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Displaying items by tag: Vendee Globe

When the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe solo non-stop race around the world starts from Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Atlantic coast today at 1302hrs French time, the usual, huge partisan local crowds will be absent. The global pandemic has robbed this year’s record entry of 33 skippers of the usual 350,000 visitors who, every four years, flood into the smart seaside resort to bid a noisy farewell to the round the world heroes, with memorable farewell messages such as 2016’s ‘All you need is globe’. The strict national lockdown means the skippers’ Sunday morning departures down the famous Les Sables d’Olonne channel into the open Atlantic ocean will be in relative silence.

The massive online, digital audience will be presented to the departing skippers only by personal messages flashed up on giant screens.

But with a whole host of records expected from solo ocean racing’s pinnacle event, a huge global following will certainly hang on every minute of this edition, following the race on the widest range of multimedia platforms, entranced by this most engaging edition yet.

During these difficult times, running the race at all is in itself a triumph over adversity. The extraordinary human adventures the race always delivers this time will more than ever light up the lives of its millions of followers.

Leaving the dock live

 

Race Start live

Who will win the Vendee Globe 2021?

There is no outstanding favourite to win. Eight new build, latest generation foiling IMOCA 60 footers have been launched over the last two years representing four different design studios. They reflect a wider diversity of cutting edge design ideas than ever before from a bigger range of designers. 2012’s winner Francois Gabart says, “There is a 95 per cent chance the winner will be one of these.”

Hydrofoils which ‘fly’ the 7.5-tonne yachts have grown more than twice the size of the ‘chicken wing’ foils which first appeared on the 2016-17 race. Consequently, top speeds are up to 35 knots and daily 24 hour averages are expected to top 600 nautical miles. Estimates from the top skippers competing suggest 2016’s record of 74 days 3 hours 35 minutes should be lowered below 70 days.

Four sailors stand out having built up the sought after combination of speed and reliability, gained through thousands of training and racing miles. As soon as he had finished third on the last race Jérémie Beyou launched a programme aimed at winning in 2020-21. The VPLP designed Charal was first of the 2020 generation boats.

Already in the water in August 2018, the three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro, 44-year-old Beyou won the preliminary Vendée Arctique race in July, led the Transat Jacques Vabre race before being snared in the Doldrums and finishing third. His boat has done the comprehensive miles to maximise reliability and optimise for high average speeds.

Hotly fancied British challenger Alex Thomson came off second best to winner Armel Le Cléac’h in 2017. Thomson has put his faith in a radical VPLP designed HUGO BOSS designed purely to win the Vendée Globe. The 46-year-old from Gosport has only started one race since the boat was launched in August last year, the Transat Jacques Vabre which he was forced to abandon after damaging, and ultimately cutting away the keel.

But the British skipper’s programme is enriched by many innovations and singular technical choices that many insiders consider should give him a winning edge, if the boat proves reliable enough and the skipper lucky enough to finish the race in good condition.

Among the key technical advances, Thomson races the boat entirely from inside using a panorama of screens linked to an array of exterior cameras. His team have developed their own autopilot artificial intelligence system and they have an exclusive sail development programme.

But Thomson worries that the new boats particularly those less proven than his, may not be reliable enough: "I think none of the teams have done as many miles as they would have liked to. None of the teams have sailed (with the new boats and newer, bigger foils) in conditions like we will see in the Southern Ocean. I worry and sense it will be a war of attrition, most certainly. We have eight new boats and a couple of them are very, very new. It is hard to see how they have prepared enough in that timescale. We believe it takes a year and it has taken us a year. It is hard to see how the ones with less miles will get around the world with less problems."

Charlie Dalin may be a first-timer on the race but the 36-year-old, who grew up enchanted by the ocean racing giants – men, women and their machines – who mustered every two years for the Transat Jacques Vabre on the docks of his home port of Le Havre - has a dream programme with Vendée Globe winning potential.

A Southampton trained naval architect in his own right, Dalin’s IMOCA Apivia is designed by a small team led by America’s Cup-winning architect Guillaume Verdier and the campaign is managed by 2012 winner Francois Gabart’s company MerConcept.

Apivia won last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre and was second in the Vendée Arctic and Dalin is the tip of Michel Desjoyeaux, the only skipper to have won the Vendée Globe twice.

“ For me he is the best guy because he's the only one I know who did four consecutive podiums on La Solitaire du Figaro (ed note, annual French multi stage offshore championship). That is indicative of his very high ability. And what he has shown since the beginning he got his IMOCA up to this high level. "

Normandy’s 39-year-old Thomas Ruyant had to retire from the last race when his boat was nearly split in two in a collision with a floating object west of New Zealand. He is back and widely fancied for the podium with a second Verdier design which has been cleverly optimised. He led at the midpoint of the Vendée Arctic race and is considered a skipper with real talent and staying power and fire in his belly stoked by the disappointment of his abandonment.

Britain’s Sam Davies, fourth in 2008-2009, is the standard-bearer for a record entry of six female skippers. Over the four years since the last race she has worked tirelessly to improve and optimise her 2010 launched Initiatives Coeur.

The 46-year-old French-based Englishwoman draws on the accumulated experience of more than 25 years of every type of ocean and offshore racing, not least leading Team SCA on the 2014-15 crewed Volvo Ocean Race round the world. Even armed with the latest generation foils her boat will not match the top speeds of the newest generation but her experience and stamina will ensure she should be poised to profit if the newer boats falter.

There is strength in depth all the way through the 33 strong fleet, and more than ever – from front to back – the races within the race will be more engaging than ever. Davies has a tight group of 2012 race vintage boats to contend with including Germany’s 39-year-old Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) and 40-year-old Frenchman Kevin Escoffier (PRB). It would not be a surprise to find any one of them on the podium in the middle of next January.

The skippers' ages range from Switzerland’s Alan Roura who races his second Vendée Globe at the age of 27 to 61-year-old Jean Le Cam, back for his fifth consecutive Vendée Globe. The ages of the boats has never been greater 23 years span Alexia Barrier’s 1998 launched TSE-4 MyPlanet which is starting its seventh round the world race and the latest foiling flying machines.

Nine nationalities are represented among them Britons Pip Hare, 46 years old from Poole who sails Medallia on her first race and Miranda Merron, 51, who lives in France, also competes on Campagne de France. Japan’s 53-year-old Kojiro Shiraishi has a cutting edge, new foiler DMG MORI and he is looking to complete a respectable race.

