Friday marked double digits in the countdown to the Vendee globe – less than 100 days to go. Fourteen weeks and forty-eight hours, a mere drop in the ocean in relation to the four years between each edition. If a number of the skippers are allowing themselves a few days’ respite this summer, it’s also because they know that it’s the last opportunity to take some time out before the final rush for the start. Indeed, September will be very hectic with the sailors obliged to be present in Les Sables d’Olonne with their boats on the eve of the opening of the race village, which equates to a noon deadline on 14 October 2016 at the latest.
With some 100 days until the start, the first thing to note is that the fleet of participants is stronger than ever, since there are some twenty-eight skippers, registered and qualified, whilst ‘just’ twenty sailors took the start in 2012. As a result, we’re set to be close to or equal to the 2008 record of thirty skippers.
Added to that, the twenty-eight sailors who have qualified will represent a total of four out of the five continents and ten different nations: France (19), Spain (1), Hungary (1), United States (1), England (1), Switzerland (1), Holland (1), Japan (1), New Zealand (1) and Ireland (1).
Two other French sailors have also applied to enter, but have yet to secure their budget and their qualification: Jean Le Cam et Jean-François Pellet.
Rookies and repeat performers
Of particular note in this year’s line-up is the fact that an extremely high percentage of these twenty-eight candidates for the singlehanded round the world race without stopovers and without assistance have already participated in a previous edition of the Vendée Globe. In fact, the entry list boasts as many rookies sailing the event for the first time as sailors who have already participated in the Everest of the Seas.
As such, some fourteen sailors will take the start of this planetary race for the first time: Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Paul Meilhat (SMA), Sébastien Destremau (FaceOcean), Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine), Didac Costa (ESP), Alan Roura (Un Vendée pour la Suisse), Stéphane Le Diraison (FRA), Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine), Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh), Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy) and Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Team Ireland). For these fourteen men, it will be a leap into the great unknown.
Among the repeat performers, the records are also set to tumble. Indeed, though there is just a single former winner of the Vendée Globe in the starting blocks – Vincent Riou (PRB, winner in 2004/2005) – some of the other candidates have also racked up a fair few miles. Four of these will be lining up for no less than their fourth time! Within this select group we have Vincent Riou, Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac), Bertrand de Broc (MACSF) and Briton Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss).
Six other sailors of repute will be setting sail on the Vendée Globe for the third time: Jérémie Beyou (Maître Coq), Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), Kito de Pavant (Bastide-Otio), Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary), Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) and finally Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), whose track record speaks volumes with two second places in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe… Suffice to say that he will rank among the firm favourites.
Finally, four sailors will be lining up for the Everest of the Seas for the second time: Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur), Yann Eliès (Groupe Quéguiner), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) and American Rich Wilson (Great American IV).
With the 2016/2017 edition, all these repeat entries combined will amass a whopping forty-two participations in the Vendée Globe. However, given that no two Vendée Globes are ever the same, they too will feel the emotion that is synonymous with the start of another immense planetary adventure on both a competitive and a human scale. 100 days and counting!