January 27, 2013 / 2:36 PM / 5 years ago

Sailing-France's Gabart wins Vendee Globe round-the-world race

LES SABLES D‘OLONNE, France (Reuters) - Frenchman Francois Gabart became the youngest sailor to win the Vendee Globe, a solo round-the-world race, when he reached the finish in record time on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Gabart needed 78 days, two hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds to complete his journey, smashing the previous record set by compatriot Michel Desjoyeaux in 2009 by almost seven days.

Frenchman Armel Le Cleac‘h was second ahead of Briton Alex Thomson, who leapfrogged Jean-Pierre Dick after the Frenchman lost his keel.

Fans hold a banner as they wait for French skipper Francois Gabart along the harbor channel of Les Sables d'Olonne shortly before the arrival of the Vendee Globe, a single handed, non-stop, around the world sailing race, January 27, 2013. Banner reads, "Marry me Francois". REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Le Cleac‘h was expected to cross the line later on Sunday.

Gabart fought off four-metre high waves in his final sprint before he was greeted by thousands of spectators in the western French port of Les Sables d‘Olonne despite bad weather and gusts of wind at 80 kph.

“You bluffed us. What you did is impressive,” Jean Le Cam, fifth in the race and second in 2005, told Gabart in an open letter.

The race, sailed non-stop and without assistance, started on November 10, 2012 and saw eight of the 20 starters including Britain’s Samantha Davies, the only woman in the contest, pull out.

Reporting by Guillaume Frouin; Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mark Meadows

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