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Two months to go before an exceptional 8th edition of Vendée Globe

by Vendée Globe on 6 Sep 2016
2 months to go before an exceptional 8th edition of Vendée Globe Christian Chardon / Pole Finistère
After the Euro football tournament and the Rio Olympics, the next big international sporting event marking this year, 2016, will be the eighth Vendée Globe, which will begin from Les Sables d'Olonne in exactly two months from now on 6th November.

Aged between 23 and 66, the skippers taking part represent four continents and ten nations. Never has the non-stop solo round the world race brought together such an eclectic line-up. The 2016-2017 Vendée Globe will also be the first edition for the seven new IMOCA60s fitted with foils. We look at what is going on with two months left to go.

The first good news is that there are many more competitors in this year's Vendée Globe, as we can see almost thirty skippers registered, whereas there were only twenty four years ago. The record from the 2008-2009 edition, when thirty set sail, has almost been equalled. This eighth Vendée Globe is bringing together as usual competitors with a wide range of goals and experiences.

For the first time in the history of the event, seven skippers will set sail on IMOCA 60s fitted with foils, which allow the boat to be lifted up, offering gains in speed in certain conditions. Sailors, who have kept their traditional daggerboards will also be competing for final victory. This battle between different technological concepts is going to be fascinating, especially when we remember that in a race as long and demanding as the Vendée Globe, it is the sailors, who make all the difference.

Who will follow François Gabart?
It is very tricky to make any forecasts about who will see their name on the list of winners after Titouan Lamazou, Alain Gautier, Christophe Auguin, Michel Desjoyeaux (the only two times winner), Vincent Riou and François Gabart – who is also the record holder having completed the voyage in 78 days, two hours and 16 minutes. A record that could easily fall, as so many of the pairings of boat and skipper are fully prepared. On paper, around ten competitors can hope to make it to the podium. Behind them, the race is going to be just as interesting with races within the race developing.

The line-up: 15 returning, 14 rookies
The eighth Vendée Globe will see almost as many rookies as sailors, who have already attempted the Everest of the Seas. Fourteen skippers will be discovering the race, while 15 others are returning. Five will this year be joining Marc Thiercelin, Mike Golding and Dominique Wavre in the small group of those, who have taken part in the non-stop solo round the world race four times. Among them, the only previous winner lining up this year, Vincent Riou. Two others have already made it to the podium: Jean Le Cam (2nd in 2004-2005) and Alex Thomson (third in 2012-2013). Jean-Pierre Dick and Bertrand de Broc will also be competing in their fourth Vendée Globe.

Six sailors will set sail from Les Sables d'Olonne for the third time, including Armel Le Cléac'h and Arnaud Boissières, who could become the first sailors to complete three Vendée Globes in a row. Four will be setting sail for the second time (see the list below). We should note too that this 2016-2017 vintage brings together the youngest competitor in the history of the race (the Swiss sailor Alan Roura, 23) as well as the oldest (the American, Rich Wilson, 66), with the average age being 44.

Ten nationalities represented: a record in the history of the Vendée Globe
We can see ten different nationalities among the twenty-nine competing. There will be twenty Frenchmen, one from New Zealand, a Spaniard, a Hungarian, a Dutchman, an Irishman, one skipper from Switzerland, one from Japan, a British skipper and an American. Among the nine non-French skippers, three are returning to the Vendée Globe: the Hungarian, Nandor Fa, the British sailor, Alex Thomson and the American, Rich Wilson.

Two rookies continue the Vendée Globe tradition in their respective countries: Didac Costa will become the fourth Spaniard to take part in the Vendée Globe since the event was created in 1989, while Alan Roura will take up the torch in Switzerland after Bernard Gallay, Bernard Stamm and Dominique Wavre. The other foreign skippers that are registered are the first to do so in their countries: Conrad Colman for New Zealand, Pieter Heerema for the Netherlands, Enda O'Coineen for Ireland and Kojiro Shiraishi for Japan.

Two continents are taking part for the first time, Asia and Australasia. We should add that all of the competitors and their boats must be present in Les Sables d'Olonne by 14th October at the latest, which is the day before the official Vendée Globe Village opens.

HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Patron of honour for the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe
The 2016-2017 Vendée Globe will have the honour of welcoming HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco on 6th November 2016. He will signal the start of the eighth edition of which he has agreed to be the patron of honour.

Yves Auvinet, President of the Vendée Globe declared, “For Vendée, it will be a great pleasure to welcome him. The sovereign has a well-known interest in sport and the Principality of Monaco, which faces out to sea and organises many sailing races, is a reference in many sports and events, such as football and Formula 1, rally car racing, basketball, tennis, and many other sports. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my warmest thanks to Prince Albert II for agreeing to attend.”

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