Victory and Sportsmanship in Vendée Globe: Yannick Bestaven
After sacrificing his own chances for victory to help a competitor with a sunken boat, Yannick made an incredible comeback to win the Vendée Globe!
80 days, 13hours, 59 min, and 46 seconds at sea. After circumnavigating the world solo, non-stop, and without support, French sailor Yannick Bestaven has won the 9th Vendée Globe in the closest finish in the race’s history. The skipper of the racing yacht Maitre Coq was the 3rd in line honor, but he ended victorious due to a 10 hour and 15-minute compensation for the time he spent in the rescue of a fellow competitor, Kevin Escoffier.
12 years after his first attempt and after a roller coaster of a race, Yannick achieved a childhood dream: winning the Everest of sailing and writing his name in the books of sailing history. The Vendée Globe is the only solo around-the-world sailing race. The non-stop race occurs without assistance on 60-feet IMOCA boats. This edition of the race has been especially tough, and Yannick and the other competitors faced all kinds of tricky conditions as they circumnavigated the globe.
A Dramatic Rescue
Anticipating the long journey, Yannick Bestaven started the race at a steady pace, never leaving the forefront. Then, after 22 days at sea, a life-and-death drama suddenly unfolded close by.
It all happened very quickly. The sea rescue coordination center, CROSS Griz Nez, received a distress signal: “I need assistance. I am sinking. This is not a joke.” In four seconds, PRB had nosedived. The bow folded to 90 degrees, the boat had folded in two. The skipper, Kevin Escoffier, managed to get his neoprene survival suit, life raft, and distress beacon.
Jean Le Cam, Skipper of Yes We Cam, was closest to the distress signal, so he was the first to answer the call. After locating Escoffier, he vowed to return to pull him on board. To his dismay, Le Cam then lost sight of Escoffier’s lifeboat and could not find him after five times circling back. Nightfall overcame them and all boats in the area were redirected in an attempt to locate Escoffier’s lifeboat.
Yannick was one of the competitors who stopped racing in an attempt to rescue Escoffier, searching the raging sea to find him. Finally, it was Jean Le Cam who spotted the small light on Escoffier’s lifeboat and pulled him on board after 11 hours in open waters.
After Escoffier was safely recovered, Yannick and the others involved in the search and rescue operation could continue the Vendée Globe, several hours behind their original schedule.
The Race Goes On
Shortly after the rescue, Yannick picked up the pace in the Southern Oceans, passing Australia’s Cape Leeuwin in third place and then in the Pacific, emerging first at Cape Horn. After a margin-building South Atlantic, his advance evaporated around Rio in a few frustrating days. However, Yannick never lost trust in his chances of victory, making a smart and key move choosing to head north on the Bay of Biscay and finding a direct track into Les Sables d’Olonne.
When asked about the key to his success, Yannick answered, “My main strength? Stubbornness. My main flaw? Stubbornness.” He then added, “I also am very resilient.”
From La Rochelle (on the west coast of France), Yannick is an engineer as well as a professional skipper. He has been ocean racing for over 20 years in many boat classes – starting in the Mini 6.50 Class, then in Class 40 where he won the Transat Jacques Vabre… twice! He finally made it to the queen category, and from there he went on to conquer the Everest of the Seas, becoming the champion of Vendée Globe.
Yannick has been wearing Helly Hansen for years, already winning a Transat Jacques Vabre in Helly Hansen with fellow ambassador, Aurélien Ducroz. Donning Aegir Offshore gear in the Vendée Globe, he trusted his Ægir Ocean Smock Top to face the raging oceans.
Congratulations, Yannick! You’re an inspiration to us all, and we are proud you chose Helly Hansen to protect and accompany you along your journey.