Most of the sailors in the Vendée Globe have now not sailed for many months. Everyone is eager to get back racing and enjoy the cut-and-thrust of ocean racing competition. The new Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne solo race which will start on July 4 will now give that opportunity. Asked about the new event, skippers such as Nicolas Troussel, Sébastien Simon, Damien Seguin, Armel Tripon, Benjamin Dutreux and Isabelle Joschke were all extremely positive.
Organized by the IMOCA Class, supported by its main partner, the department of Vendée, and by the town of Les Sables d'Olonne the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne has been designed around a course of 3600 miles which should mean about ten to twelve days at sea, solo racing on a completely new course out from the French coast – starting and finishing in Les Sables d'Olonne- passing to the west of Iceland and to the north of the Azores.
The confirmed list of competitors will be published in early June.
An organization adapted to health constraints
In order to make the race happen it has had to be adapted to the health precautionary measures which are in force. Consequently there will be no start village and no reception for the public in Les Sables d'Olonne. Sailors are invited to go directly to the starting line from their home port without stopping in to the local Les Sables d’Olonne pontoons. The finish system might possibly be more flexible but only if the situation allows it. Meantime the principles of preserving good health requires a strict scenario and an organization which is focused on the skippers, security and a 100% digital communication which will allow followers to share the race happenings, day after day, thanks to the images and messages sent by sailors.
Jacques Caraës, the Vendée Globe Race Director will also direct the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne along with Hubert Lemonnier:
"This will now be the only solo technical and competitive race that the skippers will be able to compete in before the start of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race starting on November 8 and because of those reasons it was very important that it takes place. Sailors need to sail in a solitary configuration and gain competitive miles. Technically it is a key opportunity to validate the modifications they made during the winter. And also it will give 11 skippers * the opportunity to qualify for the solo round-the-world race. ”
The unique, original course can be raced in either direction, as will decided by Race Direction on the strength of the weather forecast before the start.
The course will take the fleet to around 65 degrees north just near the Arctic circle (66.5 deg N), therefore much further north than Cape Horn is south.
"It is an ambitious course,” continues Jacques Caraës, “We wanted it to be selective. On this large triangle of 3600 miles (the equivalent of a Transatlantic in terms of distance), the idea is to go get into the active weather systems in the North Atlantic and so have the boats sailing at different speeds and in different wind and sea conditions. With the presence of ice up in the west of Iceland, we will have the same kind of constraints as in the Big South: we will have to set up an exclusion zone to avoid drifting ice. "
The idea of the IMOCA Class and the organizers of the Vendée Globe is to confront the fleet with a variety of appropriate conditions and situations to resemble some of the conditions which would be experienced on this winter’s race around the world.
Skippers who have been seeking this type of racing and confrontation with such weather and sea conditions have reacted very positively to the news of this new course.
Isabelle Joschke (MACSF): “This race really excites me! We will have to prepare for it properly as we will be going into cold quite hostile sea area. Even if the weather should be quite fair in summer, it's never nothing to go racing in the northern waters between Iceland and Greenland. But it is quite a buzz to think that we’re going to go all the way north when, at the end of the year, it’s the big south that will be in store for us. We will have properly been round the planet! On the competition side, I am impatient to go head to head again with others in race mode now with my foils, which require a completely different way of sailing. I will also take the opportunity to validate various things, such as life on board, the maneuvers, the upper and lower limits of the boat. And as I still have miles to complete for my qualification for the Vendée Globe, I especially will focus on my need to train. "
Damien Seguin (Apicil Group): “It's great to have this race on the horizon. It was hard to imagine going to the Vendée Globe when the last solo race we did was the Bermudes 1000 Race a year ago. The course is really nice it makes you want to go. We have already worked a bit on the subject with Christian Dumard (weather advisor) who knows the area up there. We are not used to going to these northern latitudes with our boats. On this race, there are a lot of objectives for me: to sail more miles with the boat, to test the changes made this winter and to sail everything fairly simply and keep it straightforward. I’m qualified, I’ve sailed a lot in the last three years and I don’t have to take any more risks than that. So for me, this is the ideal race. And a dress rehearsal race for us is essential, as it is for the class and for the organization of the Vendée Globe. "
Nicolas Troussel, skipper of Corum l'Epargne, whose boat, the newest member of the IMOCA fleet, was just launched on May 5: "In terms of qualification I don't have to take part in the race. And for now it's too early to decide it it’s for us. First we need to sail the boat and test everything before we set off on a race. It’s very positive to have this opportunity. If it goes well up until early July, we will see where our preparation is. Our primary goal to be ready on November 8. If doing this race were likely to put us in the red on the program, we will not do it… ”
Benjamin Dutreux (Water Family - Oceania Hotels): “The race will allow us to get some miles to where it is cold! I did my first double transat during the Transat Jacques Vabre, and solo back. I discovered the Equator then now I’m going to discover seas that will resemble the southern oceans. I would probably have gone sailing up there anyway and so it’s even better if it’s done as part of a race. It’s interesting to discover the boat again while racing others. I'm qualified so I'm not chasing after the miles and so I'm going to have fun: it's going to be a blast to simply get back out there and get some fresh air! "
* Seven skippers must complete a solo course of 2000 miles, validated by the race director. Four must sail the equivalent of a Transat solo.