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Alex Thomson today departed from Cape Town, South Africa to begin the 6,500 nm journey back to the UK onboard his HUGO BOSS boat.

After being forced to retire from the Vendee Globe round-the-world yacht race - which is still underway - Thomson sailed his IMOCA yacht to Cape Town where the boat remained over the Christmas and New Year period.

Thomson and members of his technical team this week returned to Cape Town, successfully replaced the boat’s starboard rudder - which was damaged beyond repair, causing the skipper’s withdrawal from the race - and have since been preparing to sail the boat back to the south coast of England. The delivery is expected to take Thomson and his three crew members around three weeks to complete.

“I’m looking forward to getting back out on the water sailing again” said Thomson, as he prepared to leave the V&A Marina in Cape Town today. “Of course, this is certainly not where we expected to find ourselves. We were expecting to be up there, competing with the leading boats in the Vendee Globe. But we’ll be watching the race closely and wishing all the skippers the very best for the rest of the race.

“For us, the next three weeks provide a very good opportunity to get some more miles under our belts and to learn even more about this beautiful boat and what she’s capable of. We’ll also be continuing to develop some of our game-changing onboard technology projects alongside the team at Nokia Bell Labs”.

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(Day 29 - 550 miles north of the Kerguelen Islands) Britain’s Pip Hare should cross the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope early tomorrow, her first of the Vendée Globe’s three Great Capes. Lying in 20th place, she is chasing Spanish rival Didac Costa hard, just 12 miles behind the Barcelona firefighter who is on his third round the world race in five years, all of them on board his One Planet – One Ocean which started life as Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher over 20 years ago.

Ticking off her first Great Cape will be a significant moment for 45-year-old Hare, who is based out of Poole, England and whose IMOCA is of identical vintage to friend and rival Costa’s. Her’s was built as Superbigou by Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm and his friends in a shed in Lesconcil, Brittany and launched 11th February 2000, while MacArthur’s Kingfisher was launched within the same fortnight on the other side of the world in New Zealand.

Just as the two IMOCAs are lifelong rivals – although Stamm had to abandon the 2000-2001 Vendée Globe on which 24-year-old MacArthur led and went on to finish second - so Hare and Costa previously raced Mini 650s against each other and finished within 40 minutes of each other the last time they did the MiniTransat.

Costa, who finished 14th on the last Vendée Globe, reported last night that he had hit something which he believed to be a whale although there was no damage to the mammal nor to his boat. As well as notifying other competitors via Race HQ, he also made sure Hare – who is sailing in his wake – was aware.

“Didac messaged me yesterday to let me know he had hit something. It is really nice to have him there. We keep in touch. It is amazing for me to have him here as a pace setter but I have no intention of letting him go. That is for sure. I think Kingfisher (now Didac’s One Planet-One Ocean) is a quicker boat and certainly in the bigger breeze I am pushing hard to keep up. The biggest issue is in the moderate breeze this boat is still quite narrow in the beam. It just does not have power and righting moment. I really struggle then reaching in a moderate range. I can’t hang on to him. I have to work very hard in the light and heavy breeze. I have to put the hammer down to keep up with him for sure.” said Hare on today’s Vendée Globe Live.

Having endured a painful week in the Indian Ocean fighting to keep themselves, their boats and equipment intact in big, choppy seas and very gusty winds to 35-40kts, race leaders Charlie Dalin (Apivia) and Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) are finally finding a fast route east on the leading face of a fast moving low pressure system.

With flat water and strong North Westerly winds they are in ideal conditions which Vendée Globe meteo consultant and three times Vendée Globe racer Seb Josse said this morning might see Alex Thomson’s world 24 hours record run of 536 miles - set on the last race – fall. If they can continue to keep pace with the front which is moving at around 25kts eastwards, they could then catch a moderate wind flow from a high pressure at Cape Leeuwin to complete a dream sequence that could open them a massive lead on their pursuers. And they have indeed maintained high averages since last night, more than 20kts and so that means often surfing at 28-30kts. Ruyant has been on port gybe and so not missing the foil he had to cut away.

"The weather is almost sunny, it's rather a good day" commented a relatively relaxed Charlie Dalin during the Vendée Live this afternoon.