Barcelona fireman Didac Costa, 14th in 2017, returns at 39 years old for a second Vendée Globe on OnePlanet-OneOcean which started life as Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher. It will be Costa’s third racing circumnavigation in five years on the famous IMOCA 60 footer which will celebrate its 21st birthday in February.

Italian Giancarlo Pedote, 44, has progressed up through the classes from Mini 650 in 2013 to now take on the world’s toughest solo race on Prysmian Group, his pathway mirrored by 57-year-old Finnish airline pilot Ari Huusela who races STARK.

Weather for Race Start

Conditions for Sunday’s 1302hrs start time off Les Sables d’Olonne look set to be close to perfect 12-15 knots of wind from the south-east should ensure flat water for a fast sprint off the start line to one passing mark seven miles from the start line.

The fleet will then reach almost due west at high speeds into the first night as the breeze heads, progressively rotating south then south-west as a front arrives. It will bring strong 25kt winds with gusts to 40 and seas of 4.5 metres.

Then at the back of the front they will be able to race south in a decent northwesterly breeze. The complex question is passing across a ridge of high pressure and light winds before a second front arrives for the leaders on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Germany’s Herrmann sums up: " For sure it’s a complex weather situation and we will have to throttle back a bit. It would be easy to make errors as some features are not very detailed on the files, so the thing is to see how much the fleet sticks together. But it is for sure not the classic situation you imagine for years and years, beating hard heavily west or we reach to Cape Finisterre then getting downwind, no this time it is much more upwind work. I think, yes, you can lose but there are not many easy gains and you can certainly damage your boat early on in the second front. If the leading pack sticks together I feel the race will really start in the trade winds."

All 33 Vendée Globe Skippers Have a Clean Bill of Health

All of the 33 skippers set to take Sunday’s start of the Vendée Globe have been given a clean bill of health, all passing the PCR Covid-19 tests which were taken 48 hours before the start. It will therefore be a complete 33 boat entry which will start at 1302hrs French Time on Sunday.

No positive Covid-19 tests and no cases among contacts means the 33 skippers, 27 men and 6 women, have escaped the sword of Damocles which has been hanging over their heads for some weeks.

Any skipper with a positive test would not have been allowed to start. So it is a huge relief for the solo sailors and for all involved in these projects, some of which have been operating for four years.

Yves Auvinet, President of the Vendée Globe said: "The health protocol put in place by the Organisation has enabled the entire fleet to be kept safe for the start tomorrow. I would like to thank the skippers and the teams for respecting this system which was restrictive but nevertheless necessary in the current period. "

Published in Solo Sailing
Tagged under

Make no splash, leave no trace, tame the turbulence, and THEN JUST FLY…..That's the thinking which underlines the very latest manifestations of the IMOCA 60, which are expected to lead the fleet of 33 sailing machines in the 24,296 miles Vendee Globe 2020 once they've got themselves clear of tomorrow's start of the Races of Races off Les Sables d'Olonne.

It's a quadrennial race in which - since its insouciant introduction in 1989 with just 13 boats - there has been a combined completion rate of only 53% of starters getting back to the finish. Yet knowing what they have been heading for in the past - with the first serious drubbing often experienced as they try to get out of the Bay of Biscay in November weather less than a day on their way – perhaps we should completely re-think that, and say it's little short of miraculous that as many as 53% of the lone skippers have made it all the way round south of the Great Capes and through everything that five oceans can throw at them.

The course of the Vendee GlobeThe course of the Vendee Globe, which sees its biggest fleet start tomorrow. The shaded area along the foot of the map indicates the big winds of the Roaring Forties and the "Furious Fifties".

They may be lone skippers, but while it all started as something of a leap into the dark, it has so captured public imagination - with more than 2 million signed up followers, and counting rapidly – that it is now big business, with endless scope for imaginative advertising and promotions. The top stars are backed by so many technical specialists that it's an industry in itself which is so focused yet complex that to clarify it all, many observers are simply wondering if the 2016-2017 record of 74 days and 3 hours set by winner Armel le Cleac'h in Banque Populaire can be brought below 70 or even 60 days, while in theory 50 days is within the realms of possibility.

Thus although there'll be veteran boats starting tomorrow which have done several circuits and are hoping – by enabling their skippers to put in a competent performance – to provide the stepping stone to new state-of-the-art boat for 2024, inevitably most attention will focus on the boats with the very latest thinking, where the R & D and design and build teams have had to tread a careful line between having he time available to test their new boat thoroughly, while not being so early on the scene that other teams can draw on their most novel ideas for use in their own slightly later new boats.

new-generation Charal revealed that the IMOCA 60 concept had made a significant design advanceThe appearance of the new-generation Charal revealed that the IMOCA 60 concept had made a significant design advance

The latest machines aren't really boats as most of us know them. For if you're someone whose dreamship is a fine looking vessel with a real bone in her teeth when she's making best speed, please look elsewhere. Conspicuous bow-waves are considered very bad news indeed in an IMOCA 60, as excessive bubbling foam and white water is evidence the boat is being unnecessarily slowed. So too is a roaring quarter-wave, while as for a reassuring gunwhale with – God forbid –anything remotely resembling a bulwark around anything resembling a deck up forward, forget that too.

The latest boats are more like torpedoes which go through the water with minimum fuss, while above sea level the entire design is aimed at providing minimum obstruction to sheeting spray which in its power is definitely like the sea poet's whetted knife, for now it would give your face an almost instant exfoliation job for which you'd pay through the nose – if you still had one –in a cosmetic clinic.

All this is further compounded by the development of foils, which have leapt several generations since the last race just four years ago. In Ireland our experience of foils in action has come almost entirely from the Figaro 3s, for there were times when Pam Lee and Cat Hunt were undoubtedly being helped on their way by the foils on the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta with which they successfully established a new two-handed Round Ireland last month.

For sure, the hull was being lifted enough to provide more speed potential, but those Figaro 3 foils are very conservative, for even by the time they'd been demonstrated in use, some of the more off-the-wall Minitransat boats had developed foils which regularly lifted the hull comfortably clear of the water.

