Sam Davies Finishes the Vendée Globe Race Route – Sail+Leisure
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Sam Davies Finishes the Vendée Globe Race Route

by Ingrid Hale
Sam Davies finishes Vendeé Globe Race

Sam Davies is a formidable sailor and sportsman. After being forced to abandon her race on 5th December following a violent collision with a floating object south of Cape Town two days earlier, Sam sailed back into Les Sables d’Olonne this weekend. Thousands of well wishers turned out to pay tribute to her inspirational, courageous solo round-the-world passage.

Keeping her promise

When she was forced to abandon her race, her commitment to her charity, Initiatives Couer was her primary concern. How could she fulfil this promise to raise funds for the worthwhile charity without continuing the race? She made a bold decision to sail the route outside of the official rankings. On arrival in France she managed to scribe a giant heart shape on the tracking map made by the course sailed by Initiatives Coeur. The IMOCA 60 is sailed in the colours of the charitable organisation which raises money to facilitate heart surgery for youngsters from third world countries.

By continuing and completing the out-of-the race circumnavigation Davies maintained the huge public support for the Initiatives Coeur project. Her efforts have raised over €1.2m to fund over 100 surgeries.

A firm favourite

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 sudden impact threw her across the inside of her boat, injuring her ribs.

Davies dealt with the huge disappointment as best she could. Her perfectly planned and executed four year campaign was terminated in an instant. But 36 hours later, when speaking in the sunshine in the shadow of Cape Town’s Table Mountain – bravely wearing her typically broad smile – she pledged to return to sea and complete her solo voyage.

“In my head the race was dead I had stopping sailing. I had retired. I already could picture myself at home wearing my little dress ready to pick up our 9-year-old son, Ruben, from school and being back to making food at home.” She told the media in South Africa, “And then after 24 hours had passed aboard where I should have been saying to myself ‘I’m quitting, I’m retiring’…..well instead of that I changed my mind. I came to my senses.”

“It is obvious.” She continued then, “Finishing the course out of the race makes sense. Initiatives-Cœur is a solidarity project. And that’s what gives me the strength and the energy to start again.”

Getting the boat back on the water

After round the clock work by her technical team, and 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 December 14th. Watch our exclusive interview with Sam in Cape Town.

On leaving Cape Town she said, “It is a new adventure. I am not used to sailing solo like this. I am super happy to be able to re-start. The main objective is to continue for Initiatives Coeur that is my main motivation. We have had much help here and a lot of positive energy and support to send me on my way. I can see where the others are but that is not my objective to catch them, I am not putting myself under pressure to catch anyone.”

Sailing prudently to look after herself and her boat, Davies has profited from the new and different challenge, often saying she has remained motivated through the hard times by thinking of the work that the project does.

Catching up

When she returned to the south Indian Ocean she was more than 800 miles behind Sébastien Destremau and Ari Huusela, but was in close contact with French skipper Destremau by the Kerguelen Islands. At Cape Leeuwin she was 80 miles behind the Finnish skipper Huusela. She sailed most of the Pacific Ocean to Cape Horn close to Alexia Barrier and Huusela, rounding Cape Horn on 25th January.

While passing off the Brazilian coast Davies reconnected with her long time friend and rival Isabelle Joschke who also returned to the course like Davies outside of the rankings and rules . The Franco-German skipper had to abandon due to keel ram failures. The pair stayed in close and regular contact, enjoying the safety and solidarity pursuing the same goal together until they arrived back in Les Sables d’Olonne.

Back in the north Atlantic in the North Easterly trade winds Davies lost the forestay and the J2 headsail on the 11th February. Her quick thinking saving her rig. But her approach is compromised still further and she has to reduce speed at times.

Goal achieved

Davies achieved her own personal victory, completing her third round the world passage and getting over the Vendée Globe disappointment, which would doubtless have remained with her for years.

Before the start she said, “I have always promised myself that if there is one day that I get up and I don’t want to go sailing and I am complaining, grumbling and that I am doing it just to make money, I’ll stop and do something else. I love sailing so much, I really want it to always be a pleasure.”

Listen to this podcast with Sam – Podcast with a Pro.

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