On Thursday morning, 16 September, in Paris, Philippe DE VILLIERS, President of the SAEM Vendée, the organisation behind the Vendée Globe, presented the fifth edition of the unaided, non-stop, single-handed round the world sailing event.
Starting on 7 November from Les Sables d'Olonne, 23 skippers, including two women, representing seven nationalities will make up the list of participants for the single-handed ocean race.
And then there were 23!
"Today, 23 skippers have signed up and fulfilled the qualifying criteria to take part in the next Vendée Globe. 7 nationalities are represented (England, Australia, Austria, Belgium, the U.S., France and Switzerland), 2 women will be setting off and 14 skippers will be lining up for the first time for the single-handed, non-stop, unaided round the world race",
Philippe DE VILLIERS was pleased to announce at the start of the press conference, which was held in Paris this morning.
23 single-handed yachtsmen, coming from all sorts of background, with in particular a new generation of extremely ambitious young sailors. "23 have signed up and they will all be sailing in 60 foot Open class boats, which means that two thirds of the world's fleet of these monohulls will be taking part in this edition. Among them, some youngsters, like Sébastien JOSSE, Vincent RIOU, Conrad HUMPHREYS, Karen LEIBOVICI… all aged around thirty, which is proof of the emergence of a new generation of skippers. They will be competing alongside more experienced single-handed yachtsmen - Marc THIERCELIN, Roland JOURDAIN, Jean LE CAM, Mike GOLDING for example - most of whom have already several round the world trips under their belt. They are discovering or coming back to this event, which should be the crowning glory of their ocean travels. It is the wide variety of men and women taking part, which really makes this list of participants so rich. But they do have one thing in common: they are all true sailors!",
explained Denis HOREAU, the race director.
The skippers and boats are due in Les Sables d'Olonne by the 16 October, to be ready for the starting gun of this fifth edition, which will be fired at 1 p.m. on the 7th November.
Safety is given priority
"One skipper, one boat to round the three capes"
the formula, which has ensured the popularity of the Vendée Globe for the last 15 years, promises once again to work wonders during the 23,000 mile course. It is still with an optimum level of safety in mind that the organisers and the race directors have drawn up the arrangements for this fifth edition. To achieve this, two new features have been added to what has already been in place - the participation of Alain GAUTIER, the 1992-93 winner and race expert, as a safety adviser, and the presence in Sydney (Australia), of David ADAMS - for the second of the three legs, from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific - as liaison officer. During the period in the Southern Seas, this champion yachtsman will be responsible, if necessary, for liasing between the race organisers and the Australian marine rescue services.
"Today, the circumnavigation can be done in less than 94 days, and ocean racing continues to make great strides forward. But one thing has remained unchanged since 1989 - safety is and as always will be paramount, insists Denis HOREAU. There will be 23 of them setting out on this great voyage and there must be 23 of them finishing back in Les Sables d'Olonne to tell us all about it".
All hands on deck
Philippe DE VILLIERS also presented all the arrangements, which after 6 months of hard work are finally ready and in place, "If we've reached this point today, it's largely thanks to the work carried out with the Skippers' association IMOCA, the French Yachting Federation (FFV) and the town of Les Sables d'Olonne"
stressed the President of the SAEM Vendée, which took over the Vendée Globe in February 2004. "I'd like to add to these thanks the SODEBO company, the private partner for the event, without whom we would not have been able to offer the skippers the unprecedented level of service for such a race".
So alongside the sporting organisation itself, the reception of the thousands of journalists that are expected, the editorial teams, the website (www.vendeeglobe.org, which will be online at the end of September), the video production units, …all hands are on deck to ensure the event will be covered for 4 months "17 hours per day, live and in 2 languages (French and English)"
Monsieur de Villiers concluded.
Les Sables ready and waiting
The preparations are well underway on the Vendée Globe Esplanade in Port Olonna. Louis Guedon, the local MP and the town's Mayor presented the main features of a new 6,000 sq.m village. Many events, a big wheel, a craft village, an educational fun trail based around the sea for the young ones, a business park … A big event is planned in Les Sables d'Olonne from the 16 October. They have paid particular attention to the berths for the boats, which are 7.5 m wider and some 86 metres longer!
The boats are pulling into the station!
One of the most original features of this 2004 edition is without any doubt the partnership signed with French Railways (SNCF), who will be offering a home to the Paris headquarters in one of their finest sites, Montparnasse Station. In fact, from the 8 November, the day after the start, the nerve centre of the race will be opening its doors in an area above the departure and arrival zone for trains to and from the West coast of France! Open to the general public, it will house the monitoring and communications centre for the race. The general public and the media will be able to listen in at the end of the morning everyday to the radio reports from the skippers and thus follow the latest developments in the race.
An organisation that is ready and waiting, enthusiastic partners, a great effort has been made to allow the public and the media to follow the race … and just a month away from the opening of the village and just fifty days or so from the start of the fifth edition, it's time for the big adventure to begin and hand over things to the 23 heroes!