Minitransat boat Sea-Air in 2017 was demonstrating prototype foils The Minitransat boat Sea-Air in 2017 was demonstrating prototype foils which successfully lifted the hull completely clear of the water

By contrast, as this video painfully reveals, the foils on the Figaro 3 seem to provide a performance which is reminiscent of a farmyard hen trying to fly:

Even four years ago, some of the Vendee Globe IMOCA 60s were at a much more advanced stage than this. But everyone was understandably nervous about becoming reliant on one relatively small carbon foil trying - in effect - to hold an entire 60ft boat aloft with only a tiny bit of assistance from the lee rudder, and the drawbacks in this were underlined when Alex Thomson in what was then the latest Hugo Boss broke one of his foils relatively early in the race, and was reckoned to have done very well indeed to have taken second place with just one-and-a-half foils.

But now for 2020 there's been a quantum leap in foil development and their relative importance, with the frontline boats using foils which are exerting three times the lift of the most advanced foils of 2016. Thus we're becoming accustomed to seeing vids of IMOCA 60s flying along with the hull entirely clear of the water, finely balanced on one seemingly slim foil in a miraculous way which some might say is reminiscent of Melania Trump advancing in stately style in skinny jeans and seven-inch heels………

Watching an IMOCA 60 get up on the foils is akin to observing a swan taking offWatching an IMOCA 60 get up on the foils is akin to observing a swan taking off. It takes time, and there seems to be so much effort involved that it can't possibly succeed… 

IMOCA 60 get up on the foils…..but then it happens, and all is graceful flight

Be that as it may, the speeds which are now regularly possible means that protection from the razor-like spray and the waves sweeping as unhindered as possible over the boat has become such an essential for the lone sailors that Alex Thomson (he's one of ours, he spent some childhood years in Crosshaven) is now more or less completely enclosed in the latest Hugo Boss - he has become "him indoors".

But it would be stretching it a bit to say that this is deck saloon sailing. Yet all his key controls and main vision forward are inside at the forward end of this low-slung, streamlined coachroof, to which the regular deck access is through a small aft-sloping hatchway and smaller doorway with the mainsheet track across between them, after of which - where other boats might have a rudimentary cockpit - the only concession to a cockpit is a slight dip in the deck right aft to provide a foot-rest when he does need to be a hands-on helmsman.

Hugo Boss from astern. With all controls within the cabin podHugo Boss from astern. With all controls within the cabin pod, the cockpit is no more than a slight dip in the deck right aft…….

the sole access hatch requires considerable agility……while the sole access hatch requires considerable agility, and is a whole world away from the traditional user-friendly companionway of a proper cruising yacht

With the speeds which these boats attain, air turbulence along the deck is an increasingly significantly factor, and in order to minimise this, the mainboom is slung as low as possible, such that it's reckoned the next-generation IMOCA 60s will follow the current crop of America's Cup boats in having a deck-sweeping gaiter under the mainsail in order to complete the end-plate airflow-smoothing effect.

All of which means that anywhere outside the relative safety of the control pod is a hazard zone, so any excursions on what passes for a deck are something to be avoided if at all possible. Thus the preparatory work in making the rigs fail-safe has been prodigious, and the programme for deck action, should the sailor have to go out there, has also been carefully thought through, and meticulously trained up.

Alex Thomson in Hugo Boss's "deck saloon", with all sail controls to hand under coverBusy day in the office. Alex Thomson in Hugo Boss's "deck saloon", with all sail controls to hand under cover

When we look at the numbers in this pillar event's relatively short history, it's fascinating to put it in the context of the global socio-political situation of the time. The countdown to a realistic Vendee Globe challenge is a minimum of two to three years - assuming you're starting with personnel who are already well experienced in the event - so we see that while tomorrow's race has the largest turnout so far, the previous biggest turnout was 30 boats in 2008.

The planning towards each campaign in that would have been well under way by 2006-2007, when the world economy thought it was booming. But when the race actually started, many economic setups ashore had already fallen off a cliff, yet the race had enough inbuilt oomph not only to take place, but to give everyone a very welcome distraction from the global financial disaster.

Participation history:

  • 1989-90: 13 boats at the start
  • 1992-93: 15 boats
  • 1996-97: 15 boats
  • 2000-01: 24 boats
  • 2004-05: 20 boats
  • 2008-2009: 30 boats
  • 2012-2013: 20 boats
  • 2016-2017: 29 boats
  • 2020-2021: 33 boats

So now we come to November 2020 with its new set of acute world problems, yet 33 boats and their skippers and support teams in Les Sables d'Olonne have gallantly come through total Vendee Globe Village COVID lockdown in order to start tomorrow in an event where the campaigns were initially being planned in days of relative serenity and modest though real economic growth.

But now the race is going off as a vitally-needed source of absorbing interest at a time when much of the pandemic-ridden world has seen economic collapse and driven itself semi-bonkers by trying to imagine that video games are real life, and that Zoom conferences are a form of socialising.

Oh for sure, we'll be following on a Race Tracker which could seem at times like a video game were it not for the reality that we know is out there on the oceans of the world. And with this varied fleet, there is going to be a stream of remarkable and very real human stories:

VENDEE GLOBE 2020-21 – QUALIFIED & CONFIRMED ENTRIES

  • Fabrice AMEDEO : NEWREST – ART & FENÊTRES
  • Romain ATTANASIO : PURE – BEST WESTERN
  • Alexia BARRIER : 4MYPLANET
  • Yannick BESTAVEN : MAÎTRE COQ IV
  • Jérémie BEYOU : CHARAL
  • Arnaud BOISSIÈRES : LA MIE CÂLINE – ARTISANS PÔLE
  • Louis BURTON : BUREAU VALLEE 2
  • Didac COSTA : ONE PLANET ONE OCEAN
  • Manuel COUSIN : GROUPE SETIN
  • Clarisse CREMER : BANQUE POPULAIRE X
  • Charlie DALIN : APIVIA
  • Samantha DAVIES : INITIATIVES-CŒUR
  • Sébastien DESTREMAU : MERCI
  • Benjamin DUTREUX : OMIA – WATER FAMILY
  • Kevin ESCOFFIER : PRB
  • Clément GIRAUD :
  • Pip HARE : MEDALLIA
  • Boris HERRMANN : SEA EXPLORER – YACHT CLUB DE MONACO
  • Ari HUUSELA : STARK
  • Isabelle JOSCHKE : MACSF
  • Jean LE CAM : YES WE CAM !
  • Stéphane LE DIRAISON : TIME FOR OCEANS
  • Miranda MERRON : CAMPAGNE DE FRANCE
  • Giancarlo PEDOTE : PRYSMIAN GROUP
  • Alan ROURA : LA FABRIQUE
  • Thomas RUYANT : LINKEDOUT
  • Damien SEGUIN : GROUPE APICIL
  • Kojiro SHIRAISHI : DMG MORI
  • Sébastien SIMON : ARKEA – PAPREC
  • Maxime SOREL : V and B – MAYENNE
  • Alex THOMSON : HUGO BOSS
  • Armel TRIPON : L'OCCITANE EN PROVENCE
  • Nicolas TROUSSEL : CORUM L'EPARGNE

We'll get to know many of them much better in the days and weeks ahead, but who are familiar already?

