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New York Vendée-Les Sables d'Olonne start

by Vendée Globe Press Office 29 May 16:05 PDT
New York Vendée-Les Sables d'Olonne start © Mark Lloyd / Alea #NYV2024

Alone again and finding a rhythm to last 3,200 miles

After a night at sea alone and an accident that lead to one sailor sharing his spare parts with the other, the New York Vendée-Les Sables d'Olonne skippers started their transatlantic pacing each other perfectly on this final chance to gain valuable qualifying miles for Vendée Globe selection.

A live, digital race tracker, on board cameras and skippers using mobile phones to give tours of the glassy North Atlantic where the only ways to watch today's start of the New York Vendée-Les Sables d'Olonne as the fleet of 28 slid southward in this final test before the 2024 Vendée Globe.

With a six-mile starting line equally 90 miles from host cities New York and Newport, Rhode Island, this unusual beginning to a transatlantic saw skippers precisely crossing this imaginary line at 2 p.m. local time after a night waiting alone at sea.

Many off the skippers must finish this transatlantic to reach their qualifying miles for the Vendée. The NY-Vendee is especially important as it is worth 1.5 miles for each mile sailed, fast tracking teams that finish to qualify.

Despite this pressure, the sailors were relaxed as they slowly wound up winches and checked sail trim, all while eyeing each other's performance. This is the closest they will get before the boats spread out across the Atlantic over the next week, dodging light winds and seeking the positive currents of the Gulf Stream to take them 3,200 mile to the home of the Vendée in Les Sables d'Olonne.

Even though the IMOCA 60s are capable of covering more than 600 miles in 24 hours in heavier winds and moderate seas, this week's trip across the Atlantic will be more tame and should take around 10 days. After three hours today the boats were all within four miles of each other pushing for every knot of boat speed.

"Charal is going four knots and I am going 5.5," said Boris Herrmann aboard Malizia in a voice memo. Onboard footage showed him flowing seamlessly between winches and keel controls, poking his head swiftly out the window, gauging his performance adjustments against the tightly packed group and going right back to his orchestration. In total, he mentioned more than 10 boats, using each as a data point in his decisions. "Violette Dorange (Devenir) is going quite fast. This is prime time for the non-foiling boats. They like the light winds and flat seas. All is pretty peaceful out here."

Despite the calm seas and sunny skies, a dramatic accident Louis Burton had with an unidentified object overnight put his race in jeopardy. A call to the fleet for support was quickly answered and the situation showcased the strong bond these solo adventurers share.

"I hit something and it damaged my downwind furler," said Burton (Bureau Vallée) in a quick video message this morning as Yoann Richomme's boat Paprec Arkea could be seen over his shoulder. The boat's bowsprit that reaches nearly 10 feet in front of the boat took the brunt of the collision and the furler sat right on the tip. "I called the fleet and Joann took a few minutes to lend me his emergency furler."

The pair waited for the calm winds of this morning to transfer the part which Richomme placed in a bag and trailed from his boat with a long line. Though the sea was flat, Burton risked slipping into the water as he scurried out onto one of the slick, curving foils to grab the bag. Falling into the sea is every sailor's worst nightmare and Richomme was there for support and saved his French countryman's race.

"Sincerely from the bottom of my heart, thank you," said Burton in his video message. "Well done for this sportsmanship. I owe you one."

Across the fleet the sailors looked refreshed from their whirlwind tours of New York City. With photo shoots along the grand 5th Avenue, in eclectic Times Square and on the magnificent Brooklyn Bridge, the presence of these adventurers in the Big Apple left the indelible mark of the Vendee Globe on U.S. soil.

The desire to sail free of concentrated groups of marine life drove today's start line offshore. The unforeseen byproduct of the sailors' having to spend 18 hours alone at sea before the start was that they had a buffer between the flash of New York and life on land, and the solitude they must embody for their transatlantic race.

The fleet will reach the Share the Ocean waypoint 170 miles southeast of the starting line sometime by daybreak tomorrow. The GPS (global positioning system) point was created to allow the fleet to clear waters protected from high speed boats to preserve marine life. But the navigation is perfect for the fleet that wants to get into the Gulf Stream's warm river of ocean water that can add three to five knots of boat speed as they turn and head northeast towards Europe.

For now the sailors are deciding between speed and safety every hour of each day. The harder they push their boats, the greater the chance of breakage. With their hopes of being selected for the Vendee Globe on the line, there's a palpable pressure on sailors to, as Richomme said, "put the cursor in the right place," find that perfect balance and arrive in Les Sables d'Olonne in one piece and keep their Vendee dreams alive.

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