Vendée Globe Seeks To Expand Footprint
Published on February 4th, 2016
by Justin Chisholm, Sail Racing Magazine
The Vendée Globe is a very, very French institution. The solo circumnavigation race’s essence, its DNA, is drenched in pure and unadulterated French spirit. It’s hard to conceive of any other nation coming up with a sporting concept so daring and with such immense potential for disaster for those taking part, as a non-stop, unaided, singlehanded, yacht race around the world.
And that – purely and simply – is why the French people love it so much.
The Vendée Globe stole the hearts of France’s sporting public from the very first edition in 1989 and since then the population, from school children to grandparents, have followed the six editions that followed in droves.
Hundreds of thousands flock to the Atlantic coast seaside town of Les Sables D’Olonne to watch the start in person. Millions more avidly track their hero skippers’ adventures online during the race. At the end the crowds return to Les Sables D’Olonne to cheer each finisher safely back into port at the end of their global lap.
The strength and depth of the race’s following in France is such that it rubs shoulders comfortably with the country’s major global sporting properties like the Tour de France cycling and motor racing’s Le Mans 24 Hour Race.
No surprise then that the French mainstream media packed the skippers’ press conference in Paris this week to hear what the 31 pre-entered skippers for the 2016/17 edition had to say.
It was a full house, standing room only, with representatives of the country’s national TV, radio, and major newspapers all there, as well as the French news services and even a smattering of international press.
While the race will always and forever remain French to its core, the organisers are hoping to expand its appeal further afield. Helping with that push is a record nine nations (France, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, the United States, New Zealand, Switzerland, Hungary and the Netherlands) being represented among the 31 skippers currently listed as entered or pre-registered.
As if one were needed, the organisers’ first announcement added another layer of lacquer to the race’s deep French gloss, with the news that the 2016 race headquarters would be located on the banks of Paris’ River Seine, in the shadow of the iconic Eiffel Tower and at the very heart of the French capital.
The 1700 square-metre facility on the Mail Branly will house the race’s media centre and race management HQ, as well as an exhibition area and a bar and restaurant which will be open to the public.
Also revealed at the press conference was a glitzy new website and a matching mobile app to make it easier for fans to follow the action 24-hours a day.
During the race, three daily live broadcasts are planned (0830, 1100 &1700hrs UTC) along with three weekly shows on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. An archive of the shows will be available on the website.
There will also be digital magazine for iPads and Android tablets published each Friday.
As ever with the Vendée Globe, the lineup is an intriguing mixture of adventurer and racer, rookie and seasoned campaigner. For some, only outright victory will do – anything less will be considered abject failure. For others their unashamed goal is simply to finish the race and be able to say that they did.
Many skippers admitted to still be trying to bridge significant funding gaps and not all will make it to the start line on Sunday, 6th November. The final list of who will compete gets published on October 1.
Despite the immense passion for the Vendée Globe in France it goes mostly un-noticed in the English speaking world. Mostly this is not because the race fails to resonate with people outside of France, its simply because people in other parts of the world don’t even know it exists.
The worldwide reality TV shows landscape is currently dominated by shows featuring deep sea fishermen, bearded bike mechanics, tattoo artists and ice road truckers. Even the tribes of heavily Botox housewives that apparently roam the streets of all America’s major cities have become huge stars.
Surely then then the genuine true life adventures of the Vendée Globe skippers as they battle wind and water on their way around the can grab some of the limelight?
The Vendee Globe organisers are certainly hoping so. They have scheduled more than 700 hours of international TV time in the hope that this will be the race’s break out edition that hooks in a new tranche of global sports fans and opens up lucrative sponsorship possibilities in key territories like the USA, China and other parts of Asia.
Event website: www.vendeeglobe.org/en
Current entry list for the 8th Vendée Globe:
Jérémie Beyou Maître Coq
Tanguy de Lamotte Initiatives Cœur
Vincent Riou PRB
Morgan Lagravière Safran
Armel Le Cléac’h Banque Populaire
Paul Meilhat SMA
Sébastien Destremau FaceOcean
Eric Bellion Comme Un Seul Homme
Jean-Pierre Dick StMichel-Virbac
Fabrice Amedeo Newrest-Matmut
Sébastien Josse Edmond de Rothschild
Yann Eliès Queguiner-Leucémie Espoir
Thomas Ruyant Le Souffle du Nord
Nicolas Boidevézi adopteunskipper.net
Kito de Pavant Bastide-Otio.
Jean Le Cam
Bertrand de Broc MACSF
Louis Burton Bureau Vallée
Arnaud Boissières La Mie Câline
Stéphane Le Diraison
Alex Thomson Hugo Boss
Nandor Fa Spirit of Hungary
Alan Roura Un Vendée Pour La Suisse
Rich Wilson Great American IV.
Jean-François Pellet Come in Vendée
Alessandro di Benedetto
Report by Justin Chisholm, Sail Racing Magazine