Fifth from the top is Jeremy Bayou, whose Charal has been in commission for just long enough to give every confidence, though the more gloomy observers reckoned he was starting to show his hand too early, and others would be scouting for ideas. But then the pandemic started its remorseless spread, and other finely-timed campaigns started to slip in their schedules as specialist manufacturers had to go into lockdown. Suddenly the Charal campaign was starting to look very sensible, even if the cancellation of keenly anticipated trial events upset training schedules.

Finally, in some desperation the Vendee organisers arranged a COVID-free race to the Arctic and back in July which provided some comparative performance figures to go on, and while – as discussed in our Sailing on Saturday last week on Marcus Hutchinson and Thomas Ruyant with LinkedOut – it was LinkedOut which led at the turning point on the Arctic Circle, at the finish it was Charal first 50 minutes ahead of LinkedOut's near-sister Apivia (Charlie Dalin) with LinkedOut 20 minutes further astern.

In September LinkedOut took delivery of a new but very-delayed set of foils from pandemic-plagued manufacturers Persico in Italy, and the word is that their performance has proven very satisfactory indeed. But of course, that is performance as rated against a set of their own figures, rather than in competition with other boats.

And therein lies the wicked special attraction of this year's Vendee Globe Race. The top boats may well represent a significant design and technical advance on the frontline boats of 2016. But in the end, guessing who'll do best is based on past showings and reports of speed figures based on isolated individual sailing rather then relative performance during 2020 against other boats in a proper racing situation.

Charlie Dalin's Apivia is a near sister of Thomas Ruyant's LinkeOutCharlie Dalin's Apivia is a near sister of Thomas Ruyant's LinkedOut, and took second in the Vendee Artique race.

Thus inevitably Alex Thomson – with five participations including a third and second in the most recent editions, plus a massive budget – finds himself in the tense-making situation of being the pundits' favourite. But in a challenge of this scale and duration, it's really anybody's bet among several boats, and others we'd know of in Ireland who have the benefit of well-resourced campaigns with new or fairly-new generation boats include Jeremy Bayou, Charlie Dalin, Clarisse Cremer, Boris Hermann, Jean le Cam, Thomas Ruyant and Nicolas Troussel.

The latest generation of IMOCA 60s have a significantly improved windward performance over the boats of four years ago, but it may well be they have a weakness of very light airs, so with a probable light air start in southerly winds tomorrow off Les Sables but with fresher sou'westers in the Atlantic to the northwest of Spain, it's expected the newer boats will go as fast as they can to stronger winds further west again, while some of the older boats may take their chance to make a break down the coast of Spain and Portugal.

Either way, with 33 demanding big boats milling around, and with even the most experienced skippers in a state of high tension, simply getting the Vendee Globe 2020 cleanly away tomorrow is a good first marker for an almost impossibly demanding course. Thereafter, the world in all its wonder and challenges is beckoning.

Published in Vendee Globe
Tagged under

Marcus Hutchinson has been having a good Autumn in his role as a sort of benign marine Svengali with an Irish flavour, operating largely behind the scenes at the sharp end of the French big-time offshore racing scene. But it would miss the sense of his way of working to suggest that he has a finger in several important pies, as that would imply a certain messiness in his modus operandi.

On the contrary, it's better expressed by saying that he has some very sensitive fingers on several important pulses, and when push comes to shove, he has access to the resources and knows which buttons to activate, and levers to pull, in order to achieve optimal results.

Thus he has been long-established as an effective go-to man if you're a rising offshore star, and wish to get into the pressure-cooker which is the Figaro Solo circuit. Leading on from that, he was a key facilitator in providing the Figaro 3 boat with which Pam Lee of Greystones and Cat Hunt recently established a very solid Two-Handed Female Round Ireland Record.

Round Ireland two-handed record holder Pam Lee of Greystones at the helm of the Figaro 3 Iarracht MaigeantaRound Ireland two-handed record holder Pam Lee of Greystones at the helm of the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta, whose use by RL Sailing for the successful record challenge was facilitated by Marcus Hutchinson

Their sense of reassurance in Uncle Marcus's very positive confidence in their ability to do it shone through in almost every progress report they filed, and they certainly didn't let him down in a great achievement which brightened the entire Irish sailing scene in a time of otherwise gathering gloom.

But the Figaro circuit is relatively straightforward in that it involves One Design boats. It's in another area of special Hutchinson interest - with the leading-edge development class which is the IMOCA 60 and the Vendee Globe at the apex of its increasingly high-profile programme - that we find we're definitely in jungle territory with some very big beasts on the prowl.

Yet here too the word is that Marcus is one of those who have control over a veritable warehouse in Brittany of IMOCA 60s of varying vintages, such that when some ambitious talent reveals that they harbour notions of having a go at the Vendee Globe, starting with an initial campaign with mid-range "affordable" boat in order to aim towards a full-blown campaign the next time round, the usual test is the seemingly harmless question: "Have you sat down for a coffee and a bit of a chat with Marcus?"

Marcus Hutchinson in "protective manager" mode, responding to questions at a Vendee Globe press conferenceMarcus Hutchinson in "protective manager" mode, responding to questions at a Vendee Globe press conference

A contemporary and friend of super-sailor Gordon Maguire when both were learning the ropes while growing up in Howth (later they won the Half Ton Worlds together), his complex career since has included a yacht design degree from Southampton, a stint in the Rob Humphreys design office where he produced his own Quarter Tonner Quest which is still competitive and much-admired in Dublin Bay, then he edited the RORC Magazine Seahorse while continuing to build his own already extensive offshore experience, and in time he got involved in the French short-handed scene with sundry legends – there's no other way to put it – until he and his wife-to-be Megan (she's from New Zealand) found themselves running the Communications Office for the America's Cup when the contest was Spanish-based for some years in Valencia.

