British Vendee Globe skipper Sam Davies sailed back into Les Sables d’Olonne on Friday 26 Febuary 2021.
In beautiful spring sunshine thousands of well wishers turned out to line the quaysides of the famous Les Sables d’Olonne channel to pay tribute to an inspirational, courageous solo round the world passage fulfilling her pledge to complete the Vendée Globe route outside of the race rankings.
By continuing and completing the out-of-the race circumnavigation Davies maintained the huge public support for the Initiatives Coeur project, her efforts across the whole Vendée Globe circumnavigation project has raised over €1.2m to fund over 100 surgeries.
Considered by many race experts to have had the potential to finish on the podium, the hugely experienced 46 year old Davies was in great shape when she was forced to abandon.
On the night of 2nd December she was among the leading peloton sailing at over 20 knots when the collision occurred. The IMOCA 60 Initiatives Coeur was stopped instantly by the sudden impact which threw her across the inside of her boat, injuring her ribs.
“It was as if I had run aground on a rock at the time. The boatspeed went from 20kts to zero. The boat nosedived on the impact with the keel. I knew it was the keel. I heard a crack coming from there.”
“I and everything else flew forwards, including my dinner which has repainted the entire inside of my boat. Everything moved. I went flying into a ring frame, luckily, because that could have been worse. It was really violent. But luckily I have just hurt some ribs. It is not serious but really painful.”
“But I stopped the boat, dropped the main, and went to check around the keel, the bearings and the bulkhead. The bulkhead, the main bearing bulkheads (which support the keelbox) were intact as far as I could see. The keel bearings were intact. The longitudinal structure around the keelbox all cracked. That had taken the shock of the impact of when the boat moved, it is cracked on both sides.”
After round the clock work by her technical team, supported by a posse of local Cape Town ocean racers and boat builders who worked tirelessly to effect the necessary repairs, Davies was back on the water on 14 December 2020.
While passing off the Brasilian coast Davies reconnected with her long time friend and rival Isabelle Joschke who was also returning the course – like Davies outside of the rankings and rules – after the Franco-German skipper had to abandon due to keel ram failures. The pair stay in close and regular contact, enjoying the safety and solidarity pursuing the same goal together until they arrived back in Les Sables d’Olonne.
Like Joschke yesterday, Davies returns to Les Sables d’Olonne, having achieved her own personal victory, completing her third round the world passage and for sure laying to rest some of the ghosts of a Vendée Globe disappointment which would doubtless have remained with her for years.
And as a sailor who still loves being afloat as much as she every did, she will have profited from her experience.