Following his retirement from the Vendee Globe after he had to accept outside assistance at Cape Horn (when he was forced to take on fuel), Bernard Stamm and his IMOCA 60 Cheminées Poujoulat have nonetheless continued to sail the course and arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne on Wednesday night at 21:30:50 UTC.
Bernard Stamm’s race has been a big emotional roller-coaster. On his powerful latest generation IMOCA Open 60, the only Juan K-design in the fleet, the Swiss sailor began the race with a bang, with one of the best starts in the fleet on November 10 at 1302hrs local time, taking him to the leading position in the very first ranking of this seventh Vendée Globe. He had an amazing race until New-Zealand, never leaving the Top 5 and even leading the race for 15 hours, on December 7, when he sailed through the Crozet gate in the Indian Ocean.
From early on in the Vendee Globe Stamm faced technical issues aboard his powerful Juan K designed Cheminees Poujoulat. His hydrogenerator mountings started showing signs of wear and tear off the Portuguese coast and eventually broke. That problem became the source of all his other issues to come. As he was counting on that alternative source of energy to produce the electricity needed for the autopilot and the navigation system, Stamm had taken a limited amount of fuel with him.
After several attempts to repair at sea, he resigned himself to stopping. In effect he stopped first overall 23-24 December in the Auckland Islands, to the south of New Zealand and then when bad weather was forecast moved north to Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island where he was anchored over 26-28 December. During his first stop, Bernard Stamm moored next to a Russian scientific boat to avoid drifting and was therefore disqualified by the international jury. The case was reopened but in the meantime, the Cheminées Poujoulat skipper’s hydrogenerator repairs broke again and he decided to stop once more after rounding Cape Horn to take on extra diesel. The precious fuel was provided by his friend, Basque IMOCA 60 and former Vendee Globe and Velux 5 Oceans competitor Unaï Basurko, but constituted outside assistance and he was therefore disqualified. Nonetheless he decided to continue his journey and complete his solo circumnavigation.
On whether he deserved to be disqualified: "I can’t see how I could have done things differently. If the Russian boat hadn’t been around, I wouldn’t have moored to it, obviously, but I would have been disqualified anyway because I would have wanted to save my boat anyway. You’re in a place you don’t know, you are anchored but you feel the boat drifting, you have to do something. I lost a boat in 2008 in similar circumstances. I think I did what I had to do, that’s it."
On François Gabart: "I would have loved to see him at the finish, but I know he’s busy. I like him a lot, we’ve worked together throughout our preparations. He invited me on board MACIF, but he didn't let me go inside! His performance is amazing, during the training sessions we could see he was very comfortable with this boat. It’s like he was having a nice and quiet drive to the supermarket while we were still trying to figure out how the engine worked. Keeping that intense rhythm throughout the race with Armel chasing him is definitely something, a great performance."
On whether he is feeling proud: "I’m very happy I sailed Cheminées Poujoulat around the world, that’s a huge satisfaction. Circumnavigations are long and complicated. It is something great to achieve. You have no idea how long the race can feel. Sailing up the Atlantic takes forever, you feel like you’re travelling through several different worlds. So I’m proud I went through that and came back."
On his future projects: "Cheminées Poujoulat and I have a project that runs until the Jacques Vabre Transat, so we don’t have to ask ourselves questions or make tough decisions right before or right after the Vendée Globe. It’s way too early to say if I will be in the next Vendée Globe. It’s such a demanding race project in terms of money and energy. The boat was a teenager when I left, and now she’s become an adult, so I don’t want to leave her in the hands of someone else now."