It was one year ago today that I arrived in Sables-d'OLonne, France to watch the start of the 2008 Vendee Globe Ocean Race. The atmosphere on the dock was electric. The US election was in coming to a close and the French were ecstatic about Obama, Western economies were in a state of complete melt down. There were 30 boats at the dock with 30 brave souls preparing to sail around the World Alone - non-stop.
Today, not much has changed since that day 4 years ago, although the economy has improved somewhat and there will only be 20 boats at the start line this year. The French public still love Obama and they are still mad keen about Solo Ocean racing and the Vendee Globe is the pinnacle event form them.
As some will recall, leading up to 2008 the world economy had been on an amazing tear and companies were spending money on sponsoring yacht racing like never before. There was much talk on the dock about how several big sponsor were on teh brink of bankruptcy and people were wondering some boats would not make it to the start. The fact was that all the money had been spent. The actual race is the cheap part of the process. All 30 boats made it to the start line but only 9 finished. (Vincent Riou was awarded 3rd place for performing a daring rescue but did not actual finish thge race.)
With the world economy in the dog house and only 20 boats in the race this year, some are predicting fewer than 5 will finish. This could certainly happen. The sea remains a formidable adversary even with all the modern technology, however, the smaller numbers this year also mean fewer "adventurers" and more professional sailors, so I would expect a similar number of finishers to last time.
The original Solo, Non-stop Around the World race was the Golden Globe, which first took place back in 1968 - the year after I was born. Things have changed a great deal since then. That race had only 9 starters and only one man finished - Robin Knox-Johnson. The great man himself could be seen walking the docks and chatting with the 2008 skippers. They all knew him although few of the French spectators seemed to take any notice of him. What he accomplished in that leaky wooden boat 44 years ago was nothing short of AMAZING. You have to read one of the many books about that race to truley understand what this is all about. Yes there were some crazy people in that race who had no business being there, but the spirit of adventure and pushing the limits of the possible is what this race is about at its core and this same spirit is what has pushed our species forward - lets hope this spirit can conquer our moderm problems of war, hunger, climate change, etc.
Although I am not there on the ground this year, I will be following the race closely with access to all the latest reports, video and images available to the media and some significant experience with sailing an Open 60 called O CANADA shorthanded and Offshore. You might want to watch some of the recent documentary films that were made about the Open 60 O CANADA. O CANADA participated in teh 2008 Vendee Globe as Spirit of Canada - sailed by Canadian Derek Hatfield.
If you are immpatient waithing for the race to start I recommend you watch the documentary film about the 2008 race that we made. It can be rented online at iTunes and Amazon for a few bucks (I think Amazon is cheaper) Go to the following website to watch the movie trailer and follow the links to download the full length film.
You will find 3 other films about Open 60 sailing on this site. The last 2 are not yet available on to down load but should be ready very soon.
Stay tuned for more Vendee Globe Action.