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Wavre begins home stretch

Wavre records the moment when his boat passes Cape Horn

(Keystone)

After beginning the final stage of the Vendee Globe round-the-world yacht race, Swiss sailor Dominique Wavre has told swissinfo that this will almost certainly be his one and only attempt at one of the world's most gruelling challenges.

"I can't say for sure, but I hope this will be my only Vendee Globe race," he told swissinfo from the cabin of his boat. "You have to be a little bit crazy to compete in this race, and I'm hoping to be a little bit less crazy when I finish."

Wavre still has some 7,000 nautical miles to navigate before reaching his goal in the French port of Les Sables. After passing Cape Horn on Monday, the 45-year-old Genevan has now passed the Falkland Islands and is heading out further into the Atlantic.

Currently in sixth place, Wavre told swissinfo that he had all but given up on his chances of winning the race, although he pointed out that anything can happen in long-distance sailing events.

France's Michel Desjoyeaux appears to be heading for victory after opening up a lead of more than 300 nautical miles over his nearest rival. A win for Desjoyeaux would maintain France's uninterrupted hold on the title, but Wavre insisted that nationalism had never played a part in his own race plan.

"Whether the winner is French or not is not important to me," he said. "It's important to me that I am Swiss and I would like to set an example wherever I go in the world. But whoever wins, whether they're French, English or American, they will have to be a good sailor and a lucky one."

Just finishing the Vendee Globe race is a testament to each competitor's resolve and courage. The race does not allow the entrants to pull into land, receive any medical assistance or external help in repairing their boats.

Life on board the yachts is also far from luxurious. Wavre has spent the last 10 weeks eating rehydrated food, drinking desalinated seawater and washing only when the weather allows him to venture outside with a flannel.

Sleep is also a rare indulgence on the boat. With sails, winds, waves and weather patterns in need of constant monitoring, Wavre is only able to doze in 20-minute spells.

"I would like to be on land right now," he admitted, "in a good restaurant with a nice French meal. What I miss most is my girlfriend, Michelle, but I would also love a good shower and a nice fresh salad."

Wavre's modest desires should be fulfilled within the next 30 days or so when his remarkable journey is due to come to an end.

by Mark Ledsom


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