At 14:35:50 GMT today Boissières, skipper of Akena Vérandas, crossed the Vendee Globe finish line in seventh place after 105 days 02 hours 33 minutes and 50 seconds of racing averaging 11.04 knots on the water covering 27,841 miles.
After two and a half years of chemotherapy, Arnaud Boissières decided to earn his living from his passion for the sea. Cali, as he is known, raced in the 1999 Mini Transat when terrible conditions decimated the fleet. His boat was dismasted, but he completed the race after a pit stop in France. He raced twice subsequently, finishing third in 2001. He also worked as a shore crew for Yves Parlier and Catherine Chabaud and sailed with Olivier de Kersauson during the Oryx Quest.
Today, 20 years after the first Vendée Globe, his life has come full circle back to Les Sables d¹Olonne, where today Boissières was welcomed by tens of thousands of spectators, as was the case for the six competitors, who finished before him.
After a long struggle with Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson, Boissières' eight year old Akena Vérandas, the former Sodebo and VMI got left behind by the newer boats in the South Atlantic, handicapped by a torn solent. After tackling a final North Atlantic low on 6 February, Cali completed his Vendée Globe in light airs in the Bay of Biscay.
“My boat was extraordinary," he commented on his arrival. "She already came sixth and fifth and now seventh, so I owe her a lot. It's a bit like Roxy coming first, first and fourth. It is the designers, who came up with these great boats, and I just try to drive it as best I can. I tried not to break anything as I would have been told off afterwards. The first to come out to me this morning was Dee Caffari, which was great as we did a lot of the race together and we often communicated with each other. These English sailors are extraordinary and I had a good relationship with Dee in particular. When you see all the people here, you start to wonder if you haven't done something extraordinary. I don't believe I've done anything out of the ordinary. I just sailed her as well as I could.
“ Of course, I didn't expect such a welcome. There were crowds for Michel, Armel and Marc, so maybe people said it would be unfair if there weren't crowds out for me. When I entered this harbour two and a half years ago, it already felt like I was in the Vendée Globe.
“I was told to finish today because the bar closes tonight. It was a great welcome. I'm from Arcachon, where you can find some fabulous oysters, but in Les Sables the atmosphere is special. I was adopted by the locals and the boat is from Vendée. I'll have to set up a twinning between Arcachon and here.
“I had time to get ready for this finish A couple of days ago I had fishermen on the VHF asking about how I was. I have great respect for them and I found that really touching.
“ I was down at Cape Horn just ahead of Aviva. I turned left. I was warned that it was not easy after the Horn. But Aviva and Pindar really sail quickly and I had a tough time with the fishermen off Brazil and the oil rigs. I called up my project manager who told me it was normal that I was left behind and to head for the coast of Brazil, where it is nice and warm. On the radio sessions, I could only repeat the same thing every time – fishermen, oil rigs, no wind…
“ I didn't have any wine left. It was taking so long. I never asked myself why I was there. I'm wondering what I'm doing here though! From 23.30 tonight I can start giving my estimate for installing a veranda… But by 00.15 I'll be in bed.
“ When you see people like Mich and Vincent Riou and Peyron in the race, you think you don't have much chance – maybe 10th or 15th if you're lucky, but finishing was really the goal, so finishing seventh is great. After 105 days alone, you necessarily change somewhere inside. Your family, partner and team are also transformed. Of course, there were some hard times. Gusts at 85 knots. I call up Denis Horeau, the Race Director, and he tells me they're looking at the weather for the three of us at the Horn. So the race was suspended. I've known Brian for some time and now I know Dee well, so it was nice to be with them and it all went well.
“ Off Tierra del Fuego, you have violent gusts. You see the snow-capped mountains and as you approach the Horn, you tell yourself you have to merit the Horn. When you're in the storm, you don't have time to worry. You get ready for it and get your food and water and survival gear together and just wait. You can't sleep or rest as you wonder how bad it will be. After you have a great story to tell and you feel like you have accomplished something. Brian told me to get close to the Horn to see what it looked like. I did the English Vendée Globe. I knew Brian from the Mini days and Sam and as I said before, Dee is extraordinary.
“This wasn't a challenge going back to my past. I got over my problems with support of those around me. I don't see it as revenge for those trying times. I'm just lucky to earn my living from my passion. I'm someone who is privileged. Thanks to people like Jean-Philippe Chomette.
"The future? I'm already thinking of setting out again and starting a new four year campaign to develop a boat and team.
“ The team? This is vital. You need to get on with them. We're only a small team with a group of friends, who come and help. To begin with, I owe everything to my parents, my sisters, who have always supported me. There aren't words to describe the family. You need that solid support on land. My Dad told me not to say anything stupid when talking in a crowd.
“ The boat was perfect for my size as Jojo wasn't very tall either. I'm not a gladiator, but I train and keep fit.
“Following my leukaemia at the age of 17, I underwent treatment for 18 months. When I began this project with Jean-Philippe Chomette and Christophe Chabot, I met Christine Janin, who was the first Frenchwomen to climb Everest. She welcomes sick kids to the Alps. When I did the Round the Island race, we said there was a parallel between the sea and mountains, so we did a partnership with that charity. It seemed natural. There was no calculation in choosing that charity.
“ I'm looking forward to fresh fish and fresh vegetables and a gin and tonic with more gin than tonic.”
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