Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Vendee Globe

It happens once every four years, a single handed, non-stop, yacht race around the world. The Vendee Globe began last week. This is the race that brought Ellen MacArthur to prominence when she finished second in 2001. If you have any experience of sailing whatsoever, you will be able to appreciate - a little - of just how hard a challenge this is, and not just physically and mentally. Crazy? Some would say so. Three months, with only a few minutes of sleep at any one time, is a challenge in itself!

In the 1980s, I enjoyed a few brief years sailing with friends Jimmy and Kirsty Letton in their UFO 27 called Canna. (It's not Canna, but I recently found this clip of a UFO 27 under sail, and it brought back some great memories!) I learned so much and it was great to be able to appreciate another sport. Until that time my summers had been spent hillwalking. Of course, cruiser racing in the Clyde estuary is a far cry from ocean racing, but the experiences of thirty years ago have meant that even now I follow sailing whenever I can, whether on the box, or via the internet.

This year, especially finding myself confined at Skip more often than I would like, I set out to follow the 2012 Vendee Globe online via the official website, and the usual Facebook and Twitter feeds. You know, it's easy to get sucked into the event, what with tracking the boats via the website, the animations, and the daily updates and stories which include photos and even videos from the boats. The race is dominated by French sailors but there were three Brits on the start line for me to support.

There has been lots of drama during the first week, with collisions, gear failures and dismastings. And the race has only just begun. There's a video summary of the first week here.

I was gutted on Friday morning when I logged on to read that Sam Davies' boat Saveol had been dismasted. Fortunately she is alright, and, having cut away the rig, has been able to motor to Madeira. There is no way to describe how disappointed she must feel. You work for years raising the sponsorship, and putting a team together, then just days into the race, it's all over. No wonder she was distraught when she was explaining by videolink what had happened (above). Sam is a great ambassador for the sport, and immensely popular in France where she now lives. Hopefully she will be racing again soon!

I plan to be an armchair sailor for the months ahead, and I look forward to following the fleet as it tackles the challenges in the oceans. Hopefully all will return safe.

The photos are screenshots from the video highlights on the Vendee Globe website.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bob. Greatly enjoyed your comments about the biggest sliders on the biggest ice rink in the world!