LIMON – As night fell on this Caribbean port city, hundreds of residents and members of the boating world gathered along the narrow concrete strip of Pier 70 to welcome the first finisher of the Jacques Vabre Trans-Atlantic boat race.
As the lights of the Crêpes Whaou! boat neared the pier around 10:45 p.m., fireworks illuminated the sky and a chorus of carnival drums, cheers and flashing cameras welcomed the two-man French team to Costa Rica. It was quite a warm welcome for the crew, who over the course of 15-and-a-half days traveled 5,805 miles since leaving from the southern French port of Le Havre on Nov. 8.
“The arrival here has been an extraordinary reception,” said co-captain Franck Yves Escoffier. “We have seen some great welcomes, but here in Puerto Limón between the fireworks and the whole world out to greet us on the dock, it was a great moment.”
The Crêpes Whaou! team easily won the Multi50 competition against the other three remaining multi-hull boats, which still are days away from completing the race. The Multi50 vessels are sailboats of a non-traditional body style, with the mast and sail on the central hull and with smaller hulls on either side.
Four hours later, at around 3 a.m., Safran, the first of the single-hull Imoca Class boats to finish the regatta, successfully traversed the murky waters of the Caribbean and cruised into Limón. Exhausted from nearly 16 days at sea, co-captain Marc Guillemot discussed the rigors of sailing the Atlantic.
“It was the most difficult race of my career,” Guillemot said. “There were several difficult moments, in particular on the passage past Guadeloupe, off Marie Galante. We tore a spinnaker that really was a superb sail. We were quite anxious for the rest of the race because it was the one key sail we would have used in the Caribbean.”
The Safron crew held off their closest competitor, Groupe Bel, which arrived in Limón almost nine hours later.
See the Nov. 27 print or digital edition of The Tico Times for more on this story.