The eighth Vendée Globe is now officially over. The heroes celebrated together for one last time in les Sables d’Olonne, the start and finish location for the non-stop solo round the world race. Organised by the Vendée Council, the closing ceremony allowed everyone to look back at the great adventure of this solo round the world voyage. Emotions were running high for the 29 Vendée Globe skippers, who were present.
“We’re pleased to be back in Les Sables d’Olonne”
The first people to go up on the stage were the eleven skippers forced to retire: Paul Meilhat, Morgan Lagravière, Sébastien Josse, Kojiro Shiraishi, Bertrand de Broc, Stéphane Le Diraison, Vincent Riou, Thomas Ruyant, Enda O’Coineen, Thomas Ruyant and Tanguy de Lamotte. Their respective performances remind us how hard it is to take part in the Vendée Globe, which requires a huge investment and personal sacrifice.
The sailors ranked from 11th to 18th were the next to be invited onto the stage. They were Fabrice Amedeo, Alan Roura, Rich Wilson, Didac Costa, Romain Attanasio, Conrad Colman, Pieter Heerema and Sébastien Destremau. “I’m very honoured to be here and we are all delighted to be back in Les Sables d’Olonne. It’s been a while since we last saw each other. This evening the tears welled up,” declared the Swiss sailor Alan Roura, summing up perfectly the general feeling.
After that, the skippers ranked from 4th to 10th were presented – Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès, Jean Le Cam, Louis Burton, Nandor Fa, Eric Bellion and Arnaud Boissières. “This ceremony has allowed us to return to those unforgettable moments we experienced last winter. This evening, I am proud to be alongside sailors, who were idols, when I was smal,” declared Louis Burton. “We get a wave of emotions like those we felt during the race and the preparation,” added Yann Eliès. “That gives us the desire to look ahead to the ninth edition.” Eric Bellion, 9th and first rookie in the last Vendée Globe, was awarded a special trophy by Bruno Retailleau, President of the Pays de la Loire Region. “I discovered myself during this Vendée Globe. It’s fabulous to find what you didn’t think you had. You feel bigger and stronger and that’s incredible,” said Bellion.
It was then time for Jérémie Beyou, 3rd in the Vendée Globe to say something. “It’s hard to find the words to express what we experienced. You go through all the emotions. But the human mind is great: we only remember the good times. I’ll be back in four years with a new boat, so I’m very lucky.” Next up was Alex Thomson, runner-up after his epic duel with Armel Le Cléac’h. “Are you ready to see a Brit win the race in 2020?” he asked the audience. The final person invited onto the stage was Armel Le Cléac’h. He received the Vendée Globe Trophy from Yves Auvinet, President of the Vendée Globe. He too was very moved, as he looked back at his adventure. “The match with Alex was incredibly tough. After coming second twice, I managed to win this time. I’ll never forget that. You are never the same when you return from a Vendée Globe.”
After the traditional family photo, the skippers joined together with the public for one final time during a big parade on the seafront with a huge and enthusiastic crowd attending.
See you on 8th November 2020 for the start of the ninth Vendée Globe
Yves Auvinet concluded by presenting a very positive report on the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. “I’d like to stress how lucky our department is to have such an event, which everyone is jealous of and rightly so.. I’m pleased that the 29 skippers all made it home safely. Thank you for the pleasure you gave to the public. You give us a great example of humanity. That gives us the motivation to do even better in 2020. I can already tell you that the start of the 9th Vendée Globe will be on 8th November 2020 at 1202hrs UTC.