But 600 miles back in the fiery depths of the low pressure system it is very windy with big seas, much more like the Dante-esque vision of the Southern Ocean.

"We have 45 knots and horizontal rain" reported fourth placed Damien Seguin in a video.

"I have never seen a sea like this, it is rough, it is very hard to go forwards, it catches the boat, the boat accelerates forwards surging to 29 knots but if you are too slow, the waves will catch up and explode on the transom. It is hideous.” confirms Maxime Sorel (11th), this morning on the phone.

The nine boats sailing in Dalin and Ruyant’s wake were overtaken by the front which had 50 knots in squally gusts. With huge confused seas, racing is on hold and self preservation becomes the most important challenge. Damien Seguin, who was in fourth place, has been reporting a failure of his main autopilot. His back up has worked intermittently and the sailor who is the first handisport sailor to take on the Vendee Globe is looking for a solution with his team.

"The big South is an endurance race that slowly wears you out" summarizes Josse.

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Following a violent collision last Wednesday evening, British Vendee Globe skipper Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) sustained significant damage to the framework supporting the keel of her IMOCA. In consultation with her team, she made the decision to stop in Cape Town (South Africa). This morning as she arrived in Cape Town she confirmed by video at 0900hrs UTC that she is officially retiring from the race. But she says she is determined to return - after making repairs with her team and experts - to complete the race course as 'hors course', unclassified on the solo race which forbids any kind of outside assistance.

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With the attrition rate in the gruelling Vendée Globe growing by the day — Sébastian Simon and Sam Davies are only the latest to change course for South Africa after sustaining damage — one reader is pointing the finger of blame on the international shipping sector.

John Blaney suggests that “the root cause is the junk discarded or broken off at sea by everyone”.

He adds: “We allow container ships to shed containers aka floating metal icebergs without requiring them to be recovered. Asgard II is an example of a slower speed collision with one.

“This needs worldwide legislation to prevent these hazards to navigation. Put GPS trackers on everything of any significant size and track it like space junk and publish results.”

But the modern style of racing involved in the Vendée Globe — with foiling IMOCA 60s making a big splash this time out — does not escape criticism, either.

“Add higher speeds to boats balancing on little spindly foils and rudders, and the collision results have much more impact (pun intended) and catastrophic results,” Blaney says.

“Also likely is the need for a significant rescue effort to be mounted to the middle of nowhere to find the needle in the haystack.”

Describing himself as “a slow displacement guy”, Blaney emphasises that he’s “all for the need for speed” but calls for moderation.

“If I want to fly somewhere, I fly at 30,000ft rather than foil at 3ft. Keep foiling to contained areas that can be scoured for floating debris like the America’s Cup race areas.

“Track junk and design boats conservatively to be able to withstand collisions with it. Better still, have the responsible parties clean up their junk.”

Meanwhile, the remaining Vendée Globe skippers will be eagle-eyed for icebergs on their route across the southern Indian Ocean.

Hugo Boss’ Alex Thomson won’t be among their number, having just arrived in Cape Town after withdrawing from the race last weekend due to his own rudder damage in the South Atlantic.

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Charlie Dalin, the Vendée Globe race leader, should pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on Monday, the first of the mythical 24,296 nautical miles solo round the world’s three Great Capes. That his elapsed time since the race started in Les Sables d’Olonne will be around 22 days might be of some tiny consolation to British skipper Alex Thomson who is heading to Cape Town.

His Vendée Globe may be over because of a broken rudder sustained on Friday evening but the blistering pace of 17 days 22hrs 58 seconds that Thomson leading the 2016-17 race remains intact, and is likely to remain so for at least another four years.

The bitterly disappointed 46-year-old from Gosport, Hampshire in England has explained briefly what happened to his rudder, believing that some discarded or lost fishing equipment caused the fracture.

“I was averaging 21 knots, flying the small gennaker and one reef in the mainsail. I was down below when there was a huge bang and the boat broached violently. The steering system was jammed and all I could do was roll the sails away. Once on deck, I could see the rudder blade was broken and swinging around with a large piece of fishing gear jammed into the cracks. So I think I must have hit something. It certainly looks that way. Now I am having to keep the boat flat while I sail the boat now with just one rudder to Cape Town.”

