The familiar megawatt smile lit up the darkness on a still Caribbean night as Roland Jourdain and his Veolia Environnement finally ghosted to a halt in Pointe à Pitre, Guadeloupe as the charismatic skipper wrote himself further into the history of the Route du Rhum as the first sailor to win the monoholl division twice in consecutive editions.
Over an ocean racing career already spanning 25 years Jourdain has felt the depths of disappointment – having to abandon in two successive Vendée Globe races and the last Barcelona World Race – but the Finistèrian skipper who grew up sailing with and against Michel Desjoyeaux, Jean Le Cam, and raced with Eric Tabarly in 1985 in the Whitbread Round the World Race - matched his greatest solo success to date with a hard earned win in a race which had many meteorological twists and turns from start to finish.
He confirmed that he had a message of warm congratulations from long time sparring partner and close friend Desjoyeaux, who lies seventh with more than 350 miles to the finish.
Other than starting on the back foot in Saint Malo after making a late sail selection he was never out of the top three throughout the 3539 miles course and took the lead on Wednesday 3rd November when he punched further north and gained as the leading pack went around the north of the Azores high.
Four different skippers lead in the early stages of the race, but Jourdain's strategy underlined his vast experience and this time, as the charismatic skipper noted on the dockside this morning, he proved to be consistently in phase with the meteo, with his boat, with his strategy and fleet management tactics.
2006 was a very different race, when he beat Le Cam by just 28 minutes at the end of a gruelling, high octane race.
Jourdain sailed smartly through the transition areas and pushed hardest when he knew he could gain valuable miles.
His routing through the final four days of light, unstable winds, down to Guadeloupe was an object lesson, while both of his main rivals suffered more either side of his.
Jourdain paid tribute to the winning boat, the three year old Farr designed Véolia Environnement 2, formerly Seb Josse's BT, which has consistently proven quick in previous but never yet delivered a major race victory.
Their relationship – matching a skipper whose recent big races have been ill fated, with a boat which has been badly damaged and retired from last year's Transat Jacques Vabre and the 2008-9 Vendée Globe – may have seemed like an odd couple, but it is one which clearly bore fruit.
As Veolia Environnement crossed the finish line second placed Armel Le Cléac'h was at the NW corner of the island on Brit Air and expected this morning.
Roland Jourdan (FRA) (Veolia Environnement) broke the finish line off Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe at 06hrs 12mins 56secs today (Sunday, CET/Paris) (Sunday 05 hrs 12mins 56secs GMT/ Sunday 01hrs 12 mins 56secs local time (CET -4hrs))
Roland Jourdain on the IMOCA 60 Veolia Environnement took first place in the IMOCA Class overall in the ninth Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale solo Transatlantic race which started from Saint-Malo, France at 1302hrs (CET) Sunday 31st October.
The elapsed time for Veolia Environnement is 13 days, 17 hours, 10 minutes and 56 seconds.
His average speed is 12.02kts for the distance he sailed of 3957miles. Over the theoretical course distance of 3539 miles Roland Jourdain's average speed is 10.75 knots
Roland Jourdain: 'It is beautiful, it's amazing and I'm really happy.
I won't say it was easy but it went well on balance. There was definitely a kind of winning aura with me.
The little advance I had on Armel and the others helped me finish the race really nicely.
It was different from four years ago as Jean [le Cam] was not hot on my heels.
All the time I was telling myself, this one I need it, I take it ; I'll let the next ones to the others.
I should not have talked badly about the boat, I believe that the boat and I, we did understand each other. We tamed each other.
I gained confidence in her at the start, after a bad start I was sailing behind and caught the fleet back. I realised I was at ease with the boat.
I gave it all for 15 days of racing. When you are in a three month race you manage yourself for three months. At 45 years old you do not have the physical strength that you have at 25 so you are dealing with things differently.
You are trying to be smarter in your efforts. What I still do not understand is how I could manage to do so many things in the race that are so painful when I am training. Sometimes you feel like you're Hulk.
Our careers as sailors are different from other sports. We do not have a match every Saturday. As ocean racer we have an important race a year, our projects are big and our careers fragile. We're less paid that a football player but our careers last longer !
I really think we all did a good job. The boat is in a very good state, nothing broke and that is because she was well prepared by the team. That's beautiful to be able to take all this to the first place.
My best memory is a sum of things. At the end what stays is when you're in phase with the elements.
I don't get this feeling all the time but on this race I reached this state when you understand how the small air molecules and the small water molecules work and that's what made me win.'
Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement)'s race
In what has amounted to a very intense, tactical ninth edition of the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale, with very many transitions and changes to negotiate Roland Jourdain sailed an impeccable race, consistently choosing a routing for best wind pressure rather than taking unnecessary risks to cut miles.
When he had the opportunity he consolidated to manage the fleet, keeping them directly behind him.
In some respects it was a leaders' race and Jourdain was never out of the top three, at the front for ten of 13 days.
As they worked west after Ushant he chose to tack north later than Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air).
The key move was on the afternoon of Tuesday second when he tacked north in better wind pressure, and by the following afternoon, while both Armel Le Cléac'h erred a little too far south and snared himself in light winds as did Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac 3) Jourdain was ahead, turning a deficit of 3 miles to a lead of 6 miles over that late afternoon.
After that Bilou was never overtaken. He was first to break through the front during Friday fifth and was able to emerge into the fast NE'ly conditions, his reward being a jump out to a 40 miles lead.
Le Cléac'h was first to gybe south on Saturday sixth, Jourdain held on and gained again as lined up to deal with Tomas, the tropical low.
Le Cléach's early move took him south into less wind.
From here Jourdain has a lead of 55 miles on Thursday 11th when he has some 300 miles to Guadeloupe, and again his routing is spot-on.
Le Cléach's easterly position leaves him in lighter winds.
The leader's benefit comes when he is into the light SW'ly headwinds, all the time with the fleet now in V formation behind him.
And as Veolia Environnement reached the top of Guadeloupe he still had some 74 miles of margin over Brit Air.
- Canyousea : Bilou website