Didac Costa, 20th in the Vendée Globe: a Spanish skipper with an international reputation

Day 98
Next skipper to finish should be Clement Giraud Tuesday Morning

Didac Costa, 20th in the Vendée Globe: a Spanish skipper with an international reputation

KEY POINTS:

  • 4 skippers still in the race, 2 deserving women about to complete their round the world tour
  • Very harsh conditions approaching the Bay of Biscay
  • The latest ETA (estimated arrival times)
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He may be relatively small in stature, quiet and reserved in nature but the Catalan fire-fighter Didac Costa once more captured the hearts and minds of the Les Sables d’Olonne public and ocean racing fans when they watched his return back to the Vendée Globe race dock today after taking 20th place on his second consecutive Vendée Globe, his third back to back non stop round the world race.

When he had to return back to the start less than an hour into his race in November 2016, his counterparts from the local Les Sables d’Olonne fire service looked after him like he was one of their own, ensuring his generator was repaired as quickly as possible and sending him on his way four days after the fleet had left.

Their pride in Costa’s second race was obvious today as the firefighters  laid on an impressive spectacle of flares, smoke bombs and waterjets and led a rousing reception in his press conference for the 40 year old who returns to his own full time job on Friday and will have to do the return delivery back to Barcelona in stages because he has no holliday allocation left.

Costa, who admitted to have taken two right foot sea-boots on his race, chuckled to himself….

“I have had the best holiday, now I have to return to work!”

On any successiveVendée Globe the target is always to go faster and better than last time. And this time Costa at 97 days and 6hrs he was 11 days 13 hours quicker than when he finished 14th in 2016-17, but almost as important he had successfully paced himself against the 94d 4hrs record of his boat when it was sailed in 2000-2001 as Kingfisher by Elle MacArthur until a final 1000 miles détour round the Azores high saw that target slip.

“I have never stopped learning and surpassing myself, every day.” Costa said looking tired, slightly bemused, his body still constantly twitching involuntarily, reacting spontaneously to his brain’s imagined movements of the media platform. His eyes twinkling, he recalled the southern oceans with the quiet delight of having brought himself and his famous boat back unscathed.

“With each turn I was measuring myself against Ellen MacArthur’s times, and for the most part I managed to do the same times as her. It was really my reference. I had to take a big detour in the North Atlantic which slowed me down a lot compared to the time it had been in, but otherwise I managed to keep up the pace the entire course. The other reference was Pip Hare she has got a boat from the same generation, I was trying to stay as fast as her.”

Difficult conditions at sea
There are six IMOCAs still in the North Atlantic including four still racing, Isabelle Joschke and Sam Davies are fighting to complete their circumnavigations after their retirement. Reached this morning, Manu Cousin (Groupe SETIN) is particularly focused, studying the succession of big depressions in the Bay of Biscay:

“Since this morning I have been watching the weather forecast to see how I will be able to pass them and get into Les Sables d’Olonne. I’m not sure how to go about getting past this area early next week. I still have to work on it. Especially with my injured boat, I don’t want to risk going into such strong conditions because the files predict 50 knots. I have to remain very safew to be sure to finish.”

That is the same outlook for Clément Giraud who is expected to fnish Tuesday morning and who has been working tirelessly in very unstable winds, constantly trimming and looking after his boat.. The last skippers still at sea are equally worthy of admiration for their tenacity, and their determination to cross the finish line.

Next ETA (estimated arrival times)
Tuesday February 16 between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
– Clément GIRAUD (Compagnie du Lit / Jiliti)
Night from Wednesday 17 to Thursday 18 February
– Miranda MERRON (Campaign of France)
Friday February 19
– Manu COUSIN (SETIN Group)
Tuesday, February 23rd
– Sam DAVIES (Initiatives-Coeur, non-race)
– Isabelle JOSCHKE (MACSF, out of the race)
Friday February 26
– Alexia BARRIER (TSE – 4myplanet)
Saturday February 27 – Sunday February 28
– Ari HUUSELA (STARK)

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Didac Costa’s Press Conference Highlights:

How did you feel with the firefighters welcoming you back to the Channel?
It was extraordinary. There were not so many people in the Channel as the last edition but to see people out there being happy for you and happy for what you have done, even when you have done it twice it is surprising. This time it was really moving and incredible.

How did you live this one compared to four years ago?
The course is the same. The last time I had very old sails that broke and I had the boat better prepared with new sails and so it was much more different in terms of sailing. I could push hard and I could really enjoy the course and the beauty of the landscape and to enjoy the extraordinary thing that is the Vendée Globe.

Four memories, descent of Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Pacific and then going back up the Atlantic?
The descent of the Atlantic I remember very good first days but it was difficult to get accustomed to the boat and I remember the first front. The Indian I remember being side by side with Pip and trying to stick with her, I was close to her. The Pacific the last ten days were really difficult with big conditions with swell and wind. And for the climb up the Atlantic it was mostly the north Atlantic which was difficult getting round the Azores anticyclone and having to spend more time that expected and so that was starting to be a little bit complicated for me.

The Southern Oceans you now know very well, was there a highlight moment in the big South?
It is almost impossible to choose because Cape Horn is very emotional but the Southern Oceans give you such a special image when the boat is going fast and the conditions are good. The most magical thing is that the whole course feels wild and in the south that really intensifies I had so many magical moments. And in the end rounding Cape Horn is very intense.

You made a courageous choice in removing the daggerboards, how did that affect your performance?
It was a good choice to take out the daggerboard. I was able to really test this going down the Atlantic after the Equator and going back up, during a few days when I could monitor my performance alongside other boats it was good. When I was upwind in the Indian Ocean for a short time one and a half days I would have not used my daggerboards that much anyway.

You are now the best solo ocean racer in Spain, an iconic sailor how does that make you feel?
You just cannot compare things because it is so difficult in Spain for skippers to do the Vendée Globe and so I am lucky to have had the support of so many people and the team to be able to do two Vendée Globes and it is not obvious for many skippers to be able to try to get the budget to do the Vendée Globe. Even me with my limited budget it was difficult. There is a lot of good talent in Spain but you cannot compare us, a lot don’t have the assets to do this type of race. So I am very happy but it is very difficult and I am sad that many more Spanish skippers cannot participate.

So it appears you did the whole round the world race with two right foot boots?
That is true. I had two pairs, one better suited to the cold but when I packed I took two right boots and did try to put them both on together on several occasions but it was not comfortable

Will you come back with the same boat?
It is difficult to know. Of course I have been thinking about it all the time but if I do it will need to be with another boat because the class rules evolve and it I have to be ready for the next one and that would be with a newer, different boat.

What did you learn?
I learned a lot. It is so intense you are learning every day, you are learning 24 hours a day, learning about the boat, how to sail it and the meteo forecasting.

Would you like a boat with foils?
It is complicated to get the means to do this and at the moment it is not the right time to talk about it.


 

 

 
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17:00
21. Clément Giraud – [Compagnie du Lit / Jiliti ] —> 547.77 nm from the finish
22. Miranda Merron – [ CAMPAGNE DE FRANCE ] —> 380.88 nm from the leader
23. Manuel Cousin – [ GROUPE SÉTIN ] —> 785.79 nm from the leader
24. Alexia Barrier – [ TSE – 4MYPLANET ] —> 2,224.67 nm from the leader
25. Ari Huusela – [ Stark ] —> 2,330.06 nm from the leader

 

> See the ranking in full