The sailors who are about to go around the world on November 10th will discover, or rediscover for some of them, an incredibly rich fauna, both in the sea and in the air...
In addition to being an epic race, the Vendée Globe is also a wonderful way to enjoy the diversity of the submarine or avian fauna. The skippers are very much aware of how lucky they are: « We have the good fortune to come across many animals while sailing », Groupe Bel skipper Kito de Pavant said. François Gabart (MACIF) confirmed that it is « a real pleasure to see marine mammals ». Submarine fauna and birds are obviously the most frequent animals throughout the race. But do they get to see a lot of them? « Yes, absolutely! There are actually too many of them rather than too few! » Kito joked. As the race goes on, birds sometimes even happen to seek refuge right on the boat. It is what Alessandro Di Benedetto witnessed during his qualification race for the Vendée Globe. In this case, « if the bird is sweet, we give it some breadcrumbs », François Gabart explained. Yet, these unexpected guests never stay for a long period. Because the bird panels is so substantial, the Groupe Bel skipper will bring a book on the topic with him for the upcoming race start since « I’m not an expert and it’s always good to be able to recognize them », he admitted.
As for the MACIF skipper, in addition to enjoying when the dolphins « play around the boat », he said that he could not wait to meet an albatross, « the mythical bird from the Far South ». « It fascinates me, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I do the Vendée Globe just for it, but it’s pretty close... » he added. However, skippers are less enthusiastic about whales. Even though they are a great show, their quiet moving presents a real risk of collision between the boats and the cetaceans which are hard to avoid. François Gabart even said that « (he) prefers not to see them at all rather than meeting one and collide with it. » Hisposition can be explained by a former experience, when one of these huge mammals « passed 50 cm close to my boat ». At that time, he admitted he had « quite a fright ». Same thing for Kito de Pavant who unfortunately « went through some recent accidents » and now prefers to observe them from afar.
Animals can be found everywhere on the Vendée Globe route yet some places seem to be better than others for wildlife observation. When most birds are gathered near the coasts, it is in the fishing areas that dolphins, whales and others fishes can be observed. François Gabart also added that « continental shelvf breaks, like the Bay of Biscay, are extremely rich in marine mammals ». They are attracted by the huge quantity of fish brought on those areas by the currents. However, with the technological improvements making boats better-equipped and faster, the skippers see « less and less animals », according to François Gabart. Even though wildlife observation used to be simpler, it will not prevent skippers from having unforgettable memories of their Vendée Globe when they are back.