If a British yachtsperson was to win the next edition of the Vendee Globe 2012-13, due to leave the sleepy French fishing port of Les Sables d'Olonne, Vendee, France on Saturday 10th November 2012, it would be the yachting equivalent of Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France.
Yes - it's that significant.
The Vendée Globe is a round-the-world solo yacht race, sailed non-stop and without assistance. It was founded by Philippe Jeantot in 1989, and since 1992 has taken place every four years. It starts and finishes in Les Sables d'Olonne, Vendee, France.
As the only single-handed non-stop round-the-world race (in contrast to the VELUX 5 Oceans Race, which is sailed in stages), the race is an incredible test of individual endurance, and is the ultimate in ocean racing.
Founded in 1989 by cavalier French yachtsman Philippe Jeantot, who had competed in the BOC Challenge (now the VELUX 5 Oceans Race) in 1982-1983 and 1986-1987, winning both times and was dissatisfied with the race's format.
He decided to set up a new round-the-world non-stop race, which he felt would be the ultimate challenge for single-handed sailors. The first edition of the race was run in 1989-1990, and was won by Titouan Lamazou; Jeantot himself took part, and placed fourth. The next edition of the race was in 1992-1993; and it has since then been run every four years, dominated by the French who have taken the journey of the solo yachtspeople into their heart, soul and culture.
Of course, it was in the 2000 edition of the Vendee Globe that a little known woman from Derbyshire called Ellen Macarthur was to sail into second place, the history books and the hearts and minds of the British nation. Since then no Brit has ever improved on her position.
In the 2012 edition Great Britain has three hopefuls:
These are three very different but high calibre sailors, who all have a real chance of bringing the Vendee Globe to Britain for the first time ever. There is a saying in solo ocean racing 'in order to finish first, first you must finish'. Out of the three pretenders both Mike Golding and Sam Davies have completed the course. Mike Golding secured a third place podium position in 2004 and Sam Davies finished 4th in 2008. Alex Thomson has yet to finish in his first two attempts but maybe he will be third time lucky.
Each of the sailors have their own identity and because of the peculiar nature of this wackiest of races victory can often depend on the magic of the alignment of the stars.
Mike Golding is a sailing world champion who has sailed around the world so many times it is the equivalent of flying to the moon. He has a very high pain threshold and is very stubborn. Tactically, he is the most experienced sailor and will have planned his race in his head from the outset. It will simply be a matter of boat preparation and whether his Open 60 Gamesa will be able to withstand the battering the weather throws at it. Age is against him but he is a real contender.
Alex Thomson is the maverick of the trio. He has the sexy, trendy sponsor with Hugo Boss, and solid budgets to offer a gleaming steed. He breaks records over shorter distances - trans Atlantic - but is he the hare against the tortoise, Mike Golding? The challenge is to maintain the pace over 30,000 miles and clearly you can't push hard for 90 days. Thomson struggles with the sleep management and as a younger buck would often drop off to sleep for too long which would veer him off course. But he is older now, he really wants to win it and last year he fathered a son so will this mature the maverick and temper him to help him realise his potential. Or will he be the flash git, with all the gear and no idea? Only time will tell.
Sam Davies is a golden girl. In my heart I want her to win. She has followed the traditional French sailing route in the Figaro and has become a Franco-anglo hybrid, now sponsored by a French food company, Saveol. She is a sailor in her soul. Educated, hard working, tenacious, intelligent and attractive; she is a fantastic role model for sailors and women, people alike. She is also an amazing sailor, who just missed a podium place in the 2008 edition. It would be incredible if she was to win it - the first Brit and a women to boot. The feminist in me would be delighted. Not to mention that she is fluent in French so her victory would be broadcast and celebrated across the sport to those that are already dedicated and beyond.
But they are racing alone but what they need is the support of their fellow countrypeople so Britain pick a sailor, support them and join them on the 100 day adventure of a lifetime on the high seas.
Remember if a Brit was to win the Vendee Globe it would be the equivalent of Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France but they can't do it alone - Britain - your country needs you!
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