There were many other projects and campaigns, but it was the high-powered French solo and double-handed scene which seemed to best fit his multiple organisational, technical, and sailing talents which – when allied to his engaging manner and apparently unflappable nature – made his input so much in demand that though he and Megan and their two daughters have made their home in Kinsale, where he tries to relax with a spot of sailing with the local Squib fleet, he actually spends much of his time in France. He would have been completely cut off from the home base with the latest increased limitations has his daughter Mea – on her transition year – not been able to join him before the shutters came down completely.

With the buildup to the 2020 Vendee Globe start on November 8th and its record fleet of 33 Imoca 60s developing to its climax in Les Sables d'Olonne, the atmosphere is trebly spooky, as the fabled Race Village – normally a three-week focus of ultra-crowded uber-sociability – has been a high-security very socially-distant bubble since Thursday, with the strictest possible limitations.

the Vendee Globe Village has become a spooky placeNormally a scene of heightened sociability, since midnight on Thursday the Vendee Globe Village has become a spooky place.

The latest wave of COVID-19 was clearly about to hit France in overdrive, but the authorities were acutely aware of the morale-boosting benefits of getting a major sporting happening like the Vendee Globe successfully up and away. So both sides kept closely in touch - with Marcus involved as Team Manager for Thomas Ruyant's Advens-LinkedOut campaign – and the word from the authorities was that if everyone involved with the Vendee Globe went along with the strict lockdown conditions which came into force at Port d'Olonna on Thursday night, then the authorities would do everything they could to make sure the fleet got away.

With high-profile professional stadium sports already being recognized as vital safety-valves for an increasingly oppressed locked-down population, it was reasonably argued that a continuous trackable event of the Vendee Globe's epic proportions would be a real mental tonic for people already somewhat jaded by last winter's crop of eSailing contests. Ingenious and all as they are, they cannot remotely bear comparison with the Vendee Globe's mixture of high-level sport, personal drama, and live transmissions from far at sea beamed into a population in the Northern Hemisphere which would be otherwise sinking into a sepulchral gloom with low resistance to infection.

At the moment, therefore, it's all systems go. So how come that this time round, Marcus Hutchinson is the Team Manager for Thomas Ruyant's Advens-LinkedOut campaign with one of the newest boats in the fleet? And come to think of it, who on earth are Advens and LinkedOut when they're at home?

"The Deal in Lille". The association of Marcus Hutchinson and Thomas Ruyant may have something to do with a boat sale deal in Lille in northern France struck by Enda O'Coineen (left) and Thomas Ruyant"The Deal in Lille". The association of Marcus Hutchinson and Thomas Ruyant may have something to do with a boat sale deal in Lille in northern France struck by Enda O'Coineen (left) and Thomas Ruyant

Well, as with many complex stories at the off-the-wall end of international Irish sailing, you don't have to dig very far until the name of Enda O'Coineen comes up. Back in the previous Vendee Globe in 2016-17, Enda ended up in New Zealand with his Kilcullen Team Ireland dismasted. And also retired damaged in Kiwi-land was the lone sailor whom the French refer to the Northerner, as Thomas Ruyant's base is remote indeed from glamour spots of the French yachting scene, for it's in the no-nonsense department of Nord where he had managed to persuade 50 businesses to put up the money which produced Souffle du Nord, a competitive IMOCA 60 which was very much in the hunt until the determined Ruyant craft was damaged in the Southern Ocean, and did well to get to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Marcus Hutchinson had his own problems, as the boat he was managing had ended up – after being right in the frame in the race – in a wounded state in one of the Pacific islands. All personnel were okay, but with the technical and repair side of the Vendee Globe so Europe-centred, there were considerable logistical problems if the three boats were going to be restored to racing order.

The Kiwi Transformation…..in the 2016-2017 Vendee Globe, Thomas Ruyant's Souffle du Nord arrived in a damaged state in New ZealandThe Kiwi Transformation…..in the 2016-2017 Vendee Globe, Thomas Ruyant's Souffle du Nord arrived in a damaged state in New Zealand. When she finally sailed away again after major repairs, she'd become Team Ireland Souffle du Nord, and Enda O'Coineen was in command

Doubtless, there are other versions of this story, but we do have a photo which proves that Enda O'Coineen popped over to Lille in the heart of Ruyant-land in order to buy Souffle du Nord. He knew he could get her repaired in New Zealand, where she re-emerged as Team Ireland Souffle du Nord to provide Enda with a mount to successfully complete his round the world odyssey, while the other two boats were shipped back to Europe to join that ghost fleet of IMOCA 60s which is always available to be re-commissioned as economically as possible for the next edition of the Vendee Globe.

Team Ireland Souffle du Nord (foreground) was raced by France's Thomas Ruyant and Ireland's Joan MulloyIn a two-handed IMOCA 60 series in Monaco, Team Ireland Souffle du Nord (foreground) was raced by France's Thomas Ruyant and Ireland's Joan Mulloy, and won

Meanwhile, Team Ireland Souffle du Nord had some final moments of glory under that name when she was raced by Thomas Ruyant and Joan Mulloy in the high-profile IMOCA 60 two-handed regatta at Monaco, and won. This was a stylish exit, as The Northerner was already working towards his next Vendee Globe campaign, searching out backers among the rising companies in the far north of France. But although Marcus Hutchinson was now focused on other things including the Figaro Solo and the family business – the Vivi Trading Company – in Kinsale, where he also does consultancy work with Rob Doyle Yacht Design, by 2018 he was already back in the Imoca 60 maelstrom with an input for the Thomas Ruyant campaign, and that soon became the full role as Team Manager and an increasingly hectic schedule with the boat being built in Northern Italy in a city called Bergamo.

It's a picturesque place with some remarkable high-tech industries in the classic North Italian style, but by the time it leapt into world headlines in January 2020 as the world's Number One COVID-19 hotspot, the new Ruyant IMOCA 60 was well away from basic construction with Persico Marine in Bergamo, and had moved to Lorient for finishing before testing in the Atlantic.

Maiden sail, with initial prime slot given to key sponsors AdvensMaiden sail, with initial prime slot given to key sponsors Advens. Photo Pierre Bouras/TR Racing

Thomas Ruyant and the new boat in LorientThomas Ruyant and the new boat in Lorient, with the re-styled livery giving prominence to LinkedOut, although the campaign continues to be under-written by Advens. Photo: Pierrre Bouras/TR Racing

Initially, the main sponsors were simply Advens, the Boulogne-based cybersecurity outfit. But their top honcho Alexander Fayeulle became an enthusiastic supporter of Jean-Marc Potdevin's new not-for-profit social organisation LinkedOut, which has been doing some very worthwhile work in France for those at the bottom of the employment ladder who would not be able to access the high-powered networking strength of LinkedIn.