Even after losing four days and nights slowed to make structural repairs, Thomson was sure he had the capacity to win, “I still felt that we could win it, I really did “I’m obviously devastated.”

From the skippers still racing and fans and supporters around the world there has been a huge outpouring of support and good wishes for the popular skipper. French rival Jérémie Beyou, who restarted nine days after the original start due to damage to his own rudder on Charal send a message of solidarity to the sailor who should have been his closest rival on this ninth edition of the race.

Many race followers had expected and hoped for a Thomson v Beyou title match but the dreams of both race heavyweights are over. Beyou crossed the Equator today and is still over 350 nautical miles behind the 31st placed Kojiro Shiraishi and 3,300 miles behind Dalin, having restarted at 2,715 miles behind the then leader HUGO BOSS.

“It is so tough for Alex. I know how hard it is to be in his place. I have been there and even this time was just inches from being in the exact same situation. I know how hard it is to prepare a Vendée Globe and to do it, three, four, five times, to be there to try and always be reaching that holy grail, that first place. I know all the things he has had to do to prepare his boat, all he has been through to get here, and then he has nothing, no comeback, no closure. I feel so bad for him as bad as if it were happening to me. He called me when I had to turn back and he had some very nice words to say. I told him yesterday to hold his head high because there will be time to analyse it all, but all that he has done to prepare this race is something to be proud of.” Said Beyou when he spoke on the Vendée Globe Live show this lunchtime.

He added, “Hearing Damien Seguin talk earlier and seeing the conditions they have in the Southern Ocean makes me really want to be with those friends up ahead; it is not so easy to be this far behind. I am trying to make the boat go as fast as possible and have chosen a course that is direct down the Atlantic and cut off the corner."

Dalin’s lead remains steady at around 300 nautical miles ahead of Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) while Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) and Kevin Escoffier (PRB) have been trading third place over the course of Sunday.

Among those who remain impressive as first timers in the south are Yannick Bestaven in fifth on Maître CoQ IV, pushing Escoffier hard. Sébastien Simon on the new Juan K designed ARKEA PAPREC has been quick and making steady inroads now in seventh chasing sixth placed Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) who is just 11 miles ahead. Paralympic medallist Damien Seguin is outstanding in ninth driving his powerful, non-foiling 2008 Finot Conq designed Groupe Apicil very hard indeed, likewise Les Sables d’Olonne rookie Benjamin Dutreux on the Farr designed OMIA-Water Family is in 12th, just six miles behind Sam Davies who is 11th on Initiatives Coeur.

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The Vendée Globe has a new race leader in Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut. The solo racer is managed by Kinsale and Howth's Marcus Hutchinson and who, for the second successive Vendée Globe, carries the hopes of businesses, supporters and fans from his home region from the northeast of France, took over the race lead on this morning’s 0400hrs ranking report. After five days at the top of the race classification, Britain’s Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS) is second today at 26.5 nautical miles behind with Charlie Dalin (Apivia) some 64.5 miles behind Ruyant his compatriot.

It is the first time 39 year old Ruyant, a past winner of the Mini Transat, has lead the Vendée Globe.

“I’ve just looked to this morning’s ranking and I’m in the lead. I’m very happy. It’s nice to be the leader of the Vendée Globe in the South Atlantic but to be honest I am even more happy to be part of this trio with Alex and Charlie. It’s great to be in close contact at this stage of the race. Anyway I am very proud of this being in first place for the first time.” Ruyant said this morning.

Vendee Globe leader Thomas Ruyant (above) on LinkedOut is managed by Kinsale and Howth's Marcus Hutchinson (below)Vendee Globe leader Thomas Ruyant (above) on LinkedOut is managed by Kinsale and Howth's Marcus Hutchinson (below)

Vendee Globe leader Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut is managed by Kinsale and Howth's Marcus Hutchinson (above)

The Vendée Globe, as always, offers different objectives right through the fleet, something for everyone. And as the 32 solo racers contemplate the start of their third week at sea tomorrow, short term goals are common to the leading trio. They just want to position themselves best to make it onto the same high speed eastwards ride in the Southern Ocean together and not be left behind.

