by Vendee Globe
There is now less than three days to the start of the 2012 Vendee Globe. With an audience of more than two hundred media, Bruno Retailleau, the President of the Vendée General Council, accompanied by Louis Guédon, the mayor of Les Sables d’Olonne, Patricia Brochard the Co-President of the Sodebo and Denis Horeau, Vendée Globe race director presented the twenty skippers who will take part in the imminent Vendée Globe.
2012 Vendee Globe - Skippers at the final press conference in Les Sables d’Olonne
Highlighting how the Vendée Globe race has remained true to its core values, Retailleau emphasized the universally high level of the entries for this edition. 'Getting 20 entries on the start line is an unexpected result' He said.
Denis Horeau, Race Director, praised the high quality of the entries, how well prepared the boats are and the professionalism of the teams involved in this 2012-13 edition..
The Mayor Les Sables d'Olonne recalled some of the history of the race while Patricia Brochard of Sodebo praised the entrepreneurship and enterprise which is inherent in each of the IMOCA Open 60 campaigns.
After the formalities the skippers spoke in turn, at once humorous, relaxed and insightful, an uplifting atmosphere before they join each other on the start line on Saturday 13h02 hrs.
The Vendée Globe magic continues. As the countdown continues to Saturday’s start of the solo round the world race each new day brings bigger and bigger crowds to Les Sables d’Olonne, to the pontoons where the 20 IMOCA Open 60’s are primed, ready for the emotional dock out. Teams are still refining the small details on board, adding the little luxuries and comforters which can lift the skipper’s mood when times are hard. But at three days before the start the tension is now palpable as the start gun beckons.
There are many skippers who have enjoyed the unique ambiance of the final countdown in Les Sables d’Olonne before. Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM) was here in 1992 and 1996 and says the passion for ocean racing is still the same. So, also, confirm Dominique Wavre and Mike Golding who are both back for the fourth time. The visitors come from all over Europe. Les Sablais strain at the guardrails on the pontoons to see their local heroes Arnaud Boissières, past winner Vincent Riou and the Italian skipper Alessandro di Benedetto who has adopted Les Sables d’Olonne as his home. There may be favourite solo sailors among the crowds which have queued sometimes for more than one hour to make their pass down the pontoons, but each skipper is offered the same universal respect.
'What is unique about the Vendée Globe is seeing three generations of a family all there to pay respect to the skippers whoever they are and the very strong relationship between the skippers and the public. It surpassed competition. They realise the dangers the skippers face and the fragility of their world. That is the strength of the Vendée Globe.' Said Bruno Retailleau, President of the Vendée Council.
But, for all that, there is also the simple, enjoyable sport of spotting and chasing down skippers for autographs, collecting posters and enjoying the massive Vendée Globe race village which for the last two days has been bathed in warm sunshine.
For the ocean racing cognoscenti the heroes of the sport are widely accessible. Vincent Riou (PRB) and Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) have been on their boats regularly. The poster boys, Vendée Globe rookies Louis Burton (Bureau Valley) and François Gabart (Macif) set female hearts aflutter, while the characters who have engaged the race audience in the past, like Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and the race’s only female Samantha Davies (Saveol) who illuminated the 2008-9 race with her effervescent joie de vie, her tenacious spirit and her astute sailing. And the likes of Kito de Pavant appeals to all ages, the laughing cow entertaining the kids, whilst travails of the sanguine skipper from the south of France are well known, not least his heart breaking retirement from the last race, breaking his mast less than 36 hours in.
The British skippers have been impressively relaxed. He had to battle to make the start line last time after his Hugo Boss was hit by a fishing boat on its arrival in Les Sables d’Olonne but at today’s press conference Alex Thomson joked: 'This is my third Vendée Globe and it is the first time I have been ready. The last time I was in Les Sables d’Olonne it was less enjoyable. This has been great fun this time. But we sit up here and take all the glory and go on the boat, but I need to say thank you to my team. If I can put in 50% of the effort they have done then I will get to the finish this time.'
Mike Golding (Gamesa) is more relaxed than he has ever been, now just wanting to get out on to the race course: 'When you’re here the first time you’re full of excitement for the unknown. When you come the second time you’re full of anticipation of what you’re going to achieve and now it’s becoming even more enjoyable as it’s getting closer. The wait to get to the start of the Vendée is very long and when you’ve done it three previous times it’s even longer, sometimes you just want to get on with it. But for all that my motivation is improving not waning.'
Bruno Retailleau: 'The Vendée Globe has taken on a more popular dimension in the village. What has impressed me is the capacity and passion of the public. There has not been so much of a queue as a procession. People wait patiently, talking quietly, look at the boats and share the dream. You sense a certain harmony, forming a communion between the event and the public. There is something which develops between the public and the skippers. People want to see them because they are heroes. The concept of the race is so simple that everyone can understand it, you don’t have to be any kind of sailor. I think mostly it is a beautiful, simple story, a legend. It is more than a competition, a race. This is the story of a confrontation between man and nature. Man in a world in which he is fragile faces nature which is big and dangerous. But whether you are French, Brazilian or Japanese you can live this race. And the race is gaining an even more international dimension.'
Sam Davies, Savéol: 'These three weeks in Les Sables d'Olonne have been amazing, I have loved it, we do not see this atmosphere anywhere else.'
Tanguy de Lamotte, Initiatives-Coeur: 'The Vendée Globe is a global race already as we go around the world solo. '
Kito de Pavant, Groupe Bel: 'I wish my 19 rivals three months at sea which are as great as the three weeks before the start! '
Alessandro Di Benedetto: 'Team Plastique 'I'm really excited to go, we still have a little work, it will be ready in two days ...'
Mike Golding, Gamesa: 'It is important that each of us enjoy our Vendée Globe and sail safely carefully, because it is a long course. '