The upshot of it all was a re-direction as the 2020 season – such as it was – got underway, with the Ruyant boat appearing in attractive new livery in which LinkedOut are freely given the kind of promotional space they formerly wouldn't have dared dream of.

And on top of that, the new Volvo Super 60 type boat – designed by Guillaume Verdier who had previously designed the Class 40 with which Ruyant had won the Route de Rhum – was showing great promise. For although ambitious plans for a two way Transatlantic Race for the Vendee Globe-preparing IMOCA 60 fleet had to be abandoned in the face of the pandemic, a shorter race to the Arctic was sailed in July, with LinkedOut leading for much of the way, and placing a close third at the finish.

However, the team hadn't been happy from an early stage with the performance of the foils, but though a re-designed set had been ordered from Persico for delivery in May, the pandemic shutdown meant they weren't available for installation until September, so trialling has been minimal, but the initial performance indicators are good.

Nevertheless, as with many other teams, the pandemic-induced delays will mean that the race itself is going to be part of the testing process, a situation made even more acute by the lockdown on the Race Village and those within its bubble. Access to outside experts is thereby curtailed, and consequently there was some urgency in getting LinkedOut to sea on Thursday for some test sailing while outside specialists could still be on board.

The Vendee Arctique Race in July saw LinkedOut leading at the turn west of Iceland, and she was close third at the finishThe new foils do the business……LinkedOut riding high and fast in the Bay of Biscay on Thursday. Photo: Pierre Bouras/TR Racing

All went well, but as Marcus Hutchison observed to Sailing on Saturday on Thursday evening:

"As ever, the abiding impression is how astonishing it is that just one person – admittedly a very special person – can race these fantastic machines single-handed right round the world. There were five of us out today, the wind was 20 to 30 knots, there was a good three to four metre sea running, so even with five, moving sails around and the many other tasks were often sheer brutal hard labour.

And yet one person has to be prepared to do it all alone when they sail away on Sunday week. Most of the drone vids we'll see will show the boats with everything properly set up, tearing across the ocean seemingly without effort, and the lone skipper – if he or she is even visible – apparently relaxed as if it's all happening by magic. I can assure you it doesn't happen by magic – it's sheer hard grind both mentally and physically, right from the very moment when the notion of a new campaign begins to take shape". 

Afloat.ie will be featuring more stories on the upcoming Vendee Globe 2020 in the countdown to the start and during the course of the race. 

This cloud building over LinkedOut off Les Sables d'Olonne on Thursday afternoon would put even the toughest mariner in a thoughtful frame of mindWith the start of the Vendee Globe 2020 just eight days away, the weather predictions are starting to become more precise even though the North Atlantic is in an extremely volatile mood. This cloud building over LinkedOut off Les Sables d'Olonne on Thursday afternoon would put even the toughest mariner in a thoughtful frame of mind. Photo: Pierre Bouras/TR Racing

Published in Vendee Globe

Following France's national lockdown measures announced by the President of the French Republic last night as part of the fight against Covid-19, the Vendée Globe Race Village will be closed to the public from Friday, October 30th.

The start of the Vendée Globe will take place as planned on Sunday, November 8th at 1:02 p.m. local time, but behind closed doors without spectators.

It will be broadcast live on vendeeglobe.org and on many television channels.

The Vendée Globe 2020-2021 remains a symbol of our strong will to carry on, despite the difficulties our country is facing, and whilst of course, respecting the health measures as set by the State, said Mr Yves Auvinet, President of the SAEM Vendée and the Vendée region.

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The impressive scale of the record-sized fleet of IMOCA 60 yachts which will take the start line of the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe solo race round the world on Sunday, November 8th was obvious today in Les Sables d’Olonne, France when Yves Auvinet, President de la SAEM Vendée and the Département de la Vendée officially opened the 'Start Village'.

Unfortunately, there are no Irish competitors this edition despite various efforts over the last four years but as WM Nixon reports today, Marcus Hutchinson, who was much involved in recent days with the Magenta Project Female Two-Handed Round Ireland Record, will be right in the thick of things in Les Sables d’Olonne. 

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People have been unobtrusively getting on with sailing in many places during the pandemic, determinedly maintaining social distance afloat and ashore, reducing their interaction with outsiders to such a minimum it's almost non-existent, and doing it all thoughtfully, with properly-located face coverings.

Where racing has been held, it has been kept low key, and the traditional après sailing became so restrained that many folk, having got in their evening race or mini-cruise or whatever, simply decided to go straight home rather than use the carefully-planned compliant catering which the clubs have worked determinedly and with vision to provide.

Amongst club officials meanwhile, the central thinking is that each club should keep to itself, each boat should keep to itself, and each sailing family should stay within family limits. It's the complete opposite, in other words, of the Hockey Union, which seems to have been penalising clubs because some team members have refused for health reasons to travel to matches at other clubs.

Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening raceThe sense of well-being and feelings of good health induced by evening racing like this is beyond measure. Michael McCann's Etchells 22 on her way to winning the Royal Cork's evening race of Thursday, July 9th 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

Who got Covid-19 through sailing?

Fortunately, the nature of our sailing is such that a comparable situation doesn't arise. The result is that the sailing community has managed to maintain such a high level of good health that incidences of COVID-19 within it seem very rare indeed, often to the point of non-existence. But instead of making such sweeping assessments based on personal observation and hearsay, Afloat.ie would like to put the record on a more substantial footing, so if you know of anyone in sailing who currently has, or has experienced, COVID-19, then please let us know.

Of course, we don't want names – that would be a gross intrusion on privacy, and probably illegal. But if we could get some sort of ballpark figure (if it exists), it would give substance to the arguments of many club officers, who feel that the National Authority has gone too far in declaring that even the humblest club racing is now verboten, and who feel instead that our beloved and exceptionally healthy sport – of which club sailors are the backbone – deserves much the same treatment as that meted out to golf.

The problem, of course, is that while sailing is a peaceful and often solitary pursuit without paying spectators, it is a high visibility activity. Even the smallest boats popping out for a quick race in the bay will be seen – albeit with scant genuine attention – by very many people. And if one sector of the population is finding its activities restricted in the severest possible way, it's only human to strike out and make sure that everyone else has to endure the same restrictions, and preferably worse.

