Round-the-world sailing success for Southampton graduate

Charlie Dalin
Southampton graduate Charlie Dalin was first to cross the finish line in the 2021 Vendée Globe race.

After 28,268 nautical miles and more than 80 days of racing, University of Southampton graduate Charlie Dalin was first to finish the 2021 Vendée Globe, the world’s most challenging single-handed, round-the-world yacht race.

Dalin finished just hours ahead of the other 4 boats in the leading pack in one of the closest and most exciting finishes off the port of Les-Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France. However fellow French countryman Yannick Bestaven had carried a time compensation of 10 hours and 15 minutes awarded for his role in the search and rescue of fellow competitor Kevin Escoffier and claimed overall victory with Dalin placing an impressive second.

The 36-year-old Dalin, who graduated from Southampton in 2006 with a Master of Engineering degree in Ship Science (Yacht & Small Craft), was amongst the leaders throughout the race which began last November. His yacht, the IMOCA Apivia, was designed by another Southampton graduate, Guillaume Verdier, who completed the MSc in Maritime Engineering Science in 1995.

“I am happy to have finished the race in the lead! And this is still pretty incredible from nothing to this,” Dalin enthused upon his return. “It is a magical race. It is so strong, I do not know how it will affect me, but for sure it will.”

“There are lots of ups and downs on the race with lots of things to fix, but it is wonderful experience,” he continued. “The other day I went over my course, and it is incredible all I have done. I have been through the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and past Cape Horn and I can remember all the manoeuvres. Stage by stage you end up doing the impossible!”

At one point in the race, Dalin faced the prospect of having to leave the race after experiencing problems off the coast of Tasmania with a failed foil bearing. Since that time in December, he has been unable to fully deploy one of his foils, which gives his yacht extra speed, but said in a live transmission during mid-January “hey, let us keep it in perspective because my Vendée Globe could have stopped, but here I am one month on, leading the race. This is just a bonus. It is great. I am very happy and I will do everything to keep the lead and get to the end.”

Dr Joe Banks, Lecturer in Ship Science/Maritime Engineering in the School of Engineering at Southampton and graduate of the same degree as Dalin, congratulated the yachtsman on his accomplishment.

“The Ship Science academic staff have been following the race avidly and are so proud of Charlie’s achievements,” said Dr Banks “Our students learn to apply a wide range of technical tools in both research and design projects which is great training for managing the technical challenges of a Vendée Globe campaign.”

Looking back on his degree, Dalin explained how he continues to use the skills he learned at Southampton in his career. “We are really taught to reason, to know the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific tools we use; these are methods that I still apply on a daily basis when I receive, for example, weather models or VPP results,” he says. “I am comfortable with these technologies. I am also able to read a construction drawing, to speak the same language as a naval architect, it is clearly an asset to have taken this course.”

Originally from Le Havre, in northern France, Dalin discovered sailing at the age of 6 and his passion for the sport has continued to the point where he is now one of the leading talents in ocean racing, particularly solo racing. His participation in this year’s Vendée Globe was his first in this particular event but he has won or made the podium in a number of other races including the Elite French Singlehanded Offshore Racing Championship which he has captured twice.

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Charlie Dalin was amongst the leaders throughout the whole of the 2021 Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race.
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Southampton graduate Charlie Dalin covered 28,268 nautical miles over more than 80 days of racing during the 2021 Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race.
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At one stage, Dalin faced the prospect of having to leave the race after experiencing problems off the coast of Tasmania with a failed foil bearing.
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A moment to savour – Charlie Dalin celebrates after finishing the 2021 Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race.

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