Ruyant, Thomson and Dalin have enjoyed a quick ride down a frontal system passing the latitude of Rio today in favourable breezes but from Sunday afternoon or evening they look set to encounter a zone of much lighter downwind conditions, requiring multiple gybes, a transition area which is a barrier between them and the Southern Ocean.

Behind them, the sheer scale of the race hit some of the younger rookies, racing down the Brazilian coast. Elsewhere the build-up of fatigue starts to affect emotions. And near the back Franco-Australian Seb Destremau (MERCI) is simply enjoying another round the world odyssey, oblivious to the race around him, as he seeks to challenge himself.

Maxime Sorel in 14th on V and B Mayenne, a first timer on the Vendée Globe on a long, long port gybe to the south, racing today off Salvador, Brasil, noted “It is a real step up to be racing on the Vendée Globe! I'm starting to be aware of how long the race will last. For me, I love contact racing, I love manoeuvring, I almost love it when it's hard. This is not my favourite part of the Vendée Globe, it's a bit monotonous. I have the impression that the friends in front are going a little faster. It's getting a bit monotonous; I'm not used to it. We're going to be on the same tack for several days, with not a lot of trimming, no sail changes. It's the first time I've ever been on the same tack for so long. The descent of the South Atlantic is going to be on the same angle, quite tight. It's not very fast for me. My boat isn't super powerful, these are clearly conditions for the foilers, but that's part of the game.”

And Briton Pip Hare, who is having a great race on Medallia in 21st admitted she has been having her ups and downs in the Doldrums, “Sometimes it is easy to get lazy and not do things to the best that you can, and I have to bully myself to make sure I don’t let things slip.” She said on the LIVE show today. Hare is having just the exact match race with Spanish fireman Didac Costa that some predicted, 77 miles of lateral separation, but less than one mile apart in terms of DTF after 13 days racing on two of the most famous boats in the race, Medallia being formerly Bernard Stamm’s Superbigou and Didac’s having started life as Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher.

Facing a major repair but with no significant structural issues, just behind Sorel is Isabelle Joshcke (MACSF) whose pushpit and some aft stanchions were ripped from the deck when a sheet block exploded. Joschke is unhurt but will need to improve her security at the back of the boat before she heads into the Big South for the first time.

After a marathon five days of repairs to his mainsail and battens, Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi, is finally back on track with DMG MORI. Having repaired the tear, which was near the top of his mainsail, with laminate cut from below the first reef point Koji, will have to complete his Vendée Globe with a reef in all the time. And, in order to protect the repaired sail, he will only tack rather than gybe – a slightly more time-consuming process but 53-year old Shiraishi is more determined than every to complete this Vendée Globe.

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Alex Thomson leads the Vendée Globe by some 26 nautical miles this afternoon, first to deal with the worst of storm Theta at some 250 miles south of the Azores. The British skipper took Hugo Boss close to the centre of the system as he considered prudent, before a difficult gybe in around 40ks of wind and 5-metre seas around 1330hrs this afternoon, a move which should see him gain significantly on all but the French veteran Jean Le Cam who took a similar track.

The reward for the extra risk is sailing fewer miles than the rivals who are chasing him is being slingshotted out of the low in strong N NW’ly winds which, all going well, should net him significant miles on his fast foiling rivals.

Thomson’s nearest pursuer is 61-year-old Jean Le Cam whose ocean racing history dates back to the 1980s and who won La Solitaire du Figaro three times and finished second in the Vendée Globe in 2004-5. He is sailing a 2007 launched boat with conventional straight daggerboards and leads all of the latest generation foilers other than the radical black HUGO BOSS.

Le Cam is more than twenty miles up on the third-placed Nico Troussel on CORUM L’Épargne.

“I see them behind me these foilers. But as long they are there papy fait de la resistance (literally grandpa resists ed note 1983 french film)! I am 70 miles from the centre of the Theta depression. I am under mainsail alone, I am waiting to see what I am going to do. I always say, do not confuse speed and haste. Here I am calm, the wind rises gradually, it is useless for me to have up sail I won’t need in half an hour. That's the worst thing, you put it up you put it down put it up.

