30 competitors to line up for Vendée Globe

Bernard Stamm - Cheminée Poujoulat - Vendee Globe 2008
©Benoit Stichelbaut

On Tuesday 16 September, in the presence of the thirty solo yachtsmen, who will be setting out from Les Sables d’Olonne on 9th November for the sixth edition of the Vendée Globe, Philippe de Villiers, President of the Vendée public-private partnership, the event organiser, presented the main features characterising this exceptional edition.

This year’s Vendée Globe is outstanding because of the number taking part and the quality of the line-up.

Seven nationalities are represented: 17 French yachtsmen, 7 from Britain, 1 American, 2 Swiss sailors, 1 Canadian, 1 Spaniard and 1 Austrian. A record number of entrants.

Thirteen lined up at the start of the first edition of the Vendée Globe in 1989, while there were twenty in 2004. There will be thirty in 2008. Looking beyond the simple number, it is the quality of the contenders that impresses most. Two former winners (Vincent Riou and Michel Desjoyeaux), five skippers, who have already been on the podium in previous editions (Jean Le Cam, Mike Golding, Roland Jourdain, Loïck Peyron, Marc Thiercelin) and two round the world champions from other races (Jean-Pierre Dick in the Barcelona World Race and Bernard Stamm).

Add to that the ambitious young guns from the Figaro circuit, such as Yann Eliès, Jérémie Beyou and Armel Le Cléac’h. Mix in a few, who are back again to add to their list of achievements, like Sébastien Josse, Dominique Wavre and Alex Thomson. Mix in a handful of highly experienced yachtsmen, like Marc Guillemot, Brian Thompson, Jonny Malbon and Kito de Pavant. Stir them together and you get what has to be the most fascinating line-up in ocean racing.

To finish, season with a pinch of sailors, who are in it just as much for the adventure as for the technical challenge. Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty, Arnaud Boissières, Yannick Bestaven and Raphaël Dinelli are setting out to sail cleanly and to complete the circumnavigation with their own weapons and iron-willed determination. Do not forget that touch of exoticism thanks to the strong Basque identity asserted by Unai Basurko, the participation for the second consecutive time of the Austrian yachtsman, Norbert Sedlacek, Steve White, who is taking part thanks to his own untiring efforts, the presence of the New World with Rich Wilson and Derek Hatfield. And finally that vital feminine touch with the two British yachtswomen, Dee Caffari and Sam Davies.

In total, the 30 skippers taking part in this sixth Vendée Globe have sailed no fewer than 32 round the world voyages and 21 Vendée Globes. More than ever before in the history of the Vendée Globe, it will be the quality of the sailor, his experience, talent, and no doubt a bit of luck that will make all the difference.

Bruce Schwab. Ocean Planet - Vendee Globe
It is a crucial week for the yachtsmen taking part in the Vendée Globe, as they will be in Paris for the press conference presenting the 2008 Vendée Globe.

It will be an opportunity to take a look at all those entering the race and it will indeed be a final get together before they all arrive in les Sables d’Olonne by 18th October for the opening of the Race Village. Before the presentations get underway, they are busy clocking up the miles. In Port-la-Forêt, Michel Desjoyeaux, Jérémie Beyou, Sébastien Josse, Armel Le Cléac’h and Sam Davies got together for a weather training session run by Jean-Yves Bernot. The course was shortened for Michel Desjoyeaux, who had to head off to Valencia for the Champions’ Trophy, where he met up with two other contenders, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron.

Jean-Pierre Dick has had a busy few days, as he was in Nice mid-week to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Virbac. He was not the only yachtsman in town, as Marc Thiercelin was on a visit to the Baie des Anges to support the two candidates, Romain Attanasio and Christopher Pratt, one of whom will take over from him.

As for Vincent Riou, he is surely relieved to have completed his 400-mile qualifier, which remained to be done after his keel change. So, now he is also officially qualified for the Vendée Globe.

With just over a month to go before the date by which the yachtsmen have to arrive in Les Sables d’Olonne, everyone is now in race mode. All of the boats have left the yard. Marc Thiercelin and Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty are the only ones left to do a 1500-mile qualifier, as both yachtsmen have announced their intention to change their keels.