Sam Davies is sixth on Retour a La Base

GBR’s Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) takes sixth place on the first Rètour à La Base.

French based Briton Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) achieved her primary goals on the 3.500 miles solo Rètour à La Base race from Martinique to Lorient, France when she crossed the finish line at 16:36:29hrs UTC this Sunday afternoon finishing in sixth place. She finishes fourth overall on the IMOCA Globe Series championship.

Her elapsed time for the course is 10d 36m 29s and she finishes 1d 32m 41s after winner Yoann Richomme and only 1 hour 40 minutes after fifth placed Damien Seguin.

Davies, 49, set off from Fort de France on her 2022 launched Sam Manuard design with the aim of “regaining confidence and pleasure in racing solo”, looking to deliver a solid result, finishing the race and learning more about racing her boat solo as she, like others, returned to single-handed racing for the first time since last year’s Route du Rhum which for her was more of a shakedown voyage of discovery on her brand new boat.

In this 32 strong fleet which is quite representative of that which will race the Vendée Globe next year, Davies has once more proven she is well equipped to return a good result on the 2024-25 edition.

After a good fifth place on the outward Transat Jacques Vabre, raced with Jack Bouttell, with no major technical issues, Davies was in a good position to give it her all on the inaugural solo race back.

And as usual, she told the stories of her daily on-board ups and downs, with charisma, charm and indefatigable good humour.

In terms of her race strategy she set her limits and stuck by them, staying quite to the south of the leading pack but hitching north for a faster, more efficient ride, ultimately taking an option between the northerly extreme of Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) – which did not pay him as he suffered sail damage, and the more southerly option of Nico Lunven (Holcim-PRB). And in the final 24 hours especially she pushed hard to try and reduce the gap to ‘my Damien’ as she affectionately calls Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) who finished just ahead of her for fifth.

Fresh fruit and traditional English tea are her staples on this solo race back to France, she deals with the diet of daily technical challenges with skill and good humour, making sure she has kept the powerful red and white IMOCA in good shape and achieved a commendable result.

She arrived into Lorient to a big welcome, ‘perfectly timed for Sunday evening apero time (drinks)’ she joked before meeting up with her team, family and friends and the leading lights of the charity Initiatives Coeur which provides heart surgery in France for children from underdeveloped countries.

On the dock she said, “ I loved it. It was such a cool race. And this is such a cool boat but at the same time these boats are so hard and tiring. You are full on, non stop all the time to survive on board. As soon as you get small issues you have to solve them whilst going as fast as possible. And then you get another, and another, dealing with that is so tiring and stressful. It is hard to come back from that level of tiredness, on a boat like this you cannot just rest up and recover. It is non stop, the noise the vibration, you cannot allow yourself to get that tired. It is so full on.”

Looking ahead to the Vendée Globe in less than a year’s time she commented, “For me this race was such a great learning experience for the Vendée Globe. It is the first real solo race I have done with this boat and it is in great shape and the team did a really great job, and so it is great to be able to just send it, and push really hard. You think everything is going to explode and nothing does. And it is like ‘whoaaaaah this is so cool!’ but this is just ten days, the first little step towards the Vendée Globe and I am thinking ‘oh my god I have to now do all this for seven times as long, that is going to be really hard core.”

And whilst she was super happy with sixth, being so close to Seguin in fifth and German Boris Herrmann who finished early afternoon in fourth was big for her,

“I am really happy with sixth, it really is the best I kind of thought I could do., that was the maximum I thought I could do. But in the end there were four of us all fighting over fourth place so it is even more positive because I was so close to fourth. I was able to hold these other boats and stay in the match with these other boats, it was amazing,

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