The result of The Transat didn’t matter, but a top 5 finish in Conrad’s first single-handed Open 60 race was a huge achievement and more importantly, Conrad had qualified for the legendary Vendée Globe. Now the work began.
Conrad set out from Les Sables D’Olonne, France in November 2004 with 19 competitors to race non-stop and without assistance around the world. The Vendée Globe is regarded as the pinnacle of ocean racing and an event that is widely regarded as the toughest endurance race in any sport.
After 25 days at sea, Conrad was lying in 7th place in a fleet of 20 and just about to enter the cold, desolate waters of the Southern Ocean when he hit a submerged object at speed. Flung across the cabin, his first thoughts where that he was sinking. HELLOMOTO withstood the impact, but the a rudder did not. Everyone thought that Conrad’s race was over as he limped towards Cape Town. No-one had ever successfully changed a rudder at sea without assistance and gone on to complete the race.
Conrad arrived in Cape Town and anchoring off a small bay near Simon’s Town set about changing the broken rudder. Diving repeatedly under the hull in the full glare of the world’s media, he managed to replace the rudder and rejoin the race. The euphoria he felt at completing the repair was swiftly replaced by apprehension when he realised that he would now be entering the Southern Ocean, in last place and nearly 4000 miles behind the leaders.
Conrad dug deep; he set off from Cape Town knowing that his only chance of safety lay 500 miles ahead of him. He set himself a target of catching the next boat by Christmas and stayed motivated by maintaining his speed and distance with the leaders. The Southern Ocean was brutal, several of Conrad’s competitors were in trouble in mountainous seas and one yacht had smashed into an iceberg, but Conrad was flying. His yacht HELLOMOTO was reeling in the tail-enders and by Christmas he was back inside the top ten having left Cape Town in 17th position.
Conrad rounded Cape Horn, in 9th place having closed the distance to the leaders by a remarkable two hundred miles. He attacked the South Atlantic taking a day off the record from Cape Horn to the equator. The fatigue across the fleet was taking its toll and two boats were to suffer dramatic keel failures one just 50 miles from the finish line. With 3000 miles left to the finish, HELLOMOTO’s own hydraulic rams that control the three tonne keel dramatically failed leaving the boat dangerously unstable. Conrad secured the keel as best he could with a series of lashings and decided to continue racing towards the finish line. Sleeping with his emergency grab bag and living with the constant fear that his own keel would come away from the yacht, Conrad continued up the Atlantic crossing the finish line in 7th place, after 104 days at sea to a hero’s welcome.