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Vendee Globe 2020 is on!

Despite the uncertain times we find ourselves in with the global pandemic, preparations are going ahead for the infamous Vendee Globe that is due to start on Sunday November 8th, 2020.

The Vendée Globe solo around the world race is seen as the world’s toughest sporting challenge. The concept of the Vendée Globe is simple and easy to understand…

….sail around the world, alone, without stopping and without assistance.

Vendee Globe Background

The Vendee Globe event was created in the spirit of the Golden Globe; which was held in 1968, the first non-stop solo around the world race via the three capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn). Out of the nine pioneers, who set sail in 1968, only one made it back to Falmouth on 6th April 1969 after 313 days at sea. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston thus became the first person to sail alone around the world without stopping.

In 1989, the race that is now called the Vendée Globe, was run. Known as the ‘Everest’ of the seas, it has seen 138 sailors line up at the start, while only 71 have managed to cross the finishing line. This figure alone signifies the huge difficulty of this global event, in which sailors face icy cold conditions, mountainous waves, leaden skies and howling gales in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans.

The race takes place every four years, and records tumbled in the 8th edition in 2016-2017. This edition saw Armel Le Cleac’h set the fastest time of 74 days. The victory came after the most tightly fought duel in the race’s history, with Alex Thomson finishing just 16 hours later.

The race set media records too, becoming the offshore sailing race most followed worldwide on social media. It was the French sporting event achieving the biggest impact that year (more than Roland Garros and the Tour de France). 2.2 million visitors attended the start and finish of the race. And the three months of racing was followed by a TV and press audience of 2.3 billion. The Vendée Globe brings together people passionate about extraordinary human adventures and sporting endeavour.

The 8th Vendée Globe witnessed a new generation of Open 60 yachts now feature “foiling” daggerboards, achieving speed increases of up to 15% compared to earlier generations.

The next race will leave Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday November 8th, 2020 and you can follow it online at www.vendeeglobe.org

The Course

The course itself is 40,075 kilometres (or 21 638 miles) – that is the circumference of the Earth and the distance of reference around the world.

Vendee Globe Race Route

The fastest ever circumnavigation was accomplished in 74 days and 3 hours during the last edition of the Vendée Globe 2016-17.

In reality, during the previous eight editions of the Vendée Globe, most competitors sometimes sailed over 28,000 miles (about 52,000 kilometres). The solo racers have to deal with the wind, waves, swell and ice.

Sailing without assistance

In the Vendée Globe, the sailor is well and truly alone. Apart from the one opportunity to return to the start to an initial repairs – it is all solo sailing.

Everyone has to rely on what they can do during the round the world voyage. Routing is strictly prohibited. The sailors have to find their own way around, carry out any repairs following on from damage, which is likely to happen… and they have to take care of themselves with injuries or illness.

As for technical assistance, it’s very simple: they are strictly forbidden to go alongside another boat or to allow a third party aboard. The sailors may consult the designers or their technical team to get information about how best to carry out a repair, but it is up to them alone to carry out this work with the means they have on board, while continuing to sail as best they can.

Yes, the Vendée Globe is an extreme race!

The Boats

The boats of the Vendée Globe all measure 18.28 m long (60 feet) for a 4.50m draught.

With a large sail area, they are the most powerful mono-hulls on the planet led by a solo skipper. They can go easily beyond 30 knots in downwind conditions. The gauge of these race animals is defined by the IMOCA class (International Mono-hull Open Class Association), founded in 1991 and supported by World Sailing, the International Sailing Federation.

A major recasting of the gauge was carried out before the 2016 edition. A standardised keel, a choice between two masts -conventional or wing-mast-, a limited number of appendices and ballasts are now imposed for new boats.

On vous embarque en mer et dans les airs ! ??

? Gauthier Lebec / Charal

#CharalSailingTeam pic.twitter.com/zzSfua5wuN

— Jérémie Beyou – Charal Sailing Team (@JeremieBeyou) June 24, 2020

The rest is up to the architects. But the biggest novelty is without doubt the addition of foils, these appendices which allow the hull to lift in upwind conditions. This saves a lot of drag (water friction) and allows better performance.

The Vendée Globe 2016/2017 has shown the effectiveness of this equipment. In 2020, a high number of contenders to the podium will be equipped with foils.

We’re looking forward to it!

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