The Vendée Globe winner opens up about the problems he encountered


It was almost safe in the bag last week when Michel Desjoyeaux decided to come clean about some of the problems he’d had during the Vendée Globe. All along, he hinted that he’d had his fair share of troubles, but wouldn’t say what.

That tight-lipped approach is part of Desjoyeaux’s philosophy. “It’s the typical Port La Forêt way of thinking, that if you show weakness it will make your rivals stronger, that you shouldn’t show others that they could beat you,” says Swiss sailor Dominique Wavre, not entirely approvingly.

Desjoyeaux himself admits that openness is an unnecessary concession. Asked why he had concealed a potentially terminal rudder breakage from Christmas Day until last Monday he said wryly: “When I was going slowly nobody asked me why I’d slowed down so I decided I didn’t need to volunteer the information.”

Since arriving back after winning the race, however, his log books have been opened up. As if to prove the point that Mich Desj didn’t suffer from any kind of supernatural good fortune, his team have listed the problems, breakages and failures he suffered. They make interesting reading.

However, at his press conference today he stated that few of the problems had come from pushing too hard. “All of the problems, the rudder and bowsprit have nothing to do with the way I was sailing. These boats are tougher than a lot of people think.  They should see what we put them through, as that would shut them up.”

But he added: “Every day on the Vendée Globe something goes wrong, whether big or small.”

In the photo above by Thierry Martinez of an emotional Desjoyeaux at the finish you can see part of his bowsprit repairs. Here is the list of problems that he contained or overcame, in chronological order:

?Ballast tank cover leaked, leading to problems with engine electrics (forced to return to repair)
? Radar and Active Echo broke
? Plate from gennaker block fell off, forcing him to use spare halyard
? Potentiometer of autopilot sensor required adjustment
? Problems with keel ram pressure
? Problems with autopilot
? ‘Pig’s nose’ fitting for spinnaker and gennaker at end of bowsprit broken
? Starboard primary winch stuck in second gear
? Heavy spinnaker trawls in water as it is being hoisted and tears. Has to sew 18m repair
? Starboard daggerboard gate breaks
? Keel ram gaiter pierced. Clamp collar put on
? Starboard keel barrel ripped out. Keel box starts to gurgle
? Leak from staysail hydraulic stay tensioner. Leak found in second foremost compartment
? Three port stanchions flattened while surfing at 28 knots
? Bowsprit cracked. Bobstay stop pin slipped and bobstay comes loose. Bowsprit is laminated and repaired 11 days later
? Starboard stanchions fold while surfing
? Cockpit hood breaks end stops as boat buries in a wave. Problems with watertightness
? Lifting mechanism on head of port rudder damaged (noted as human error!)
? Forward section of vang pulls out
? Oil leak in hydraulic panel of ORC jib stay tensioner
? Hydro generator flew off the back. Recovered by cable but emptied its oil into the cockpit
? Gyro compass flooded
? Keel box leak. 5cm leak at the top of the keel box
? Top mainsail batten broken
? Keel release fails
? Forward engine mount broken to port
? Lifting mechanism on port rudder repaired with carbon pump hose and some stanchion sections. Rudder will still kick up if it hits anything
? Bowsprit cracks again. Repaired 6 days later
? Retaining bracket of watermaker delaminating. Repaired
? Leading edge of starboard daggerboard crushed
? External supply from reaching ballast tanks cut to fix water pump in aft section
? Half top taken off port daggerboard gate
? Side of forward ballast tank bucked to 45°
? Fleet 77 satcom problem
? Port keyboard repaired and soldered
? Repaired crack on side of forward ballast tank
? Reassembled joints on hydraulic pressure gauges using watermaker part
? Cable pipe from mast foot ripped out during mast rotation
? Crack at foot of cockpit bulkhead along side of starboard ballast tank
? Repaired bowsprit bobstay
? Changed 2 elements on port battery
? Restitched sheath of solent furling line