The ninth edition of the Vendée Globe, the world’s only round-the world, solo, non-stop and without assistance sailing race, will get under way tomorrow (November 8), with the boats setting sail from France’s west coast.
The event takes place every four years and starts and finishes in Les Sables d’Olonne in the department of Vendée.
This year’s race will feature 33 racers, 18 of whom are debutants, who will sail around 52,000 kilometres to circumnavigate the globe, without stopping once.
The event is open to men and women, and this year will feature six women competitors.
One of them is British sailor Sam Davies, who is competing in her third Vendée Globe.
Ms Davies told The Connexion that she is aiming to beat the race record of finishing in 74 days.
“If I sail as well as I have been over the past few months, I should get a good result,” she said.
She said she is not aiming to win as her boat is a little too old, despite her team putting a lot of work into developing it.
“It would be hard to say I want to win this race because, in theory, I could sail a really good race and just finish inside the top 10. For me, I want to be able to do my boat justice and sail as fast as I know my boat can go,” she said.
Ms Davies came closest to winning in the 2008 edition, when she finished fourth.
This year’s event will also feature the first competitor with a disability.
Frenchman Damien Seguin was born without a left hand but has had an illustrious career in sailing. He won a gold medal at both the 2004 and 2016 Paralympic Games.
"I think that my career path has at least the value of setting an example," the father of two told FranceInfo.
“I can see from the messages I receive that it gives some form of hope to parents who have disabled kids. I am lucky to do a sport that is quite high profile in the media. I have the chance to embody something positive. It's all part of my story and I want to write this story on all the oceans of the world and share it with as many people as possible.”
History of the race
The Vendée Globe grew out of the Golden Globe, which began in 1968. It was also a round-the-world sailing race, but it included stops.
French navigator Philippe Jeantot then came up with the idea of a non-stop race, and the Vendée Globe was born. On November 26 1989, 13 sailors set off from Les Sables d’Olonne for the first edition, which lasted over three months. Only seven racers completed the course.
Frenchman Titouan Lamazou was the first winner, and since then every other edition has been won by a Frenchman.
This, and the fact the race begins and ends in France, makes it an extremely popular event among the French.
Over the eight races to date, 167 competitors have attempted to finish the marathon course. Only 89 have managed it.
The closest a woman has come to winning was when British sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur finished second in the 2000–2001 Vendée Globe.
The current race record of 74 days, three hours, 35 minutes and 16 seconds was set by Armel LeCléac’h in the 2016/2017 edition. Due to technological advances it is expected that that record will be broken this year.
The racers will set off from Les Sables-d'Olonne at 13:02 on Sunday, November 8.
A full interview with racer Sam Davies will feature in The Connexion’s December newspaper