Schwab finishes 22 days out of first place

Sailing to the finish line in a burst of golden sunlight, Bruce
Schwab completed his around-the-world solo trip on France's
Atlantic coast Friday, brimming with gratitude but troubled by one
question: How to foot the bill for this great adventure?
After 109 days at sea, the sailor from Oakland, Calif., became
the first American to finish the Vendee Globe, the world's most
grueling yacht race.
Hampered by a shoestring budget, Schwab came in ninth place
among 20 boats, arriving more than 22 days after France's Vincent
Riou crossed first on Feb. 2
"There's an awful lot involved -- personal pride, pride to the
people who helped me get there. ... And I still have to figure out
how to pay for all of this,'' Schwab said.
He skippered his 60-foot Ocean Planet over 23,680 miles of often
choppy waters at an average speed of 8.98 knots. His trip came 13
years after countryman Mike Plant was lost at sea during the race.
Riou had a record time of more than 87 days -- comfortably ahead
of countryman Jean Le Cam and Britain's Mike Golding.
The Vendee Globe began Nov. 7, with the boats sailing south to
the Cape of Good Hope before heading into the treacherous Southern
Ocean. The route carried them south of Australia and within a few
hundred miles of Antarctica before competitors rounded Cape Horn
for the final run back to France.
Rain squalls and winds forced a one-day delay in Schwab's
arrival in Les Sables d'Olonne. The sunlit skies quickly returned
to gray, but that didn't dampen the spirits of the friends who
joined Schwab on his boat. They brought the champagne, brownies,
Mexican egg burritos and homemade salsa and chips prepared and
delivered by his mother.
Some of Schwab's fans draped American flags over their
shoulders, recalling on a smaller scale the fanfare that greeted
countryman Lance Armstrong during his Tour de France victories.
Schwab became only the second American to sail around the world
alone without stopping. Dodge Morgan of Harpswell, Maine, achieved
the feat in 1985-86 in 150 days, but he was not racing against
Schwab had no major corporate sponsorship and relied heavily on
volunteers and contributions. Because of debts and no insurance for
his boat, Schwab sailed "very conservatively.''
"We weren't able to afford insurance and have a lot of loans
secured by the boat -- there was a lot on the line besides my ego,''
he said by telephone and an e-mail exchange.
The quadrennial Vendee Globe has a limited following in the
United States but is watched closely by tens of millions of
television and Internet viewers worldwide.
Ocean Planet, launched in 2001 in Portland, Ore., was built
specifically to compete in the Vendee Globe, with a narrow-hulled
design that emphasized ease of sailing and safety.
This was the second around-the-world solo race for the
44-year-old Schwab, who has spent much of his career as a rigger
and in other boatyard jobs. He sailed Ocean Planet in the 2002
Around Alone, a five-leg race with stops along the route.
Schwab said the storms he encountered this time were more
intense than those during the Around Alone, leaving him "genuinely
spooked'' at times.
He was buoyed by the estimated crowd of 300,000 at the start, as
well as by the responses from thousands of children and adults who
followed his progress over the Internet.
Schwab prepared for the race in Portland, Maine, and plans to
return the boat to Portland this spring. The refinements on the
Ocean Planet were made at Maine's Portland Yacht Services, where
volunteers drifted in periodically to help. The yard's owner,
Phineas Sprague, was among those in France to greet the skipper.
"There is great honor in finishing this effort,'' Sprague said.
Schwab doubts he will make another around-the world solo sail.
Yet he would enjoy organizing and managing a campaign for the next
Vendee Globe in 2008.
"I'm a 'preparation' guy, and a lifetime sailor, and in the end
that is why I succeeded without a big sponsor,'' he wrote. "But
there are a couple of guys that might be able to sail faster if I
set them up with the right boat and program.''