime had been overtaken by Dalin. Now he is chasing again Dalin, that is now the first, winning every day some miles.

Dalin, who has now a foil that is not completely functional, but on a more modern boat, is putting a big fight, so big that they are leaving all behind, being for several days the two fastest on the 24 hours average, but Burton continues winning, little by little.

This incredible recovery will become part of the Vendée history but if Burton manages to win he will not enter the Vendée Legend only as a winner but as the one that has done that after more than a 900-mile recovery, after being penalized with 5 hours, for winning on a boat of an older generation and for starting it not as one of the favorites to the victory.

Race detailsBoat typesTrackerRankingYouTube

The Vendée Globe is the only sailing race round the world that’s solo, non-stop, and without assistance, and it was all systems go for the 9th edition on November 8. Beginning in 1989 with 13 entries, and held every four years, the start line in 2020 had 33 skippers taking off from Les Sables d’Olonne, France.

The development of the IMOCA Class toward foiling will see these boats hurl themselves around the world, teetering on carbon skates through inhospitable regions, chasing the record set in 2016-17 by Armel le Cléac’h of 74:03:35:46.

2020-21 Attrition
Nov. 16, 2020 – Nicolas TROUSSEL, CORUM L’EPARGNE – dismasted
Nov. 28, 2020 – Alex THOMSON, HUGO BOSS – rudder damage
Nov. 30, 2020 – Kevin ESCOFFIER, PRB – hull damage (sunk)
Dec. 4, 2020 – Sébastien SIMON, ARKEA PAPREC – foil damage
Dec. 5, 2020 – Sam DAVIES, Initiatives-Cœur – keel damage (collision)
Dec. 11, 2020 – Fabrice AMEDEO, NEWREST – ART & FENÊTRES – computer failure
Jan. 9, 2021 – Isabelle JOSCHKE, MACSF – keel ram failure

Participation history:
1989-90: 13 boats at the start
1992-93: 15 boats
1996-97: 15 boats
2000-01: 24 boats
2004-05: 20 boats
2008-2009: 30 boats
2012-2013: 20 boats
2016-2017: 29 boats
2020-2021: 33 boats

2020-21 Entries
Fabrice AMEDEO: NEWREST – ART & FENÊTRES
Romain ATTANASIO: PURE – BEST WESTERN
Alexia BARRIER: TSE – 4MYPLANET
Yannick BESTAVEN: MAÎTRE COQ IV
Jérémie BEYOU: CHARAL
Arnaud BOISSIÈRES: LA MIE CÂLINE – ARTISANS ARTIPÔLE
Louis BURTON: BUREAU VALLÉE 2
Didac COSTA: ONE PLANET ONE OCEAN
Manuel COUSIN: GROUPE SÉTIN
Clarisse CREMER: BANQUE POPULAIRE X
Charlie DALIN: APIVIA
Samantha DAVIES: INITIATIVES-CŒUR
Sébastien DESTREMAU: MERCI
Benjamin DUTREUX: OMIA – WATER FAMILY
Kevin ESCOFFIER: PRB
Clément GIRAUD: COMPAGNIE DU LIT / JILITI
Pip HARE: MEDALLIA
Boris HERRMANN: SEA EXPLORER – YACHT CLUB DE MONACO
Ari HUUSELA: STARK
Isabelle JOSCHKE: MACSF
Jean LE CAM: YES WE CAM !
Stéphane LE DIRAISON: TIME FOR OCEANS
Miranda MERRON: CAMPAGNE DE FRANCE
Giancarlo PEDOTE: PRYSMIAN GROUP
Alan ROURA: LA FABRIQUE
Thomas RUYANT: LINKEDOUT
Damien SEGUIN: GROUPE APICIL
Kojiro SHIRAISHI: DMG MORI
Sébastien SIMON: ARKEA – PAPREC
Maxime SOREL: V AND B – MAYENNE
Alex THOMSON: HUGO BOSS
Armel TRIPON: L’OCCITANE EN PROVENCE
Nicolas TROUSSEL: CORUM L’ÉPARGNE

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