The press conference to present the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe took place on Wednesday 14th September in the magnificent splendour of the French Stock Exchange (Palais Brongniart) in Paris, in the presence of the 29 skippers.
The line-up for the race, the internationalisation, media coverage, the race course, the official villages… In front of a large number of journalists, Yves Auvinet, President of the SAEM Vendée, presented the main features for the eighth edition of the non-stop solo round the world race, which will begin from Les Sables d’Olonne at 1302hrs CET (1202hrs UTC) on 6th November with the start being given by HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco. The next big date on the calendar is Saturday 15th October, when the official Vendée Globe Village opens in Les Sables d’Olonne.
“The Vendée Globe remains faithful to its DNA and basic values. These are the secret of its success and the reason why it has lasted. The concept is extremely simple and applied by exceptional sailors. Looking beyond the concept of a non-stop solo round the world race without assistance, which everyone understands, it is also a truly popular event, which is open and free to allow everyone to share in the dreams of these sailors.” It was with these words that Mr. Yves Auvinet, President of the SAEM Vendée, opened the press conference for the eighth Vendée Globe organised on Wednesday 14th September in Paris.
Bruno Retailleau (President of the Pays de la Loire Region), Patricia Brochard (Co-president of Sodebo), Lionel Pariset (in charge of sea sports for the Town of Les Sables d’Olonne) and Jean Kerhoas (President of the IMOCA class) each then made speeches. Afterwards, all the skippers competing in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe were presented one by one and answered a few questions on the stage at the Palais Brongniart.
With 53 days to go to the start and one month away from the opening of the official Village in Les Sables d’Olonne, this press conference was an opportunity to remind everyone of the basic principles of the Vendée Globe, but also to present some of the new features for what looks like being a promising edition.
An exceptional sporting line-up
29 skippers have so far fulfilled the administrative, sporting and technical requirements to be able to take up the challenge of the Everest of the seas. To compare the situation, twenty lined up for the last edition four years ago, so the number competing has leapt up (an increase of almost 50%).
The eighth Vendée Globe brings together sailors with a wide range of ambitions and from various backgrounds. Fourteen will be discovering the event, while fifteen are returning.
Five competitors will be entering the elite group of sailors, who have taken part in four editions of the Vendée Globe. One previous winner (Vincent Riou) and four other big names from the event, Bertrand de Broc, Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam and Alex Thomson. The two latter sailors have already made it to the podium, as has Armel Le Cléac’h (third attempt in 2016).
We can see too that the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe is bringing together the youngest competitor in the history of the event (the Swiss sailor, Alan Roura, 23) and the oldest (the American, Rich Wilson, 66).
This edition is also marked by the arrival of a technological innovation, which has been heavily discussed, but which makes its first appearance in the Vendée Globe. Seven skippers will be setting off aboard IMOCA 60s fitted with foils, appendages, which lift the hull up in the wind, when sailing with the wind on the beam or from astern, reducing the hydrodynamic drag and improving performance.
Six sailors will be setting sail aboard new foilers (Jean-Pierre Dick, Pieter Heerema, Sébastien Josse, Morgan Lagravière, Armel Le Cléac’h, Alex Thomson), while Jérémie Beyou is competing aboard a monohull from a previous generation, but which has been modified to make the most of this development. Competing against these foilers, other sailors, who have kept their traditional daggerboards will also be serious contenders for victory. “We can hardly wait to see this battle between the new generation of boats with foils and the rest of the fleet, as this promises to be very exciting and there are likely to be races within the race on every level ”, declared Yves Auvinet.
Ten nationalities represented: a record in the history of the Vendée Globe
The internationalisation of the Vendée Globe is clearly underway, as ten nationalities are represented by the 29 skippers in this eighth edition. Never has the Vendée Globe brought together so many different countries. Two continents will be represented for the first time (Australasia and Asia) thanks to the Japanese sailor, Kojiro Shiraishi and the New Zelander, Conrad Colman. The Netherlands (Pieter Heerema) and Ireland (Enda O’Coineen) will be present for the very first time in the Vendée Globe. Among the nine foreign skippers taking part, three are returning to the Vendée Globe. They are the Hungarian, Nandor Fa, the British sailor, Alex Thomson and the American, Rich Wilson. Two rookies are continuing the tradition of competing in the Vendée Globe in their respective nations: The Spaniard, Didac Costa and the Swiss sailor, Alan Roura.
