Parlier Arrives

Peter Rusch reports as Yves Parlier finishes into Les Sables

Friday March 16th 2001, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: United Kingdom
When Yves Parlier crossed the finishing line for the Vendée Globe at 14:47 GMT he completed one of the most remarkable yachting stories in memory. Parlier's finishing time of 126 days 23 hours and 36 minutes is destined to become just a footnote, whilst his accomplishments in an anchorage off the South Island of New Zealand become a treasured part of nautical lore.
A measure of the respect being accorded to Parlier can be seen by the level of activity buzzing up in Les Sables d'Olonne leading up the finish. Many of the other skippers, including Ellen MacArthur, are expected back tonight as they file in to pay tribute to Parlier.

For most of the week, Les Sables resembled a ghost town - the majority of the race village had been dismantled and the race office staff pared to a minimum. But on Wednesday, people began to filter in again, and Thursday saw trucks full of beer and wine being unloaded for the expected masses.

On Friday morning Parlier had just 40 miles to sail, setting up the mid-afternoon finish. But he will have to wait until high tide, about 1700 local, before he can enter the harbour.

The first helicopter pictures of Parlier were streamed into the media centre by midday, and the beaming skipper was photographed leaning on his incredible jury-rig, as Aquitaine Innovations cut through the chop at nine knots under "full sail."

Parlier has lost the "cast-away" look, seemingly intent on arriving clean-shaven and ship-shape for what will undoubtedly be endless media obligations. He will be a busy man over the next week or so, as his tenacity and heart have touched a nerve in France and beyond.

"I think we will see the same type of reception here tonight as what Mich (Desjoyeaux) and Ellen got," race director Philippe Jeantot said this morning. "What Yves has done is bigger than the race and personally, it means a lot to me. For me, he has reached back to the first Vendée Globe, to the original spirit of the race, which was adventure. Each time, the Vendée Globe becomes more of a 'regatta'-style race, but Yves has shown that there is still room for the adventurer."

It's not just what Parlier has done, but the spirit and flair with which he did it, that has appealed to the French. Since the pictures from his amazing week in New Zealand became a feature in Paris Match in January (check out our own photo-story in the feature section), Parlier has become the talking point for the Vendée Globe.

"Each of the skippers contributes a chapter or two to the story of the Vendée Globe," Catherine Chabaud explained earlier this week. "But Yves really has written the best part this time. First, he was leading the race, and setting the pace for nearly the entire descent south. Then, since the dismasting...incredible. He's always been E.T. (his nickname, the extra-terrestrial) but this is extreme E.T. Unbelievable, really."

By lunchtime, people were pouring into the makeshift race village in Les Sables, and in the press centre, the arguments had started over access to the media boat. By nightfall, tens of thousands are expected to be lining the sea wall and inner harbour to pay tribute to a man who has transcended his sport to become a folk hero.

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