Asked on the Vendée Globe LIVE show today about his passionate public following in typical Le Cam style he quipped, “I'm glad people are with me because this is not an easy adventure. And here I am. I can't not be happy! If I'm not happy there, then I'll never be happy! So I'm happy. I ate a cassoulet this morning, I found the cassoulet to go well with a depression. It does not go with the high pressure but rather with the depression. This is our culture in Brittany. Otherwise, I have sweetbreads to make, but I'll wait a bit. "

“This is the first hors d'oeuvre of this Vendée", was Kito de Pavant’s description of storm Theta during the Vendée Live programme. De Pavant is a three times a Vendée Globe starter who has not yet finished and who had to be rescued in the Southern Ocean by the Marion Dufresne supply ship during the last edition. Seeing the pace and passion of his friend and many times adversary Le Cam. De Pavant teased, “Maybe there is still a place for old people!”

Strategies for Theta vary all the way through the fleet. First timer Clarisse Cremer on Banque Populaire X admitted to being freaked out by it. Louis Burton today said he would play it safe, setting his cursor where he feels comfortable between speed and safety. And then are those who keep smiling, like Kevin Escoffier, busy maneuvering further west in 30 knots of wind at midday.

The PRB skipper Escoffier highlighted the need to keep the hammer down as much as possible to avoid being left behind in a situation which is not so much rich get richer as the poor being left behind in a vacuum of anti cyclonic very light winds.

Escoffier said. “Water started coming into the boat just before I gybed at the depression. Here we go again! It took a fair bit of time to empty everything; the pumps are fast but it still took me 2 hours. When you discover that, after taking a little nap...Well, let’s just say there's nothing like it, it definitely wakes you up! (he says laughing) I'm currently sailing in 30/35 knots, sailing downwind. I’ve given in to losing a bit of speed so that I can shift a little to the west and remain in control. I've moved away from the optimal route, but I'm going to sail as well as I can. Alex and Jean are making a very good start to the race. I made the decision to hang back a little and I'm not alone. Charlie gybed again this morning for the same reasons. I completely understand what Alex and Jean are doing, but everyone has their own path to take. These are never easy choices! I'm going to come out of the depression early tonight. I am happy with my start to the race. This is my second solo regatta and I'm trying to do it right. I've stayed in contact with good boats with good skippers at the helm. I'm proud of that no matter what happens afterwards.”

Meanwhile, some 300 miles to the northeast, back up the track Miranda Merron and Didac Costa were among those stuck in the light winds and oily seas.

And true to the Vendée Globe’s requirement to fix at least one thing a day, Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC) took advantage of being close to the Azores to climb to the top of the mast without succeeding in completely solving the problem (damaged wind vanes). Maxime Sorel has been dealing with autopilot problems. And Louis Burton transformed the Bureau Vallée 2 saloon into a “composite workshop” to repair a crack in a bulkhead. "I'm apprehensive the next time we go upwind in heavy seas," he explained.

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Last night, Armel Tripon encountered technical problems with the headsail J3 hook aboard L’Occitane en Provence, one of the fast new foiling boats in the Vendee Globe race where the 33-boat fleet is battling strong winds heading south after Sunday's start to a 70 day non-stop race around the world.

Given the current weather conditions in the area, an active front passage generating strong winds and very rough seas, it is not safe enough for Armel to climb the mast himself in order to carry out the repair. He is currently rerouting towards La Coruña (Spain), the nearest port, in order to carry out these repairs in dock. He should arrive there on Thursday, according to his team.

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A sea mist shrouding the start zone off Les Sables d’Olonne held up the start of the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe, the solo non-stop round the world race, for nearly one hour and 20 minutes.

But for their patience the record-sized 33 boat fleet was rewarded by late autumn sunshine, a near-perfect 10-12 knots south-easterly breezes and flat seas when the start gun finally sounded at 1420hrs French time, sending the lone 27 men and 6 women skippers off on their 24,296 nautical miles round the world challenge.

