With less than 70 hours to go to the starting gun, after all the excitement of the last three weeks, it’s now time to focus on what lies ahead. You can already see the stress taking its toll on the faces of the 29 sailors about to set off. They are already in their own little world looking ahead to the start of the Vendée Globe and what may happen in the first few hours of the race. Just like skiers on top of the ski run, as they are about to get going…
Ordinary life with its daily routine will get forgotten. The weather, the boat and their own physical condition are their worry now. Some of the skippers are avoiding hugs and kisses and handshakes to protect themselves from coughs and sneezes and other diseases. We can remember how Bernard Stamm suffered a stomach upset four years ago at the start of the race. Meanwhile with less than three days to go to the start, families are enjoying these final days with their skipper before a three month separation.
Rich Wilson, Great American IV: “I can’t wait to get going. It’s time we were out there. It’s a huge pleasure casting off, even if there is always some stress and apprehension. But we’ve all been working hard on that. The weather suits me. I prefer to set sail in these winds with less than 20 knots expected, even if I know that later in the South, we will get some tough conditions. It was hard for me back in 2008.”
Morgan Lagravière (Safran): “The weather looks good as it will allow us to ease ourselves into the race. That means we can get used to being at sea more easily and avoid getting seasick, while gradually putting our foot down. I was looking forward to this sort of weather, and it seems to be happening now. I’m particularly apprehensive about the morning of the start, as I can get very emotional and I attach a lot of importance to the human aspects ashore. I guess I’ll probably be in tears. But we must not see the start as a punishing separation. I’ll soon get into race mode and put the rest behind me.”
Vincent Riou (PRB): “Less than a year ago, it was seen as risky fitting foils on these boats. Now it seems that the risk has shifted, making it harder for those without foils.”
Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac): “On Sunday, I’ll be setting sail on my fourth Vendée Globe, but in spite of that, I feel apprehensive. But who can set off without any worry though, as if they were nipping into their garden to pick some strawberries? No one! In any case I don’t know this superman. You can’t take anything for granted in top class sports and that is even more the case, when we are looking at the sea. In my previous attempts, I always found it tough settling into the race at the start. The fact that the weather looks decent is good news for me. But I’m not celebrating, as during the round the world voyage, we’ll all have to deal with harsh conditions at some point.”
Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII): “The start of the race should favour the boats with foils with the wind coming from a good angle. We know how to sail quickly in these conditions. It’s something we worked on during the training sessions in Port-la-Forêt. We should be able to find our feet relatively easily after this long period ashore. But the second night looks like more of a battle with fairly strong winds along the coast of Portugal. We can’t rule out beating the record to the Equator (held since 2004 by Jean Le Cam with a time of 10 days and 11 hours).”
Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean): “Some skippers have huge pressure on them. They must win. Today, when you see skippers refusing to shake your hand because they are afraid of catching something, I applaud them with both hands. That’s fabulous. It was my personal choice to go off to Australia last week to see goodbye to the children. I wanted to talk to them and tell them that I was doing something very important, but that was risky. I wanted them to know I loved them before setting off.”