The course: an exclusion zone to enhance safety
The course for the Vendée Globe remains unchanged of course. The principle still involves setting sail from Les Sables d’Olonne and returning there after sailing around the world from West to East leaving the three major capes to port (Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn). There is however one new element we should mention with the Race Directors setting up an “Ice exclusion zone” in the Southern Ocean. This limit was presented to the skippers last week at a special meeting in Les Sables d’Olonne. The precise location of this zone may be changed before the start or during the race depending on satellite observations showing how the ice is evolving.
“We remain focused on the safety of those taking part, as they face hellish conditions hundreds of miles from the nearest coast, which is why we work in close collaboration with the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Center) in the countries closest to the race course and we will call upon the services of Alain Gautier as our safety consultant ‘, added Yves Auvinet.
The Vendée Globe and its Villages in Les Sables d’Olonne and Paris
As with each edition, The 25,000 square metre official Village in Port Olona will welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors and more than a thousand journalists. This Village will open its doors to the general public from 15th October to 6th November from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. It will also be open in the evenings on Saturdays until 10 p.m. The public will be able to admire the IMOCA 60s moored up at the Vendée Globe pontoon. A lot of special events and exhibitions will be organised during the three weeks leading up to the start of the race on 6th November.
From 7th November, Vendée Globe Race HQ will be based in Paris, on the mail Branly, on the banks of the Seine, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The real nerve centre of the race, this 1700 square metre area will be open to the public seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Quotes from various skippers
Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh):
“I am deeply honoured to be among the skippers lining up for the start of the next
Vendée Globe. As the first Asian to compete in the race, my main role will be to show people in that continent how important and big this event is.”
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss):
“This will be my fourth Vendée Globe, but it is still just as hard to know what will happen once we are racing. From my previous attempts I know that we have to be prepared for the unexpected. But my goal is clear. I want to win the Vendée Globe.”
Rich Wilson (Great American IV):
“I’m pleased to be lining up at the start of the Vendée Globe and of launching a big teaching programme for youngsters around the world. This is a unique opportunity for some young kids, who never get to see the sea.”
Alan Roura (La Fabrique):
“I have spent my whole life sailing and travelling. I have always lived on a boat. I’m attracted to the Vendée Globe, as this race allows you to find yourself completely alone at sea for three months, with no communicating and no stress. It’s absolute freedom.”
Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary):
“I’m returning twenty years after my last attempt, when I was forced to retire after a collision. I’ll be competing on a boat that I designed myself. I’ve had time to prepare. I’ve got a good boat and a fantastic team around me. I’m optimistic and full of energy for my third Vendée Globe.”
Eric Bellion (COMMEUNSEULHOMME):
“The Vendée Globe has been a dream for me for a long time. To take up this challenge, 14 firms and 80,000 workers are supporting me with the same desire to show that difference is a way to innovate and succeed together. We don’t have anything to sell, just a conviction that we want to share with as many others as we can.”
Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ):
“My team has succeeded in a remarkable challenge by fitting foils to an IMOCA from an older generation. I got used to this boat in record time, without suffering any damage and winning the New York-Vendée race. I shall be setting out in the Vendée Globe with some high ambitions, but will nevertheless remain humble.”
Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio):
“Not finishing the last two Vendée Globe races remains a huge frustration. I shall be setting off with a different project and with a different story to tell. I am confident I have what it takes to finish. I know I can do it and do well too.”
Yann Eliès (Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir):
“I’m returning to the Vendée Globe eight years after my first attempt. I still have the same passion, the same desire to complete the voyage. We all take part in the Vendée Globe to be able to sail up the harbour entrance channel in Les Sables d’Olonne, to experience that extraordinary moment.”
Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII):
“Four years ago, I wasn’t far off winning (2nd place). We’re starting afresh and the aim this time is clear. It is to win.”
Vincent Riou (PRB):
“There are three essential ingredients required to compete in the Vendée Globe. The first is you have to have the passion, which is what brings us all together here. The second is the need to be serious, in particular in the lead up to the race. The third ingredient is you have to to share the experience with your partners, team and of course, the general public.’
by Vendée Globe