Austrian Norbert Sedlacek becomes the first Austrian to complete a solo non stop round the world race
Austrian Norbert Sedlacek set a new ocean racing record for his landlocked nation when he became the first Austrian to complete a solo non stop round the world passage as he finished the epic sixth edition of the Vendée Globe in 11th place today (Sunday)
After 126 days 5 hrs 31 mins and 56 secs at sea Sedlacek crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 17 hrs 33 min GMT). The delighted soloist, who started his sailing career in the the shallow waters of Vienna’s Neusiedler See, as an escape from his life as a tram driver, was ecstatic to finally complete the race among an excited flotilla of well wishers and spectator boats on a perfect sunny Sunday afternoon.
Sedlacek’s sheer pleasure was doubled by the fact that this is his second attempt at the race. He had to retire in 2004 after just less than a month of racing, sailing back into Cape Town bitterly disappointed after suffering a mechanical failure with his canting keel system on his aluminium hulled boat which was built in 1996.
The Austrian skipper has shown the same grit, drive and determination throughout his race that inspired his escape from a humdrum life as a Vienna tram driver. His longest period at sea until this Vendée Globe had been 93 days sailing from Cape Town. In 2000-01 he took part in an Antarctic challenge on a Garcia 54 to become the first Austrian to achieve this feat. He is an almost entirely self taught sailor who knows every centimetre and every fitting on his boat which was built for the 1996 Vendée Globe, but which Sedlacek has extensively remodelled and rebuilt.
Of all the skippers in the race there is little doubt that Sedlacek spent more hours steering his boat, sometimes to feel more in control in the conditions, sometimes simply to challenge himself to see how many hours he could do, and sometimes just to enjoy the pleasant weather.
His story is an appropriately uplifting and inspiring one to safely draw to an end this epic sixth edition of the race. His has been a race which should prove as much of a focus to galvanise the adventurers and the dreamers to get going for the next race, or the one after that, as was the amazing win of Michel Desjoyeaux who finished
Completing the race brings to an end a remarkable chapter in his sailing career. As a teenager Norbert was more into his football and other active sports. He trained formally and worked as a waiter in the Vienna Hilton before taking a job driving trams in the Austrian capital city. It was while in his early 20’s and he was doing this that he took up sailing on the shallow lakes. He read voraciously of the adventures of Tabarly, of Austria’s first circumnavigator Wolfgang Hausner, and many others, regularly missing stops and forgetting to start from the tram terminus because he was so engrossed in his sailing reading.