Dun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough ReeDun Laoghaire Water Wags on Lough Ree. Casual observers will not be aware of the details of sailing, but they'll certainly know it's going on. Photo: Cathy Mac Aleavey

Despite all this, we've had a truncated but interesting sailing season in Ireland in 2020, and at the time of writing this it's still developing, with Pam Lee and Cat Hunt in the process of setting a new women's two-handed round Ireland record (Record established in a time of 3 days 3d 20h 29m 28s subject to ratification - Web editor). Looking ahead, if allowed there are also prospects of late Autumn and early Winter leagues among people who have come to a fresh realisation of just how much sailing means to them.

It's all controllable within a very defined club bubble, but special challenges arise when a major international event comes up on the agenda, and those involved think they can just about run it provided the countdown and the participants have all been careful beyond diligent in preparing themselves and their crews.

Middle Sea Race's impressive turnout

Today's Royal Malta Rolex Middle Sea Race really has bent over backwards to be pandemic-fit. But even in Malta, there are Middle Sea-proven boats and crews who wouldn't dream of taking part. Despite that, the entry of 71 boats with crews from 21 countries is an impressive turnout, and there seems to be a basic underlying feeling that the race must take place as scheduled at 11 o'clock local time today (Saturday), not least for the morale of Malta and the good of world sailing.

This may all sound a bit high-flown for a specialised sporting event, but the Middle Sea Race can happen with no detrimental effect on preventing the spread of COVID-19, it will further improve the health of those taking part, and it will do us all no end of good simply to know it's taking place.

The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2The Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2 on her way to winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2019. Photo Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

So we find every bit of Irish interest that's going. Even the defending champion. the Podesta family's First 45 Elusive 2, has a tenuous connection to us. The late Arthur Podesta, the father of the remarkable Podesta siblings Maya, Christoph and Aaron, took a best result of third overall in the Middle Sea Race with the first Elusive, which was an earlier First 45 – a sister-ship of Cormac Twomey's Sarah J which won the Dingle Race in 1997 and 1999 – which had originally been taken out to the Mediterranean by John Sisk of Dun Laoghaire.

Thus we need to claim a bit of Elusive 2, as our key offshore sailors in Malta - Barry Hurley and Brian Flahive who have many outstanding offshore achievements between them - are sitting this one out, though they have been getting in a spot of sailing by both being at the sharp end of SB20 racing in Malta.

Another serious contender that rings a bell is the hugely individualistic Lombard 45 Pata Negra, the vehicle of dreams for many Irish offshore successes. She's chartered this time round by Andrew Hall of Pwllheli and the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association.

Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday, and placed third overall Jean-Pierre Dick's JP 54 The Kid took line honours in the Malta Coastal Race on Wednesday and placed third overall

And though Honorary Irish Sailor Jean-Pierre Dick (he was up at The Park, don't y'know) put down a marker for line honours with his JP54 The Kid in Wednesday's 30-mile Malta Coastal Race, the formidable talents of Nin O'Leary of Crosshaven have been shipped aboard the Dutch-owned Maxi 72 Aragon, a Reichel-Pugh design. And there's nothing Nin enjoys more than making a luxury performance cruiser sail much faster than anyone thought possible.

So there's an Irish lineup of sorts, and doubtless once the fleet finally crosses the start line, we'll find that there are others of us among the crews, for there's also representation in the multi-hulls with northerner Mikey Ferguson crewing on the MOD 70 Mana

Nin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender AragonNin O'Leary's Middle Sea contender Aragon - her CV already includes winning the RORC Transatlantic race.

Vendee Globe in November

The pace is then ratcheted with the Vendee Globe getting underway in November. Theoretically, it’s the perfect lockdown event, as it's all about isolation. But there is the problem that if anything happens to one of the contenders, they might have to put into some remote little island which would be just rife for infection from all sorts of novel viruses and bacteria. But that’s an unlikely enough scenario, and either way we can be sure that Marcus Hutchinson, much involved in recent days with the Magenta Project Female Two-Handed Round Ireland Record, will be right in the thick of things in Les Sables d’Olonne, even if they are going to try and run the legendary village oo socially distanced lines.

 The hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiThe hundred footers make their start in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Until the pandemic struck, three of them had hoped to be racing in European waters this summer. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Sydney Hobart holds out

Beyond that, the focus will swing to the southern hemisphere, where the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia are determinedly holding out on being able to stage the annual Sydney-Hobart race on December 26th. If it does happen, defending overall ace is our own Gordon Maguire, and the likelihood of top navigator-tactician Adrienne Cahalane – originally of Offaly – being in some key role in the fleet can be taken as read.

America's Cup selection stages

Meanwhile, December will see the first selection stages of next year's America's Cup being raced in New Zealand. New Zealand has of course been the poster-girl for national avoidance of COVID-19, so the anti-viral tests which boats and crews being shipped out to Auckland have had to pass are of the most demanding and rigorous type.

New Zealand has been under almost total outsider-exclusion for quite some time now. Thus the chink of light which may be allowed in by the America's Cup is surely welcome, as the prolonged period of virtually total isolation seems to have resulted in the distinctive Kiwi accent becoming even more different from English as she is spoken elsewhere than it was already. Unless some outsiders get in there quite soon, it's only a matter of time before there won't be anybody who can understand a word they say……..

Auckland, the City of a Thousand SailsAuckland, the City of a Thousand Sails, where the total pandemic isolation of New Zealand is resulting in the development of a strange new dialect of English

Published in Vendee Globe

It was a tough night off Ireland in the Vendee-Arctique- Les Sables d'Olonne as an international fleet of racers navigated the West Cork coast.

During their second night at sea, on their way from Les Sables d'Olonne to Iceland, the fleet has been closing on the southwest corner of Ireland with the leaders coming within a couple of miles of the coast near Kinsale in a bid to get out of the worst of the weather.

It has been a long hard beat into the northwesterly wind which has been hitting 35 knots in the gusts. Throughout, the leader has remained the Frenchman Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut (managed by Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson), the boat named after a charity supporting the homeless.

Thomas Ruyant Linked OutFrench sailor Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut Photo via IMOCA Global Series

 

He has set a tough pace for the leading group which has settled into a collection of four boats with Charlie Dalin on Apivia this morning in second place just one-and-a-half nautical miles behind, then Jeremie Beyou on Charal (+2.5) and Kevin Escoffier on PRB (+3.9) in fourth place.

At a position about 45 miles south of the Fastnet Rock on starboard tack, Ruyant was pushing his foiler ahead at 14 knots with about 800 miles to go to reach the IOC UNESCO waypoint off the southwest tip of Iceland.

