Thirty-three skippers, some of whom will fly as much as sail aboard new-generation sea racing cars equipped with foils: the Vendée Globe, the legendary non-stop solo race, started on Sunday, November 8 in Sables d’Olonne.
→ EXPLANATION. Vendée Globe: these foils that make sailing more and more dangerous
This ninth edition left almost on the sly, due to the health crisis. The measures linked to the pandemic deprived the Vendée Globe of a popular festival, which brought together tens of thousands of people, in particular on the channel used by the competitors to reach the sea. In 2016, they were nearly 300,000 for the edition won by Armel Le Cleac’h.
Little emotion without an audience
The start was delayed by more than an hour because of the heavy fog that fell like a chappe on the Vendée coast, which did not allow the organizers to see the end of the line, two kilometers long.
The solo sailors of nine different nationalities, including six women, cut the line at the audible signal at 2:20 p.m., without the noria of supportive boats which traditionally accompany them for the first nautical miles.
→ READ. Six women in the Vendée Globe boat
“I find it hard to realize that I am taking the start of the Vendée Globe, confided the neophyte Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X). There are a little emotions, a little fear. It’s a weird cocktail. I wonder when I’m going to cry! “
Some, like Maxime Sorel (V AND B – Mayenne) or even Benjamin Dutreux (Omia – Water Family), let their emotions run free by descending the gangway leading them to their boat, still moored at the Port Olonna pontoon.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It’s not the Vendée Globe that I had dreamed of, especially when you saw your first one, but there are much more serious things ”, relativized the Sablais Sébastien Simon (Arkéa Praprec).
“The first twenty-four hours are ideal, we will be able to play a little, it will be a speed race. I no longer fear Tuesday’s depression which will sort the fleet ”, warned the sailor, one of the favorites of the race with his latest generation boat.
The foilers are close to 75 km / h
In this ninth edition, eight brand new Imocas (the 18m monohulls dedicated to the Vendée Globe) will seek the win after 44,996.2 theoretical kilometers (24,296 nautical miles) that they intend to cover in 70 days.
→ INVESTIGATION. The sailors of the Vendée Globe not very talkative about seasickness
To do this, they rely on their “flying” sailboats, capable of reaching phenomenal speeds approaching 75 km / h. The foils, lateral appendages, reduce the hull’s contact with water to a minimum.
Uncertainty remains as to their reliability in extreme rough sea conditions, uncertainties which this Vendée Globe should make it possible to respond to.
A very diverse fleet
This fleet is of unprecedented architectural diversity and there are many uncertainties about their ability to complete the round-the-world trip when they have sailed little due to the pandemic.
Besides Simon, Jérémie Beyou (Charal) and Alex Thomson (Imoca Hugo Boss), are among the favorites Charlie Dalin (Apivia), Thomas Rettant (Linkedout), Nicolas Troussel (Corum L’Epargne) and Armel Tripon (L’Occitane in Provence). While all the editions of the Vendée Globe have been won by a Frenchman, Thomson intends to make history this year.
Among the 33 skippers who set off, Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) is the oldest member at 61 for his fifth participation (2e in 2005). This edition also includes a disabled sports skipper born without a left hand, Damien Seguin (Apicil).
A couple, each on their boat
The couple formed by Samantha Davies (Initiatives-Coeur) and Romain Attanasio (PURE-Best-Western) each takes the start on their own boat.
“It’s not every morning that you wake up” telling you “Today I’m going to travel around the world. It feels weird anyway “said Sam Davies, England, who could be the first woman since Ellen MacArthur in 2000-2001 to step onto the podium.
The winner is expected in mid-January. The record to beat is 74 days (Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire in 2016/2017), when the first winner of this competition, Titouan Lamazou, had taken more than 109 days, a sign of the technological revolution since then in sailing, which also testify to the automatic pilots.
The time limit is set at 163 days. And on average, only one in two boats finishes the race.