As it reaches its twentieth anniversary next year, the Vendée Globe is in Olympic form. It has never justified so strongly its reputation as one of the most spectacular sporting and media events in the world, attracting the attention of sailing fans and lovers of amazing feats around the world several months before the starting gun is fired.
This sixth edition of the ‘Everest of the Seas’ will be a record breaker. A record number of entrants with thirty yachtsmen lining up at the start. A record in terms of diversity with apart from the seventeen French entrants, thirteen foreign participants. A record of experience and know-how: 14 participants have previously taken part in the race, including the two previous winners, Michel Desjoyaux and Vincent Riou - some already twice or three times and even four in the case of one of them, Marc Thiercelin. A technological record too, as twenty of these monohulls were specially designed for the event.
The performance will be worthy of the event itself: anything can happen, when you have five continents and all of the oceans as the backdrop. The Vendée Globe is in itself an amazing challenge taking place every four years, which goes way beyond the single-handed yachtsmen on their heroic three month long voyage beyond the horizon for the millions of individuals, who passionately follow their adventure. It is the perfect event to allow the imagination to run wild, for dreams to be conjured up, for the hearts of young and old alike to beat that little bit faster, as the conquerors find themselves in the middle of wide open spaces.
The Vendée Globe is also an event, where everyone becomes involved. There are the people of Vendée, around their Council and business leaders, who remain determined to keep ‘their’ race, if anyone talks of moving it elsewhere. There are the hundreds of thousands of spectators, who turn up on the pontoons and along the coast to enjoy the start or the finish of the race. Then, there are the tens of millions of men and women around the world, who follow the event thanks to the press, media and Internet.
The Vendée Globe is simply out of this world, while remaining a human endeavour.
The 2008 edition of the race starts Les Sables-d’Olonne on 9 November. Finishers arrive back at Les Sables between early February and mid March 2009.
Men’s Passion will follow the race throughout. We begin our coverage with a look at one of the boats competing - Aviva.
First published in Men's Passion issue #8