The Vendée Globe village was officially inaugurated at 1300 GMT on Friday 15 October.
Opened by Mr Louis GUÉDON, Deputy-Mayor of Les Sables d'Olonne, Mr Philippe DE VILLIERS, President of the Saem Vendée and Mrs Patricia BROCHARD, President of the company Sodebo, the event's main partner.
At 1300 GMT yesterday afternoon, half the fleet participating in the Vendée Globe 2004 had made Port Olona. This morning Mike GOLDING (Ecover) and Marc THIERCELIN (Pro Form) moored their 60 footers alongside the monohulls already present in Les Sables : Joé SEETEN'S Dunkerque Arcelor, Conrad HUMPHREYS' Hellomoto, Vincent RIOU's PRB, Benoît PARNAUDEAU'S MaxHavelaar, Norbert SEDLACEK'S Austria One, Sébastien JOSSE's VMI, Bruce SCHWAB'S Ocean Planet, Nick MOLONEY'S Skandia and Raphaël DINELLI'S boat.
Jean-Pierre DICK (Virbac-Paprec), Alex THOMSON (Hugo Boss) and Hervé LAURENT (UUDS) are expected at around 1600 GMT while Patrice CARPENTIER (VM Matériaux) should arrive in the early evening.
Mr Louis Guédon, Deputy-Mayor of Les Sables d'Olonne:
"I feel very happy about seeing the Vendée Globe set off under such conditions, with 20 sailors at the start. The idea behind the village that we are inaugurating dates back to the first Vendée Globe. We hope to provide the competitors with the same warm welcome on their return. The village is the symbol of the warmth brought to the sailors by the 800 000 visitors expected before they head off on 7 November."
Mr Philippe de Villiers, President of the Saem Vendée:
"Today, on the opening of the Vendée Globe 2004 village, my first thoughts go out to the creator of the race, Philippe Jeantot. I then give a thought to the skippers because they have been preparing for this for 4 years and they are the people that the race has been organised for. There?s already a bit of concern as to what the weather will be like the day of the start and how the race will turn out… It?s a history book that opens today and the skippers will be writing the chapters. As organisers, we are preparing for the Vendée Globe experience with a constant moral responsibility."
Patricia Brochard, President of Sodebo:
"We have already had a taste of the last Vendée Globe through the adventures of Thomas Coville. We have a new role this year as we are the sponsors of this event and therefore a support for all the sailors, men and women. We intend to focus our efforts on sharing the adventure of these sailors with a wider public. We're going to try to get through to the whole of France with our main tool being a 'road show' that will be present in the country's 10 largest cities, providing the public with a better understanding of the event and the skippers."