While plenty of professional sports have been sidelined by the pandemic, there’s still one assured safe option for spectators and competitors alike: solo ocean racing. The IMOCA class has set a brand-new course for its fleet in preparation for the 2020-2021 Vendée-Globe. The new course, the Vendée-Arctic-les Sables d’Olonne is a 3,600-mile solo race to the arctic circle, starting andfinishing in Les Sables d’Olonne with two “marks” to round along the way–the West of Iceland and the North of the Azores. “This is an ambitious course,” says Jacques Caraës, Race Director for the Vendée-Arctic-les Sables d’Olonne and the Vendée Globe, “the idea is to sail up to pick up the active weather systems in the North of the Atlantic and to get the boats sailing in various points of sail and in a wide range of conditions. With ice present to the west of Iceland, we will have similar constraints to those found in the Southern Ocean. We are going to have to put an exclusion zone in place to avoid the drift ice.” The race, which is similar in distance to an Atlantic crossing, aims to put sailors through all the paces that the Globe will, providing good preparation for the Vendée -Globe.
The race itself is scheduled to start on July 4 and competitors will be using it as a test run for their boats. As two of the spring’s transatlantic races which normally would have served as shakedown races for the fleet were canceled due to COVID-19, this is the first time many of the sailors will have been on their boats this season. The race organizers are taking important measures to keep everyone safe. There will be no race village and competitors will be required to take a blood test and self-quarantine for five days leading up to the start to confirm that they are healthy and will not develop symptoms mid-race. In a summer of canceled races and events, the Vendée-Arctic-les Sables d’Olonne is sure to be a bright spot and well spectated by new and long-term IMOCA fans alike.