French Para sailor Damien Seguin makes history at Vendée Globe

Two-time Paralympic champion puts up a telling show in the testing solo race, known as the Mt. Everest of the seas 02 Feb 2021
Male sailor with his wife and two kids
France's Damien Seguin completed the Vendee Globe after 80 days at sea
ⒸOlivier Blanchet/Alea
By IPC and Vendée Globe

Paralympic double gold medallist Damien Seguin has pushed new limits for Para sports as he reached a hard-fought seventh position at the Vendée Globe, becoming the first Para sailor to complete the prestigious world yacht race.

In a voyage that concluded on 28 January, the Frenchman was well on course for a historic podium position and completed the feat in 80 days and 21 hours, compared to the last edition’s accomplishment in 74 days and 3 hours. 

The Vendée Globe, known as the Mt. Everest of the seas, is widely considered as the greatest sailing race round the world, in which contestants must navigate solo, non-stop and without assistance through the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. 

Despite being a newcomer to racing IMOCA boats – a monohull sailing yacht - and a Vendée Globe rookie, Seguin put in a powerful performance right from the start. The Athens 2004 and Rio 2016 gold medallist in 2.4mR showed his mettle early on, performing at a level above that of the more experienced competitors with newer boats.

 “I don’t have the ambition to be a role model,” said Seguin, who was born without a left hand. “But I always thought that a high-performance athlete’s role is to represent their sport in the best way. I have a physical characteristic that doesn’t stop me from dreaming, doesn’t stop me from making my dreams true.

Problems he had to overcome included a 2cm gash in his arm, inflicted when using a knife only 17 days into the race. Pilot issues and significant sail damage also featured large in Seguin’s voyage. 

After entering the Pacific Ocean, he lost his biggest downwind sails – a significant blow, especially for a non-foiling boat. Yet, this did not hamper his performance.

He held his fourth place for thousands of miles, before climbing almost to the lead on 12 January, just 9.5 miles behind then leader, another Frenchman, Charlie Dalin. After nine more days of gruelling battle, he had positioned himself to third on the leader board before eventually finishing seventh.

“The only message I want to convey is, don’t limit yourself and don’t let anyone do it too,” he continued. “We’ll never stop a boy from dreaming, being able-bodied or with a disability. We all have ambitions in our lives, and the worst thing would be preventing us from trying to achieve them.”  

Final standings are available on Vendée Globe’s official website