Vendee Globe sailors em­bark on ad­ven­ture

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LES SABLES-D’OLONNE: Thou­sands of by­s­tanders yes­ter­day gave 29 skip­pers a rau­cous send off as the Vendee Globe solo race around the world be­gan off the French At­lantic coast. The three-month race will see the skip­pers joust with the el­e­ments in their 18.5 me­tre (60 foot) ves­sels af­ter leav­ing the western French port of Les Sables d’Olonne. Com­peti­tors from 10 coun­tries are com­pet­ing in the eighth ‘Ever­est of the Seas’ cov­er­ing 21,638 nau­ti­cal miles (40,073 km) through the tough­est seas and around the three great Capes-Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn. Any par­tic­i­pant who puts into port or re­ceives as­sis­tance along the way will be dis­qual­i­fied.

Around 14,000 peo­ple were on hand on the water and some 300,000 more thronged the shore to see Prince Al­bert of Monaco sound the start­ing sig­nal.

Emo­tions got the bet­ter of some com­peti­tors as rel­a­tives and friends waved them off. “It’s a tough mo­ment. Your stom­ach is in knots and the tears flow,” ac­knowl­edged Yann Elies, sail­ing Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir.

“It’s a mo­ment I’ll not for­get,” added a tearful Mor­gan La­graviere, sail­ing Safran. “I look at all the peo­ple around me and ... well, it’s hard to leave.” The race, which has been held ev­ery four years since 1989, has to date claimed three lives while barely half of com­pet­ing ves­sels — 71 out of 138 — have com­pleted the gru­elling course.

CAP­TAIN HADDOCK

La Fabrique’s Alan Roura, at 23 the youngest com­peti­tor, bade farewell dressed for the oc­ca­sion as Cap­tain Haddock of Tintin fame in a blue sailor’s jacket, white slacks, stripy scarf and cap.

Asia has its first ever con­tes­tant this year in the shape of Ja­pan’s Ko­jiro Shi­raishi, who set off wear­ing the garb of a Samu­rai war­rior re­plete with sabre.

The Toky­oite only bought a boat in April and sailed out aboard ‘Spirit of Yukoh’ in hon­our of his men­tor, Yukoh Tadda, the Class II win­ner of the 1982-83 BOC Chal­lenge, the Vendee Globe pre­cur­sor.

A sig­nal gave the skip­pers no­tice it was time to bid a fond adieu to their crew be­fore em­bark­ing on their three-month ad­ven­ture be­fore Prince Al­bert sounded the of­fi­cial start horn.

Fran­cois Gabart holds the course record af­ter fin­ish­ing in 78 days, two hours and 16 min­utes three years ago. Ten of this year’s skip­pers are non-French and they will be hop­ing to prise the crown from the grasp of ‘home’ sailors for the first time.

RE­DUCE TOIL WITH FOIL ?

On the tech­ni­cal side, the sail­ing fra­ter­nity will be keen to see the ef­fect this year of “Dali mous­tache” lift­ing foils which seven of the par­ti­ipants are de­but­ing this year.

The ap­pendage de­vice helps lift the boats above the water in a drag­ster ef­fect, the idea be­ing to in­crease dy­namic power and also lighten the ves­sel. How­ever, some ob­servers have ques­tioned the de­vice’s ef­fec­tive­ness over such a long dis­tance.

The foils could come into their own not least dur­ing the open­ing days of the race as skip­pers han­dle north-north­west­erly winds gust­ing at 15-20 knots (28 to 38 kph/17 to 23 mph). Race di­rec­tor Jac­ques Caraes says the con­di­tions are pretty much ideal for the start as the ves­sels set a course to­wards Fin­is­terre point off north­west Spain.

Welsh­man Alex Thom­son, tak­ing part in his fourth Vendee Globe, in­di­cated that “if the fore­casts are cor­rect it will be tough for the boats with­out foils to be in the front group.” He and his ri­vals then headed out into the ocean and the Equa­tor, which they are slated to reach in eight-and-a-half days.

Also yes­ter­day, French nav­i­ga­tor Thomas Coville set off from the port of Brest in a bid to break the solo non-stop round the world record in his 31-me­tre maxi-tri­maran Sodebo Ul­tim’. The 47-yearold has al­ready failed on four oc­ca­sions to beat Fran­cis Joyon’s 2008 record of 57 days 13 hours and 34 min­utes.

— AFP

LES SABLES D’OLONNE: French skip­per Paul Meil­hat sails on his Class Imoca mono­hull “SMA” at the start of the Vendee Globe around-the-world solo sail­ing race, yes­ter­day off les Sables d’Olonne, western France.

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