It represents an average speed of 21.1 knots, an awesome, incredible, number. Some context. Gabart's 545 is within shouting distance of the outright, fully-crewed, monohull record of 596 miles, set by Ericsson in a VO70 in 2008. And it surpasses Francois Joyon's 2005 242-mile solo multihull record of 2005. At this point in the Vendee, Gabart is averaging 14.9 knots, which is almost 2 knots faster than Michel Desjoyeaux managed when he won the last Vendee.
Okay, so what does it all mean? Brian Hancock, a Volvo Ocean race veteran (and current SpeedDream-er),
goes so far as to predict that Gabart, and the pace the Vendee solo sailors are putting up, could kill the Volvo Ocean Race:
How does this relate to the VOR? Quite simple. In order to be the best you have to innovate, you have to reinvent, and you must never retreat. I understand some of the reasons behind the VOR opting for a smaller One Design boat for their future events, but I view it as the death knell for the race. How do you promote your event as Life at the Extreme, the absolute pinnacle of the sport, when the sailing public and sponsors alike are aware that the Vendée sailors, all alone on smaller boats are matching the pace of the Volvo Ocean Race. All of a sudden it does not seem so extreme, such the pinnacle of the sport.
We'll see if he is right. But there is no question that 545 is a number that will rattle around and reverberate throughout the sport of sailing, and sailboat design. As it should.