Philippe de Villiers, President of the Vendée Council and organiser of the Vendée Globe presented the line-up for the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe at a conference in La Roche sur Yon on 2 July. It was in fact on 1 July, at midnight that the list of entrants for the Vendée Globe was definitively established.
The thirty places planned in the race notice have now been filled and there will indeed be thirty candidates lining up on 9 November for the start in Les Sables d’Olonne. An exceptional line-up, an unprecedented competitive level, this edition of the race deserves all the superlatives. It is now certain that the 2008 Vendée Globe will be an all ticket affair.
With thirty entrants at the start, the Vendée Globe has never been so popular, particularly when we remember that 13 sailors took part in the 1989 edition, 14 in 1992, 16 in 1996, 24 in 2000 and 20 in 2004.
There will be twenty eight men and two women, Britain's Dee Caffari and Samantha Davies, seven nationalities, which is another record for the race: 17 French skippers will be lining up, followed by six British skippers and two from Switzerland. Canada, the United States, Spain and Austria are each represented by one skipper.
Twenty new boats, or in other words two thirds of the fleet, have been specially built for this race, while the other ten from the 2004 generation have been completely refitted.
Never has a fleet of solo yachtsmen brought together so much experience in one race: the skippers taking part in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe have completed 32 circumnavigations and 21 Vendée Globe races, which represents a total of 1.5 million miles raced around the world’s oceans. Added to that, there is the presence of two previous winners, Michel Desjoyeaux (2000-2001) and Vincent Riou (2004-2005), so there will be a record-breaking champion line-up at the start in Les Sables d’Olonne.
It is certainly the case that on 9 November, as they leave the pontoons and make their way through the harbour channel in Les Sables d’Olonne, none of the participants in this 2008 edition will be able to forecast where they will finish in the rankings three moths later. For the moment, 26 of the competitors have completed their registration and only four have not yet fulfilled all the requirements.
Vincent Riou, victim of a collision in June during the Artemis Transat is having to replace the keel on his PRB, currently in Halifax in Canada. He will be officially registered in August, once he returns to Europe. Jonny Malbon is still waiting for his new mast and is due to qualify in August too. Steve White is busy working on the administrative details to complete the forms. Finally, Norbert Sedlacek is going to have to check that his boat, which already took part in 2004, satisfies the 2008 safety requirements.
Never in the history of the Vendée Globe have the competitors been ready so early. This level of preparation is vital, considering the almighty battle that will be taking place between the contenders in this 2008 edition. In the background, there is the question that everyone has on their mind, without talking about it openly:
Where should they place the cursor on the scale between an all-out attack and the desire to preserve the equipment in order to complete the adventure. Indeed, the rules have not changed: the Vendée Globe remains the non-stop single-handed round the world voyage without assistance, making it quite simply the toughest of sailing races.
It will be the sailors on board that will make all the difference and the winner of the 2008 Vendée Globe will have achieved an exceptional feat. It would be rather presumptuous today to predict whether it will be an experienced Vendée Globe yachtsman like Mike Golding or Alex Thomson, Roland Jourdain, Dominique Wavre or Marc Thiercelin (taking part for the fifth time), a former winner dreaming of the double, like Michel Desjoyeaux and Vincent Riou, or one of the newcomers to the race like Sam Davies, Yann Eliès, Kito de Pavant or Armel le Cleach. This edition is clearly an international affair and the competition is certainly strong from Britain with sailors like Mike Golding, Alex Thomson, Brian Thompson and Jonny Malbon, while the Swiss yachtsmen, Dominique Wavre and Bernard Stamm are also dreaming of reaching the harbour back in Les Sables d’Olonne in first place.
Then, there are the two North Americans, the Harvard graduate, Rich Wilson and Derek Hatfield sailing the first ever Canadian boat to take part. Finally, some like Michel Desjoyeaux, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron, by dominating the 2007-2008 racing season find themselves chosen as the natural favourites.
The Vendée area of France will be represented by four boats sporting the colours of companies from France’s West coast: PRB, after their previous successes in 2000-2001 and 2004-2005 will be entrusting their boat once again to Vincent Riou, VM Matériaux, who are counting on the talent of Jean Le Cam, Akena Vérandas, who are relying on Arnaud Boissières and the Océan Vital Foundation, which is supporting Raphaël Dinelli.
On 12 July, Les Sables d’Olonne, Olonne sur Mer and Le Château d’Olonne are being decked out in the colours of the Vendée Globe to remind holidaymakers that they are at the port, where the Vendée Globe race will start on 9th November. The roundabouts will be decorated, shop windows covered in more than 2.3 km of tape and 8000 T-shirts will be handed out to shopkeepers.
Finally, in collaboration with the Association of tradesmen from the town of Les Sables d’Olonne, the Vendée Globe is organising a major summer competition around the theme of the Vendée Globe. Vendée Globe - List of entrants
JOURDAIN Roland - France VEOLIA ENVIRONNEMENT
BEYOU Jérémie - France DELTA DORE
DICK Jean-Pierre - France PAPREC-VIRBAC
Le CAM Jean - France VM MATERIAUX
DAVIES Samantha - Great Britain ROXY
ELIES Yann - France GENERALI
DE PAVANT Kito - France GROUPE BEL
BOISSIERES Arnaud - France AKENA
GUILLEMOT Marc - France SAFRAN
DESJOYEAUX Michel - France FONCIA
PEYRON Loïc - France GITANA EIGHTY
WILSON Rich - USA TO BE ANNOUNCED
STAMM Bernard - Switzerland CHEMINEES POUJOULAT
WAVRE Dominique - Switzerland TEMENOS
HATFIELD Derek - Canada SPIRIT OF CANADA
GOLDING Mike - Great Britain ECOVER
DEJEANTY - Jean Baptiste France MAISONNEUVE
BESTAVEN Yannick - France CERVIN EnR
DINELLI Raphaël - France FONDATION OCEAN VITAL
BASURKO Unai - Spain PAKEA BIZKAIA
LE CLEAC´H Armel - France BRIT AIR
THOMSON Alex - Great Britain HUGO BOSS
JOSSE Sébastien - France BT
CAFFARI Dee - Great Britain AVIVA
THIERCELIN Marc - France DCNS
THOMPSON Brian - Great Britain PINDAR
MALBON Jonny - Great Britain ARTEMIS
RIOU Vincent - France PRB
SEDLACEK Norbert - Austria NAUTICSPORT KAPSCH
WHITE Steve - Great Britain TO BE ANNOUNCED