"Ruyant was pushing his foiler ahead at 14 knots with about 800 miles to go to reach Iceland"

The last 24 hours have seen a second boat return to port with Damien Seguin following the earlier example of Sebastien Simon (ARKÉA PAPREC) deciding to head for Port-La Forêt on board Groupe APICIL.

Seguin discovered that his alternator mounting had completely sheered off in the upwind conditions that were battering his boat and realised he would not have enough power to run his onboard systems without being able to use the engine.

"I quickly looked at what I could do and realised that unfortunately, I couldn't fix it at all," said Seguin who has never retired from a professional race before. "It seemed very difficult to continue like this upwind without being able to re-charge the batteries on board, so I made the decision with the team to return to Port-La-Forêt," he added.

Seguin was just south of Brest this morning on his way home but had not retired from the race.

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Alex Thomson has returned to the water onboard HUGO BOSS, the boat which he hopes will lead him to victory in the 2020 Vendee Globe.

Thomson who has strong links to Cork Harbour and is a former Afloat Sailor of the Month now has less than five months to go until the start of the round-the-world endeavour, dubbed the Everest of the Seas.

Thomson and his team - much like their competitors in the IMOCA class - were unable to train on the water for some 9 weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England, however, the team have been able to return to the water to commission the yacht, before re-commencing their training.

The news comes as organisers of the Vendee Globe this week confirmed that the race - which takes place just every four years and is considered the pinnacle event in the offshore sailing calendar - will indeed go ahead as planned on 8th November from Les Sables-d’Olonne in western France.

With less than five months to go until the start of the round-the-world endeavour, Thomson has made clear the team’s sole focus over this period will be maximising their time on the water and optimising the performance of the HUGO BOSS boat.

Over the coming weeks and months, Thomson and his crew will train offshore in a bid to further develop and enhance the performance of the HUGO BOSS boat, which launched in the summer of last year after more than two years in design and build. Thomson will also complete his solo 2,000 nautical mile passage, a final qualification requirement for the Vendee Globe.

“We feel in really good shape” he continued. “Of course, like all the teams, we’ve lost time on the water but that was out of our hands. The team has adapted well and we’ve really made the most of this period. Now it’s about putting the knowledge we’ve gained - and projects we’ve worked hard to develop - to the test. We’re now a few days into our training and I’m very pleased with the decisions that we’ve made so far. HUGO BOSS is performing very well indeed!”

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The Visually Impaired Sailing Association (VISA-GB) today announced that Pip Hare the respected sailor and Vendee Globe competitor has become the Patron of the Association.

VISA-GB is unique amongst disabled sailing charities because the majority of its board of trustees are visually impaired sailors who give a significant amount of their time to create opportunities for others with a visual impairment, to experience the freedom of offshore sailing. The majority of the crew on VISA-GB boats are normally visually impaired and play a full role in sailing and running the yacht.

Eddie Kitchen, chairman of VISA-GB said of Pip’s appointment: "All of us at VISA are thrilled that Ocean racer, and lifelong sailor, Pip Hare has agreed to be our Patron. Our charity will benefit from her enthusiasm, knowledge and determined attitude that will see her on the start line if this year's Vendee Globe race. Pip embodies much of what we stand for, there are many that think we chase impossible dreams, but our blind and visually impaired members are determined not to allow a lack of sight to stop them enjoying and benefiting from sailing. As our figurehead we know Pip will encourage us to achieve our ambitions.”

He added “I also know that Pip will help us to deliver our message to all in the visually impaired and blind community and that VISA-GB will continue to empower our sailors, encourage all to learn new skills and enjoy their participation in our great sport."

When asked about her new role Pip said "I was delighted to be approached by the Visually Impaired Sailing Association with a view to become their Patron. Having met some of the
VISA-GB sailors in 2019 I was extremely impressed by their approach and felt it matched my own. By empowering the visually impaired sailors to manage the complete boat trip it created a wonderfully positive approach to sailing. My own goals have been achieved by the same single-minded determination I saw in these sailors, and I found it inspirational. By
making sailing more accessible and fully inclusive I firmly believe we can make our sport open to all. I am pleased to accept the post of Patron and ambassador for VISA-GB and look forward to supporting and helping them achieve their goals."

With a full programme of events planned for 2021, VISA-GB hopes to have over 100 visually impaired sailors on the water, both cruising and racing. They are currently planning for a circumnavigation of the UK to offer a taste of life on the water to the visually impaired in all corners of the country. Trustees and members will be following and supporting Pip on her adventure in the Vendee Globe.

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Preparations for the start of the next Vendee Globe are going ahead in an uncertain context in terms of public health and the economy. The Vendee Council and the SAEM Vendee are doing their utmost in conjunction with all the partners, skippers from the IMOCA Class, their sponsors and public authorities to ensure arrangements for this ninth edition of the Vendee Globe go smoothly.

Maintaining the start date of 8th November for the race is the goal and everything is being done to achieve that.

In terms of racing, nothing prevents the race from starting on 8th November, as long as the national authorities allow that to be the case. However, for the Vendee Globe, which is a popular event and belongs to the local people, the presence of the public is important for us.

The organisers are therefore studying every possible situation to be able to welcome the public at an event like this in the economic and public health context, the evolution of which is hard to predict. The decision to keep Race HQ in Les Sables d'Olonne throughout the whole race will in fact help to ensure a maximum number of people can fully enjoy the Vendee Globe adventure.

At the same time, the Vendee Globe organisers are working in conjunction with the IMOCA Class towards the goal of adapting some of the deadlines for the skippers, in particular, the final date for registrations which has been pushed back until 1st September and the organisation of a preparatory solo race this summer.

A race from Vendee-Arctic-Les Sables d'Olonne to take place in July

At the same time, the Vendee Globe organisers are working in conjunction with the IMOCA Class towards the goal of adapting some of the deadlines for the skippers, in particular, the final date for registrations which has been pushed back until 1st September and the organisation of a preparatory solo race this summer.

With sailing gradually starting again, the IMOCA Class has been working over the past few weeks on organising a preparatory race, which was initially scheduled for June. In agreement with the Vendee Department, the headline partner for the event, the IMOCA Class proposed a race starting from off Les Sables d'Olonne on 4th July. This will be a solo race taking the sailors up past Iceland and into the Arctic Circle and then down to the Azores with a return to the start location planned around ten days later.

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