After a difficult last week Marc Thiercelin arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne at lunchtime on Tuesday.

Marc Thiercelin, sailing Active Wear, near sister ship to Mike Golding’s Team Group 4, finished the Vendee Globe in 4th position at 1249 on 20 February, 103 days after the start and still two days faster than the 1997 record, set by Christophe Auguin.

Thiercelin, who was with the leading pack for much of the race was at one point only a few miles behind the race leaders. He stayed in close contention with third placed Roland Jourdain until the pair started sailing to windward and then slowed in the Azores High.

Whilst Desjoyeaux and MacArthur hitched a ride from a low pressure system which rushed them across Biscay to finish days ahead of ‘Bilou’, he had to wait for a second weather system before the home lap, during which he established a new solo 24 hour record.

Thiercelin, meanwhile, was hampered in his ability to sail to weather by a genoa that would not reef so he had to sail inefficiently under full genoa and reefed main. He also took a flier by trying to skirt the Azores High to the west, hoping to pick up strong westerlies.

Unfortunately instead of low pressure, a large stationary High established over northern Europe producing exactly the conditions that favoured him least. At one point he was closer to Cornwall than to Les Sables before tacking back across Biscay close to the Spanish coast. Finally he crept home, relieved to have finished at last.

“I always bring the sunshine with me, it was exactly the same 4 years ago! This time though was much harder, happily there were some great moments, it’s been a fantastic race.

“It remains a great adventure. More an inner voyage than one with the elements this time, in fact. I will never forget the Doldrums and the North Atlantic. I really want to get back to the Southern Ocean, it was just incredible. The last Vendée Globe was more physical, this one much more tactical. All three of my circumnavigations have been totally different. It was my dream to arrive without any other raceboats on the pontoon but it didn’t happen, and I accept that.

“Just for the public, this race is worth the trip. It is unique in its concept. It’ll take me a few months to absorb it all. Since the Azores, I just haven’t understood what has happened to me. When Nature decides to play games she can cheat. I was afraid I’d have to stay out there for ages. But I’m happy to be here.

“The rookies got to the podium, good on them. It’s one heck of a race, and I’ll try to recount it all bit by bit. The last stage was interminable. Whatever direction I headed in, the wind was always on the nose. My first circumnavigation was idyllic, just pure fun. I have lasting impressions from it still. The second was very tough. The third testing, tactical. The guys ahead got all the breaks, but not those behind.”