Your Cheat Sheet to the Vendée Globe: What, Who and How To Watch

North Sails takes you to the 2016 Vendée Globe, sailing's greatest test of technology and endurance.

The Vendée Globe will set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday, November 6, 2016. The eighth edition of this solo, nonstop around-the-world race will see 29 IMOCA 60s (International Monohull Open Class Association) on the start line. North Sails is the dominant sailmaker across the fleet, with 22 of 29 boats carrying at least one North sail onboard. North built 100 new sails for the 2016 Vendée and North 3DiTM technology will power the leading boats.

North Sails has also teamed up with race veteran Sam Davies and award-winning reporter Amory Ross, both of whom will be in Les Sables to cover pre-start activity.

Join North’s on-the-ground team via the dedicated event page at


In the meantime, below are a few points to get you up to speed on the Vendée.

The Race

The Vendée Globe is the only non-stop solo around-the-world race without assistance. Since the first edition in 1989, 139 sailors have crossed the starting line in what the French public calls, “The Everest of the Seas.” Only 71 sailors have crossed the finish line. Spanning several months and nearly 22,000 nautical miles. Competitors encounter storms, windless days, the searing heat of the mid-latitudes and the icy cold and mountainous waves of the Southern Ocean. The race record is 78 days, currently held by Francois Gabart, winner of the 2012 Vendée Globe.

The Boats

The IMOCA 60 is the most powerful monohull in the world skippered by a solo sailor. They can exceed 30 knots downwind. The most significant technical advancement for this edition is the use of foils, which provide greater speeds and a smoother ride. These appendages lift the hull up and increase righting moment by up to 20 percent, which over many miles will be a dramatic improvement in efficiency. The 2016-’17 Vendée Globe will be the first round-the-world race with the use of such foil technology.


“I think the guys will need to start a bit cool if they want to get all the way around. When the boats are capable of over 30 knots and nearly fully foiled, it is pushing the boundaries of what man can do singlehanded.” – Guillaume Verdier, naval architect

The Sails

Carrying nine sails, including one storm jib onboard, the majority of Vendée Globe skippers chose North Sails 3Di to power them non-stop around the world. A skipper’s choices in inventory can be the largest indicator of their overall race strategy. While North Sails offers a number of options in both material and shape, 3Di is the leading sail for the offshore market.

North Sails holds the patents for 3Di technology, and its Spread Filament technology which offers maximum material efficiently and resistance to stretch. Ounce for ounce, 3Di sails have significantly more resistance to stretch than any other sail made in the world today. Factors such as thermoset glue and the absence of mylar film make 3Di the highest performing, most durable sail ever produced. North 3Di have a perfect flying shape and unmatched stability in all directions; they look and act like a sail yet perform like a foil.


Originating from Alinghi’s “Black Sails” in 2007, North 3Di has revolutionized sailmaking from the top down. It is now available to a wide range of sailors and boats. The Vendée Globe will feature 3Di ENDURANCE, 3Di RAW and 3Di FORCE.

“It’s true that with 3Di technology there is no longer a discussion about how to win races. The technological advances are such that the choice is quite simple from the moment we found the team of designers with whom we started to develop good sails and shapes. And today we are happy to continue our adventure for the next Vendée Globe with North Sails.” – Vincent Riou, PRB, former race winner and 4th participation in 2016

Skippers To Watch

North Sails’ relationship is particularly strong with a few race favorites, notably Vincent Riou (PRB), Jeremie Beyou (Maitre Coq), Armel Le Cleac’h (Banque Populaire) d and Seb Josse (Gitana).


“Our relationship with the skippers is the key to success. The most important factor is that we share the same vision of what needs to be done and what sails are required for each boat.” – Hugues Destremau, North Sails Offshore Expert

North Sails
For more information on North Sails, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. North Sails