França – Vendée Globe Race



Vendeé Globe
Vendeé Globe

Since the opening of the Vendée Globe Race Village in Les Sables d’Olonne on 15th October, 28 IMOCAs out of 29 have been in place at their allocated space on the Port Olonna race dock. Only one boat was missing, Sébastien Destremau’s TechnoFirst-faceOcean. Destremeau was involved in a race against the clock since being dismasted on 31st August. With the boat finally arriving at 1000hrs this Monday morning, all of the IMOCAs taking part in this eighth Vendée Globe are now lined up ready to take the start line on Sunday 6th November.

When his boat was dismasted just two months before the start of the Vendée Globe during measurement checks, Destremau suffered a huge setback. But he always believed in his chances of taking part and today his unwavering faith has been rewarded.

He had special dispensation until 2300hrs this Monday evening and so now the boat is here on time,” stressed Jacques Caraës, the Vendée Globe Race Director.

Destremeau himself has flown to Australia for a few days to see his young family there, leaving his brother, Jean-Guillem take care of the 60-footer.

Meantime many skippers are taking advantage of a few days off to get some rest and spend time with the family before everything goes crazy in the final week before the start in Les Sables d’Olonne.

North of 60

Four of the 29 skippers who will compete in this edition will be over 60 years of age at the start of the race. For Pieter Heerema (NED) and Enda O’Coineen (IRL) it will be their first attempt at the Vendée Globe but Rich Wilson (USA) and Nandor Fa (Hun) are returning skippers. Fa, 63, raced in the first and second editions, finishing fifth in the 1993 edition. Wilson, the oldest competitor this time at 66, sailed to ninth place in 2008-9.

Tres Riche

The Buffalo Grill on Les Sables d’Olonne’s edge of town retail park has its best customer back. Before his epic 2008-2009 Vendée Globe race Rich Wilson was an almost daily visitor. Although he adores every aspect of his life in the Vendée region, the American skipper does not like to eat too late in the evening. The Buffalo Grill serves a menu of American style meaty delicacies from 6pm each evening and that fits with Wilson’s evening schedule perfectly.

He is, after all, a creature of habit, one of the Vendée Globe’s real ‘thinkers’, an academic whose abiding passion is not so much solo ocean racing but the Vendée Globe itself. His approach is steadfastly logical, process driven, perhaps even more so when it comes to the ‘scary bits’. He returned to Les Sables d’Olonne last August arriving so early because he felt he wanted to be sewn into the very fabric of this edition as early as possible, to build up with the race day by day, months before the first nut and bolt of the race village was screwed together.

And so by now he is all but adopted as a local. They share a huge respect for and understanding of his 2008-9 race, recalling his emotional times on the ascent of the Atlantic when weather systems forced him further and further west. Running on ‘empty’, both emotionally and physically, the 62 year old found himself closer to his Boston home than he was to the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line. He found the reserves to finish and completed his Vendée Globe circumnavigation in 121 days.

Wilson makes no secret of the fact he wanted to be in Les Sables d’Olonne for as long as possible to tap into the huge passion and support for the race here, much more so than remaining at home in the USA where he contends there is no sporting event which engenders such public support and passion, where a global adventure is taken to nations heart so deeply. In short: as simple as the concept of the Vendée Globe is – one man, one boat, around the world non stop and unasassisted – his compatriots at home still don’t ‘get’ the Vendée Globe.

“Here the people on the dock who visit know where the Kerguelen Islands are. They know which continent Cape Horn is on. They know that half of the fleet won’t finish this race and they know that a skipper might not come home. They respect that. They are so encouraging. And they know that first and foremost this is a human adventure. It is the greatest sailing race in the world. In that respect nothing comes second to it. Nothing.” Wilson confirms. More here

A Lasting Love Affair

In Port Olona amongst the solo skippers preparing for the start of the Vendée Globe only Bertrand De Broc shares the same early memories as Nandor Fa does, those of being on the Les Sables d’Olonne dock way back in 1992 making ready for their first tilt at the Vendée Globe.

Subsequent to finishing fifth and then having to abandon the next edition in 1996-7, Hungarian skipper Fa took a long sabbatical away from solo ocean racing while he built a successful business and enjoyed raising his family.

But the pioneering skipper has been to every Vendée Globe race start since then, sometimes in denial that he would ever take part again. But after his two girls grew up and now have their own careers and his business responsibilities diminished four years ago when he walked the race dock amidst the pre-start buzz he already knew he was looking at the assembled fleet only for the fine details, any little gizmo or set up that he might like for the IMOCA he had already designed and was having built to compete in this edition 2016-2017 edition.

Fa has been a fixture in Les Sables d’Olonne since last December. In fact he arrived on Spirit of Hungary, which he designed himself, under a jury rig – 13 metres of iron tubes fashioned into a mast – arriving from Madeira after he had to retire from last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre.

Fa’s new rig was originally built for Sébastien Josse’s BT but remained unused because it was deemed to be 40kgs too heavy. Fa has cut 80cms off it to make it fit the IMOCA rule.

Now after two solo Transatlantic passages and months of preparation the veteran is ready to go armed with total faith in his raceboat.

“This is a much better mast than my previous mast and I have all new sails from Doyle New Zealand. The new sails have a nice shape and fit the rig very well.” Fa opens.

“But looking back to the old race. Everything has changed but the passion is the same. I have been to every start but you really feel the difference when you are on the inside. I am so happy to be here. I enjoy being here with my boat. It was always difficult to come here and not think about doing it again. I was always missing it. But back in 2011 and 2012 I knew I was coming back, I had less responsibilities at home and good offers of carbon for the boat. The design was already on the way. I saw the boats then but I saw a lot of interesting things and innovation but nothing which was really my favourite.” More