The Passion of the People
The atmosphere at the Vendée Globe race village is like no other yachting event. In 2008 the official figures show that over 735,000 visitors attended the race village and around 250,000 – 300,000 lined the seafront, ports and canal to watch the race depart. This year the race village is bigger and better and the figures are expected to rise.
The visitors are not your average sailing enthusiasts, but ordinary people, who are willing to queue for over an hour to walk the pontoons and get up, close and personal with the intrepid skippers that are about to embark on the voyage of a lifetime.
But don’t take our word for it, we decided to ask the natives what they really think about the Vendée Globe and this is what two Vendee residents and mothers said.
Linda Aplin, aged 51, originally from Nottingham, came to work in the Vendée in 1989, working seasonally for 7-8 years as a holiday representative on Vendée campsites for British camping holiday company Canvas. She has two children Luke and Jasmine, twins, aged 9.
Clara Fradin, aged 39 was born in Chalons and has lived in the Vendée all her life. She has two sons, Mathis, aged 12 years old and Clement, aged 9 years old.
Linda says, “I came to live her full time from 1998 and have been here 14 years. Originally, I was put here not by my choice. I already knew France quite well, I had worked in Brittany, the South West and the Dordogne. What struck me about the Vendée region was there was so much open space, forests and because it is very flat the light can be amazing. The outdoor life is absolutely superb. In 1998, when my husband Mark and I had the chance to live here we didn’t really have to think too hard about it.
Since having children it’s been even better because there is so much for them to do. Clara’s children do VTT (Velo Tout Terrain/mountainbiking) and now do triathlon. My children and her children do triathlon together. It’s so easy to participate in sport here. We are a stones throw from the beach and the children can just cycle down to it. Jasmine does basketball, horse riding and triathlon as well as the sport at school.
At the weekends you can take the kids down to the beach to collect seafood and trek in the forests. There is a huge interaction with nature and it’s a lovely place to live.
My children are at ease with living in France. They are at French school, they speak French all day and we speak English at home. They eat French food and I know there are a lot of English children that wouldn’t eat foods like sardines, mussels and radishes, whereas Luke and Jasmine eat most things.
The Vendée has a big tourist base and they are warm and welcoming to people. I have always been made to feel really, really welcome but perhaps it’s because we have always managed bars. A lot of English people come here on holiday and because of that the Vendeeans are used to hosting vistors. But even many French people gravitate here because of the lifestyle so there is a lot movement in the region. People move from big towns and look for work in the Vendee because the quality of life is so good. The Vendee is a great place to raise a family.
This is my fourth time visiting the Vendée Globe race village over the last 16 years during the race’s 23 year history. It’s fantastic to see first hand something you will never do. For me. it’s the excitement of seeing the boats and all the people involved. There is a real sense of adventure and to think that these skippers are going to sail around the world on their own is amazing.
I love coming to see it. I can’t believe how impressive the race village is this year. It was nothing like this four years ago. It’s nice that they have made it so much bigger.
The Conseil General sent out a Vendée Junior education pack to all of the schools. My children visited the race village on Tuesday and came back laden with goodies such as posters and pens. It’s brilliant that the school are involved and the children loved it. I love the Vendée Globe race history exhibition, it’s been so well done and the huge coral reef exhibition was great too. I really am very impressed.
The school has incorporated the race into their curriculum and they will now be following it for the next three months. In their English lesson in class yesterday the whole class had to write, in English, who was their favourite skipper. They all looked through the magazine and picked one. Luke chose Mike Golding and Jasmine chose Samantha Davies.
We have also signed up for the newsletter and we love receiving the daily alerts, at home, on the computer, keeping us up-to-date with what is going on at the port each day and then on the race itself.
The children really can’t get their heads around the enormity it. When they watched the Olympic track events it was easier for them to understand what was happening. When you say to them 83 days on a boat they can’t understand what that means. They went sailing last summer on a catamaran and Luke was terrified because it was really windy and they went very fast. I tried to explain to him that the waves were little compared the mountainous swells of the Southern Ocean. Luke said ‘no way’ and looked at me with horror. To be honest, even for me, it’s difficult to grasp. It’s incredible.
The Vendée Globe for us is on par with going to the Olympics and even more amazing because I really can’t believe that they go out on their own, on those boats to sail around the world. I can’t believe there is no loo onboard. I didn’t expect there to be a shower but I at least thought they would have a toilet. I just can’t imagine how they cope. I think they must be a bit mad."
Clara says, “My son Mathis was 8 years old during the last edition and he followed the race every day for the duration.
Four years ago, when Michel Desjoyeaux won the race my children and I went to see his victory journey down the canal into the port. It was very, very, very cold and he was stuck outside the canal. I said to my children, “come on it’s so cold, lets go home.” The children protested, “no, no, no, no and refused to leave.” We waited for him for five hours. The canal was lined with thousands of people. When eventually he arrived the crowd’s cheer was deafening and the atmosphere was electric.
My children’s passion for the race connects me to on a much deeper level then it did when I came to watch it before. They were so excited to see Michel Desjoyeaux win. For me, as a mother it made it an even more incredible experience because my children were so enthralled.
The passion of the Vendée people for the event is amazing. Everyone gets behind the race, we sit and talk about it in the bars. We are a loyal community and we come together to support the brave sailors.”
If you have visited the Vendée Globe race village please let us know what you thought in the comments below.
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