Vendee Globe: Race seeking Women

Published on April 16th, 2014

The eighth edition of the Vendée Globe, a round-the-world single-handed yacht race, sailed non-stop and without assistance in the IMOCA 60, begins in 2016. While it is still early in the planning, what the event eagerly awaits is the confirmation of its first female entrant. Here is the history of women in the race…

Isabelle Autissier and Catherine Chabaud opened the Vendée Globe up to women in 1996.

The former was forced to stop in Cape Town to repair her rudder, after being up there with the frontrunners. Later, Isabelle left her mark by spending several days unsuccessfully looking for her friend, Gerry Roufs, who was lost in the Southern Ocean. Out of the race, she sailed her PRB monohull back to Les Sables-d’Olonne, while Catherine Chabaud on Whirlpool, completed the race in sixth place out of the fifteen competitors that had lined up at the start.

In its third edition, the Vendée Globe was no longer the preserve of men.

In the next Vendee Globe in 2000, when the 24-year old British sailor Ellen MacArthur lined up on Kingfisher, a boat specially built for her, the general public wondered how she would manage: so young, so fragile… at the helm of such a big boat. But what is there left to say except she finished in second place behind Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB), apart from the fact that the latter was rather jealous about the welcome given to the young woman by the crowds in Les Sables-d’Olonne? In that race, Catherine Chabaud lost her mast and had to head back to Vendée outside of the rankings. But in that fourth race with 24 competitors, the podium showed that women definitely had their place.

On Roxy in 2004, Anne Liardet proved to the general public that you can be a sailor and mother of three children. Anne came in eleventh out of twenty ahead of another French sailor, Karen Leibovici, who finished thirteenth.

In 2008, it was time for the Brits, Samantha Davies and Dee Caffari, to dominate the airwaves with pictures expressing their sheer pleasure as they sailed around the world in style. The arrival back in Les Sables always lives up to expectations even when the sailors don’t always manage to complete the race, as was the case for Samantha, whose Savéol was dismasted off Portugal in 2012. So far, the ladies have always managed to bring their boats home with the support of the general public, which remains just as enthusiastic.

Today, Samantha Davies, Dee Caffari, Isabelle Joschke and Jeanne Grégoire, to give just a few names are dreaming of setting up a Vendée Globe project. If no women made it to the start in 2016, it would be a step back in time to twenty years ago in the Vendée Globe. That can’t happen.

Source: Race website

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