For his first solo race aboard Groupe Dubreuil, the French skipper certainly had a big adventure. He impressed in the first part of the race, but then suffered a serious blow to the head, before being forced to carry out a pit stop in the Azores after his electronics failed. Then, to top it all, Sébastien Simon’s IMOCA was dismasted a few miles from the finish, meaning he crossed the finish line of the Retour à la Base race off Lorient under jury rig at 1036hrs UTC on Tuesday 12th December after 11 days 18 hours and 36 minutes of racing.

Simon was bursting with enthusiasm at the end of the Transat Jacques Vabre, declaring, “If we had to set off again immediately, I’d do it,” in spite of a rather disappointing 18th place after suffering damage to his mainsail. He only started his project in July quickly setting up a team and doing his best in a short space of time.

“I need to get back to solo sailing, as I am very competitive and want to do well,” he explained before the start in Martinique. Sébastien Simon was up with the frontrunners in the early stages of the race, remaining in the top five on the climb back up from Martinique and on the long tack towards the Azores, achieving speeds that were up there with the best in the class. But once again, he was not to be spared his problems. As he approached the Azores in 20-25 knots of wind and 3-4m high waves, he suffered a violent blow to the head, causing concussion. After discussions with the Race Doctor, he was able to continue on his way.

However, the next day, it all came tumbling down, when his electronic systems failed. “No computer, no autopilot, no water, no power and no GPS.” Simon was forced to carry out a pit stop on the island of Flores, where he obtained the help of local people in association with his shore team, which enabled him to carry out rapid repairs, while a violent front passed over.

Last Friday, he set off again, remaining positive, “We have shown with this boat that we are capable of great things.” Just a few miles from the finish in rough conditions in 25 knot winds and heavy seas, his mast came down. He quickly set up a jury rig using his stormsail to make it to the finish. Once again, a rather frustrating outcome, but an experience which has taught him a lot of lessons with a year to go to the Vendée Globe.

His race in numbers

Finish: 12/12/2023 10:36:00 UTC
Race time: 11d 18hrs 36mins
Delta to winner: 2d 18hrs 32mins 12s
Delta to 18th boat: 2hrs 24mins 18s
On the Great Circle route: 3 497.42 nm / 12.38 kts
Out on the water: 4 504.10 nm / 15.94 kts