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Vendée Globe Race 2024 November 10th, 10th edition, Les Sables d’Olonne, France
Nov 10

Vendée Globe Race 2024 November 10th, 10th edition, Les...




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Les Sables-d'Olonne, France
  • To date, the Vendée Globe is the greatest sailing race round the world, solo, non-stop and without assistance. 

    The event followed in the wake of the Golden Globe which had initiated the first circumnavigation of this type via the three capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn) in 1968. 

    Only one out of the nine pioneers who had set off in 1968 succeeded in returning to Falmouth, the major port of British Cornwall. 

    On 6th April 1969, after 313 days at sea, British sailor Robin Knox-Johnston finally reached his goal. 

    Twenty years later, after having won the BOC Challenge twice (solo round the world with stopovers), navigator Philippe Jeantot introduced the idea of a new race around the world, but..non-stop! 

    The Vendée Globe race was born. On 26th November 1989, thirteen sailors took the start of the first edition which lasted over three months. Only seven returned to Les Sables d'Olonne.


    44 996.2 kilometers, 24 296 miles: that is the circumference of the Earth and the distance of reference around the world. 

    A revolution accomplished in 74 days and 3 hours during the last edition of the Vendée Globe. 

    This planetary voyage is firstly a climatic journey to sail down the Atlantic, cross the Indian and Pacific oceans, then sail back up the Atlantic... 

    To be expected: a start from les Sables d'Olonne in mid-autumn, a trip in the heart of the Southern seas in full austral summer and a wintery return to Vendée.

    In reality, during the previous eight editions of the Vendée Globe, most competitors sometimes sailed over 28 000 miles (about 52 000 kilometers). 

    The solo racers have to deal with the wind, waves, swell and ice. 

    The trajectories of the boats are thus a chain of broken lines, zigzags, detours and changes in courses.


    The Vendée Globe solo racers must permanently tamper with the weather systems. 

    These are made of anticyclones - rather stable and moderately windy high pressure zones – and depressions, usually generating strong winds. 

    This confrontation between high and low pressures determines the strategy to adopt in each zone of the course of the Vendée Globe. 

    The North-South trajectory to go down the Atlantic and the South-North way back up are perpendicular to the general movement of perturbations whereas crossing the Indian and Pacific in the Southern seas is done in the same direction as the weather systems.

    During the first phase between Les Sables d'Olonne and the cape of Good Hope, at the tip of South Africa, solo racers must sail along the anticyclone of the Açores in the North Atlantic, followed by its equivalent of Saint Helen in the austral part. 

    The game consists in finding the good balance : far enough from low pressure centers to avoid the strongest winds without getting stuck in the high pressures. 

    The second phase consists in taking advantage of the weather phenomena coming from the West so as to be pushed rapidly between Good Hope and the Horn. 

    The third phase looks like the first one with the anticyclones of Saint Helen and of the Açores to be avoided. 

    It's also necessary to manage the passing from one hemisphere to the other : it's the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), commonly called the Doldrums. 

    At this place, hot and humid air masses brought by trade winds of the two hemispheres meet and generate unstable air where white calm and stormy squalls alternate without any logic. Vigilance and intuition are indispensable to escape this trap.


    The high pressures of the South Atlantic are fickle at the end of the austral spring : the goal of the solo racers is thus to sail along the Brazilian coasts as offshore as possible and catch one of the depressions which appear in the bay of Rio and die in the Indian ocean! If the high pressure system breaks up into ephemeral and mobile cells, the fleet ends up scattered in small groups with very different weather conditions : the split is often critical...


    In less than a month, the frost of Vendée makes way for equatorial heats, tropical rainshowers and then subantartic polar cold. The Southern seas, which represent almost 3/5th of a round-the-world, offer a chain of depressions originating from Brazil, Madagascar, New Zealand… Solo racers must preserve this train of downwind conditions, sliding from one perturbation to another without being absorbed by anticyclonic tentacles. Powerful North-Westerly winds, fronts with violent Westerly squalls, switchover to South-Westerly freeze, the sequence is very trying for the sailors as well as the machines..

    To limit the risk of encounters with icebergs, the Race Direction establishes a zone prohibited to sailing, the Antartic Exclusion Zone (AEZ), which goes around the Antartic between the 45°S on the Crozet Islands side and the 68°S off Cape Horn. Consequently, this demarcation for safety imposes a rather Northerly trajectory which flirts with the anticyclone of the Mascareignes (Indian) and Easter Island (Pacific). Competitors can get caught in high pressure systems while their opponents are surfing on a depression !


    If rounding Cape Horn after 50 days at sea reduces drastically the stress of breakage and marks the increase in temperatures, the 7 000 miles left to sail to reach the Sables d'Olonne aren't the simplest ones, especially if other competitors are right behind you! Once you've passed Patagonia, there is still the anticyclone of Saint Helen to avoid while negotiating stormy depressions coming from Brasil. Adverse and irregular breezes, important wind shifts, fronts to cross, far from being an easy ride...

    Once the Brazilian coasts are more or less within sight, the Doldrums loom at the horizon before reaching the trade winds of the North hemisphere. Once again, racers must avoid getting trapped in the fearsome calm of the anticyclone of the Açores in order to finally reach the Atlantic depressions which can be more devastating than their austral equivalentsin January... After 70 to 75 days at sea, the winner of the Vendée Globe 2020 will finally be able to see the Nouch buoy which marks the finish line of the Vendée Globe in Les Sables d'Olonne.

  • Category
    Racing Events (Match, Team, Fleet, Regattas, etc)
  • Date & Time
    Nov 10 2024 at 09:00 - Feb 10 2025 at 09:00
  • Location & full address
    Les Sables d’Olonne, France
  • Event Admins
    Patrick Benoit