The 29 skippers sailing around the world are now already two weeks at sea and are currently in the South Atlantic Ocean. Time to look back at the day of the start: Happiness, emotion and a cheering crowd.
What an amazing atmosphere in the town of Les Sables d’Olonne at the West coast of France: The Vendée Globe has started. Finally, after years of thorough preparation, 29 sailors from ten different countries set off from the French marina at the Bay of Biscay – Port Olona – to race all alone, non-stop and without assistance around the world. Without doubt, the sixth of November 2016 was a very special day. Not only for the sailors on their 60 foot yachts who were about to leave firm ground for the next three months to sail the “Everest of the Seas”, but also for their families, of course, sponsors, technical teams and for all the fans.
On the day of the departure, more than 350.000 people came down to Les Sables d’Olonne and stayed for hours along the docks and the riverside to cheer all the sailors and wish them fair winds. Such a festival atmosphere on this sunny but quite cold November morning – simply unbelievable.
From 08:45 a.m. on, the boats left the pontoons. Time for the very last interviews with the international press, time to say goodbye to friends and family. Emotional moments as the last knot on the mooring line is untied and the last connection to land is cut off.
The boats then motor out of the marina one after another, navigate through the canal and finally head out to the bay, where they start to hoist their sails and get their boats ready to race. So, all the 29 competitors follow this procedure, offering a fantastic spectacle for the crowd staying on the dockside, too. No matter if the yacht is a brand-new state of the art carbon fibre racing machine or an older generation model, if the skipper is young or old, experienced Vendée Globe participant or newbie – everyone is enormously celebrated and received with cheers.
On the water around the start line area, this party continues. Everyone with a floating vessel of whichever size is on the spot to be able to follow closely the Imoca 60s as they line up perfectly on the start line before heading offshore. At precisely 13:02 French time, the start signal is given and the skippers are free to sail. A final impressive spectacle can be experienced just after the start, as all the motorboats and support RIBs take off to approach the racing boats one last time, wave to them and take some photos, before the sails get smaller and smaller.
Yannick is currently working for the sailing magazine “Voiles et Voiliers” – the leader of the nautical press in France – and reported on the Vendée Globe event directly from Les Sables d’Olonne being one of the 1300 accredited journalists for the Race Village.