For the nervous first-timers the added delay ratcheted up the tension on top of a morning of bubbling emotions. In contrast, the super-experienced solo racers grabbed a welcome quiet cat-nap after enduring what almost all reported to be a sleepless final night on land.

When the gun sounded at 1420hrs (French time) Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée 2 broke the start line first. But the third-time Vendée Globe skipper, racing the boat which won in 2016-17 and holds the race record, was notably seconds ahead of the gun.

He is penalised according to the strict race rules, required to halt his race for five hours – stopping racing and resuming from the same point – before 38°40,000N, so just north of Lisbon.

With two to three months of racing ahead, safe prudent starts were otherwise the order of the day. But as the fleet accelerated away from the line, the fast, foiling IMOCAs started to build speed on the flat seas.

It was the newest, least proven boat of the eight new 2020 generation builds to line up in this race - the Juan Kouyoumdjian designed Corum L’Épargne sailed by first-timer Nico Troussel, who set the early pace, at the vanguard of an armada heading due west into a complex first week at sea. Pre-race favourite Jérémie Beyou lay second and Britain’s Sam Davies was fourth on Initiatives Coeur.

As the afternoon wore on and the pace lifted, on the heels of a strengthening breeze, Beyou’s Charal held the lead making 26kts ahead of Charlie Dalin on Apivia in second with Briton Alex Thomson gradually winding up the potent HUGO BOSS after his promised safe, steady start, to lie third at 1600hrs local time.


Without exception, from rockstar favourites to hard-bitten adventurers, the solo racers will be content to be in their preferred element this evening. They are facing a difficult first night at sea with winds over 30kts after midnight tonight when a first front hits. But they are finally unleashed after a week of Covid confinement, the building breeze now requires full focus race mode, and blows away memories of this morning’s emotional dockout from the famous Les Sables d’Olonne pontoon.

With spectators banned from the famous Channel, the pierheads, the docks and the beaches with a vigilant, active police presence, it was a particular, curiously quiet departure on to the ocean.

From – first down the dock - the zen like Armel Tripon who had missed his usual morning meditation and had the longest walk to his jet black scow bowed L’Occitaine.

His purposeful march was followed by simple direct answers. He chose not to have his close friends and family on the pontoon but was loudly applauded by the appreciative technical teams on each boat as he passed.

"Complex weather, I slept well, but I didn't have time to do my meditation this morning," announced Tripon, a smile in his eyes that belied his obvious urgency to be at sea.

While shaven-headed Tripon arrived with a chilled pout at his boat alone surrounded by family, Clement Giraud bolted from his dockside interview overcome by tears. There were long lingering embraces for Damien Seguin and his partner. Switzerland’s Alan Roura and Germany’s Boris Herrmann leave behind tiny babies.

Charal’s Jérémie Beyou commented, “It is my fourth time but I have the same emotions as the first time. It is not easy, not easy. But it is cool to be here with my team I know so well, and with my boat which is well prepared. It is a special thing. I spent a bit of last night looking at the weather and strategy a bit this morning.”

Herrmann said “I am happy to go and ready to go. I am very happy the race is starting at all considering the conditions, it is a good job done by everyone who has organised the race. I’m not too excited, that will come later but I slept very, very well.”

England’s Sam Davies arrived with her partner Romain Attanasio, smiling, focused, radiant wearing her lucky red tights with white hearts on them. “I am excited, happy to be here with this amazing boat and amazing team. Now hopefully I can go and sail as well as my team has prepared my boat and for the race. I am just really looking forward to it,” said the Initiatives Coeur skipper.

Her compatriot Miranda Merron looked relaxed and almost skipped to her Campagne de France, “Why would I be worried, it is too late now. I have no indication right now that I am off on a round the world race on my own. I am sure I will be more worried at the start. I hate starts, I am always worried about other boats.” She added, “I am sure the state has a good reason to have locked up the entire population of Les Sables d’Olonne in their houses this morning but to me it seems a little mean spirited when this event comes round once every four years. And I think the organisation has done an amazing job in a very difficult context and I just I think it is a shame that even people who live right on the waterfront are not allowed out of their houses."

