After a delay of one hour and 18 minutes waiting for a sea mist to clear the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe solo race around the world started at 1420hrs local time/1320hrs TU in near perfect conditions off Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Atlantic coast.
In light southerly winds of 10-13kts the record sized fleet of 33 IMOCA 60s were led across the start line by Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée 2 but the French skipper misjudged his timing to the gun and crossed early. He is penalized by the international jury, the rules penalize him five hours, requiring him to effectively stop and then restart his boat from the same point before the latitude 38°40,000N, just north Lisbon.
Among the early pacemakers were Germany’s Boris Herrmann on Seaexplorer-Yacht Club of Monaco and Britain’s Sam Davies on Initiatives Coeur. Alex Thomson stuck to his strategy and made a prudent, safe start. The first leader at the clearing mark as the fleet heads west into the Atlantic was the newest boat in the fleet, Corum L’Épargne sailed by French skipper Nicholas Troussel, with Burton second Jérémie Beyou on Charal third and Davies chasing hard in fourth.
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. Not the same one Loick Peyron, Captain of SSL Gold Cup Team France experienced in 1989 when the first edition of the singlehanded round the world race took place, also because this time he was in the commentating booth instead of on the boat..
Here’s Loick Peyron’s interview from vendeeglobe.org:
“When Philippe Jeantot launched the idea of a non-stop solo race around the world, I thought it was a brilliant idea. That was in 1986, and I was 26, so I told myself I’d do it. In 1989, I was therefore here in the harbour in Les Sables d’Olonne, after a tricky year working on Titouan (Lamazou)’s old boat. There was an incredible start. Everything was incredible about it. It was a voyage into the unknown. I had never been around the world, just across the Atlantic a bit.”
Do you see yourself as a pioneer in this race?
“I was a young rookie, not a pioneer. I followed in the footsteps of the pioneers. We weren’t the first to race around the world. There was the Golden Globe with Moitessier and Robin Knox Johnston. They were the real pioneers. In the first Vendée Globe, we were following them. The difference was that we were racers and not just adventurers. Even if the race is now the key part, it remains a big adventure.
, I can remember the crowds lined up in the entrance channel in Les Sables. It was crazy. When we returned, it was incredible. You have to remember that the means of communication weren’t the same. We were returning from the unknown. I tell myself every day how lucky I have been to continue to sail on all sorts of boats and to have done the Vendée Globe.”
Are you frustrated about only completing one of your three attempts?
“Lining up three times and finishing once. That matches the statistics for the Vendée Globe. Only around 50% of the fleet finish. It’s frustrating, but that’s the way it is. In 2008, it was all the more frustrating, as I was doing well with Gitana 80. Everything was perfect. I had been in the lead throughout mot of the first month and then my boat was dismasted. It’s part of the game. Worse things happen.”
So is the Vendée Globe a race or adventure?
“Both things. Some want to finish, while others want to win. Finishing a Vendée Globe is an adventure, and it’s a huge adventure getting to the start. That’s what makes this event so interesting. It’s one of the rare competitions, where adventure still reigns which ever boat you have. There is something down to chance, uncertainty, so it is an adventure.”
And North Sails produced a great video series hosted by Loïck Peyron on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=north+sails+vendee+globe