After 81 days at sea, French sailor Philippe Monnet bounded out of his trimaran too late to set a new New York-to-San Francisco time record but pleased at being the first solo sailor to complete the 14,500-mile voyage.
"I am very tired but I am here in San Francisco, my boat is here, and it is good. No?" said Monnet as he greeted a crowd of supporters, tourists and reporters who gathered Thursday to greet the jubilant sailor.Monnet missed by 9 hours and 5 minutes his goal of setting a new record for the grueling voyage, but the 29-year-old seaman appeared delighted nonetheless with his solo accomplishment.
A series of agonizing setbacks thwarted his record attempt, including a brush with a submerged iceberg off Cape Horn that required a week of repairs and 18-foot winds that thwarted his trip north along the California coast.
He stayed awake the final four days in a last-ditch attempt to break the mark set Feb. 12 by the American sloop Thursday's Child, which took 80 days and 20 hours port to port.
After receiving a warm welcome from his girlfriend and popping a bottle of French champagne, Monnet basked in the glory and answered questions at two dock-side news conferences - one in French and another in English.
Asked if he would like to get away from his boat, Monnet looked puzzled, shrugged and said: "I like sailing."
Monnet said he hopes other solo sailors will attempt the same route, but he has set his sights on a solo voyage from Hong Kong to New York. Two years ago, he sailed solo around the world.
His hands bandaged from mast repairs made Monday, Monnet cleared the finish line five miles inside the Golden Gate Bridge at 4:41 p.m., cheered on by supporters shouting, "Bravo, bravo!" from a small flotilla of speed boats circling the 60-foot trimaran.
Monnet completed the voyage in 81 days, five hours, 25 minutes, according to Michael Fortenbaugh, commadore of the Manhattan Yacht Club, which put up a Clipper Challenge Cup trophy for the record attempt.
When asked how he could stand being alone so long, Monnet joked that he "had no money to come to San Francisco. This was the only way."