Vendée Globe Set to Start

Author:
Updated:
Original:
Banque Populaire VIII is one of six brand-new boats that will be lining up at the start

Banque Populaire VIII is one of six brand-new boats that will be lining up at the start

What to make of the Vendée Globe solo, nonstop round-the-world sailboat race set to start off Les Sables d’Olonne, France, November 6? Is it the ultimate expression of France’s insatiable appetite for all things offshore sailing? The ultimate in monohull sailing technology? The ultimate sailboat race? The ultimate sporting event, period?

Truth be told, the quadrennial classic, first held in 1989-90 with only seven of the 13 starting skippers making it to the finish, is all those things and more. At press time, 30 skippers planned to take on the 24,000-mile course, down the Atlantic, around Antarctica and back, aboard their heavily canvassed IMOCA 60s—10 more than for the 2012-13 running of the event.

Among this year’s competitors are no fewer than 15 sailors for whom this is not the first time around. A refreshingly international contingent given the traditional French dominance of the event, there are also no less than 10 different nationalities represented. These include not one but two Americans: 66-year-old U.S. sailor Rich Wilson aboard Great American IV, a veteran of the 2008-09 Vendée Globe, and 32-year-old Conrad Colman, a native of New Zealand who moved to the United States when he was 15.

As was the case in his first Vendée Globe, when he finished 9th at the end of a race in which scarcely a third of the fleet even made it back to France, Wilson will be sharing his experiences with thousands of schoolchildren around the world via his “sitesALIVE” educational website. (sitesalive.com)

In addition to trimming sails, Wilson will be staying in touch with thousands of school kids (left); Colman brings a wealth of offshore experience to this year’s race (right)

In addition to trimming sails, Wilson will be staying in touch with thousands of school kids (left); Colman brings a wealth of offshore experience to this year’s race (right)

How exactly the oldest skipper in the fleet will be able to manage filing reports and fielding 10 questions a week from his young followers is an open question. But with tens of thousands of offshore miles under his belt in a variety of settings, if there’s one thing Wilson has plenty of it’s toughness.

“I believe the Vendée Globe is a human adventure first, and then a competition, because even for whoever wins the race, it will be a difficult human challenge first,” Wilson says. “No one will have a smooth, uneventful voyage. It is a mental, emotional and physical challenge without equal.”

As for Colman aboard 100% Natural Energy, while this may be his first Vendée Globe, he brings a wealth of experience to the event, having competed in the Mini Transat, the the Route du Rhum and the 2014-15 doublehanded Barcelona World Race, in which he finished seventh overall aboard the IMOCA 60 Spirit of Hungary. He also won the doublehanded Global Ocean Race in 2011-12 aboard the Class40 Cessna Citation.

With regard to the rest of the fleet, it would be hard to imagine a more committed or experienced group of sailors. Among those returning for a second, third or even fourth go at the Vendée Globe are Armel Le Cléac’h aboard Banque Populaire VIII, who finished second in 2008-09 and 2012-13; the UK’s Alex Thomson aboard Hugo Boss, who finished third in the last race; and Jean-Pierre Dick aboard StMichel-Virbac, who took fourth in the last race, despite having to complete the final 2,500 miles without a keel. Then there is Vincent Riou aboard PRB, who would love to repeat his win in 2004-05.

In terms of technology, there are a half-dozen brand-new boats in the fleet—including Banque Populaire VIII, Hugo Boss and StMichel-Virbac— featuring the latest in curved daggerboard technology, which doesn’t get them entirely airborne, but still provides an impressive boost in terms of boatspeed. Of course, how these cutting-edge beasts will fair in the Southern Ocean remains to be seen. For the latest on the race, visit vendeeglobe.org

Photos courtesy of (clockwise from top) Y.Zeda-BPCE; Stephanie Gaspari; by Peter nielsen

November 2016

Related

200803

Video: A Close Look at the AC75

The AC75 rule crafted for the upcoming 36th America’s Cup was intended to be open to multiple interpretations, and the result has been four very different designs. Coupled with the fact the AC75 is unlike any other boat that has ever come before, the current Cup cycle is fast ...read more

TSP-FB-DEI

US Sailing Invites Public to Diversity Panel

On Tuesday, August 4, US Sailing’s Leadership Forum is hosting a town hall style conversation to help individuals and organizations achieve diversity, equity and inclusion goals. The conversation will be centered on providing practical guidance for conducting outreach and best ...read more

LarryPardey

Eight Bells: Larry Pardey

Canadian-born mariner and author Larry Pardey will be remembered by his friends and fans as a generous spirit who inspired thousands of readers to become sailors and sailors to become adventurers. Whether building his own boats, circumnavigating twice sans engine or stretching ...read more

The-Sailing-Museum-Floorplan

New Sailing Museum Announces Exhibits

The Sailing Hall of Fame-America’s Cup Hall of Fame joint venture to bring a new sailing museum to Newport is moving ahead full steam. Fittingly but unsurprisingly, they’ve announced the name “The Sailing Museum” for the institution to be housed in the historic Armory building. ...read more

xm 1

SiriusXM Marine

SiriusXM Marine is graphical weather and fishing info for boaters. SiriusXM Marine service is available in the continental United States, southern Canada and coastal waters. Choose from a variety of features, packages an pricing. 100 Rebate! Purchase and activate any eligible ...read more