Dignified, charismatic Japanese Kojiro Shiraishi arrived in traditional Japanese costume and carrying his bō, a fighting staff.

Reunited with her Medallia Pip Hare gushed, “I’m really, really happy even if it does not look like it,” she said, looking all the time to the blue skies and fighting back tears. “I am really nervous. I can’t believe this day has arrived. I can’t believe it is here. It is huge. In a way I can’t imagine what is ahead of me and in another way I can imagine every single minute of it. I just want to go out and find out if this thing that I have thought will be is as amazing. But I think it is going to be better.”

By way of contrast, Alex Thomson was brisk and business-like, starting to look positively skinny as he stepped on board HUGO BOSS.

“It is a lovely morning, the fog has cleared and the sun is out. It is going to be an interesting start, great for the TV cameras, the wind should be light to begin with. It is going to build but then a bit of a light patch this evening around 6pm. Then it will build and we get to a front and try and avoid the light air off Finisterre, before the wind comes back in from the south where we will tack again and go west, with potentially difficult and boat breaking conditions, with big waves up to five metres. It is going to be a tough five to six days for all the skippers, lots of sail changes and a complicated routing. It will be tricky. And it will sort the men from the boys. For sure, it has been a tough year. It is a shame there is no public. I feel happy, privileged I have done four before and so there is not maybe the same emotion of before. I am 2/4 in terms of my starts, I am a 50%-er, I have to make it 3/5. That is the main objective. Every Vendée Globe is the race of your life, I am just looking forward to taking this boat and seeing what we can do together.”

President of the Vendée Globe Yves Auvinet wished the fleet well, “To all of you fellow sailors I sincerely wish you a nice and enjoyable race around the world, and will look forward to seeing you again. Good luck, fair winds."

RANKING 16H00 (French time)

1. Jérémie Beyou, Charal —> with 24,269 miles to go
2. Charlie Dalin, Apivia —> 0.7 miles from the leader
3. Alex Thomson, HUGO BOSS —> 1.2 miles from the leader
4. Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut —> 1.2 miles from the leader
5. Boris Herrmann, SeaExplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco —> 2.2. miles from the leader

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Organisers of the Vendée Globe have confirmed the start of this year’s event will take place Sunday 8 November off Sables d’Olonne.

As reported last month on, the Vendée Council and SAEM Vendée had hoped to maintain that date and ensure a maximum number of people can fully and safely enjoy the Vendée Globe adventure.

Since the closing of registration nominations on 1 November last, 35 candidates have set themselves up to be on the starting line. As it stands today, 18 skippers are already officially registered.

SAEM Vendée also took the decision this past Monday (8 June) to set up a Start Village, which will open on Saturday 17 October. It will turn into the Race Village on 8 November then the Finish Village to welcome the skippers home from their round-the-world race.

Arrangements for the general public will be adapted to public health requirements which may affect sporting events and they will have to be approved by the relevant authorities.

Yves Auvinet, president of SAEM Vendée, said: “We promised to clarify the situation for the Vendée Globe fleet, partners and other bodies before 15 June and that has now been done.

“We are proud to have been able to maintain this sporting event and the start of the ninth edition on 8 November. The race will take place and it looks highly likely that it will be one of the most breathtaking in the history of solo round-the-world racing.

“Our teams are working flat out to come to be able to give the best welcome possible to the general public.”

Meanwhile, with lockdowns leading to the cancellation of the Transat CIC and the New York—Vendée Les Sables d’Olonne, the IMOCA class has set up a brand new race, supported by its headline partner, the Vendée department and the town of Les Sables d’Olonne: the Vendée—Arctique—Les Sables d’Olonne.

This 3600-mile race with the start and finish line in place off Les Sables d’Olonne, with waypoints to the West of Iceland and the North of the Azores, is scheduled to start on Saturday 4 July.

The next date on the Vendée calendar is Tuesday 1 September, when registrations close and by which any additional qualifiers must be completed — currently seven skippers and their boats (among them Alex Thomson and his Hugo Boss) have yet to complete an additional 2,000-mile qualifier approved by the race directors, while four must sail a solo transatlantic race or equivalent, and six others must complete their registration.

Published in Vendee Globe
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