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Sitting down with Vendée Globe players

Published on November 5th, 2020

Shirley Robertson

For this month’s episode of double Olympic gold medalist Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, the world renowned Vendée Globe, the non-stop solo lap of the planet, is the topic as Shirley talks to five soon to depart skippers and one IMOCA designer in this two part Vendee Globe extravaganza.

The podcast kicks off with Vendee Globe veteran Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), about to cross the start line of the legendary race for an unprecedented fifth time. Thomson’s record in the race holds true to the grueling fifty percent attrition rate that has seen him finish the lap of the planet twice from four attempts.

Thomson is well known in the offshore sailing world for running an impressive campaign with long term sponsor Hugo Boss, as each of his attempts has seen him race one of the newest boats in the fleet, and this time around is no exception.

His new 60-foot IMOCA was one of the last to be launched and sits at the forefront of offshore evolution, utilizing a state of the art set of foils and progressive hull design.

“Hugo Boss is for us the culmination of nearly twenty years and with this boat we felt we had the confidence to make some bold decisions that perhaps we wouldn’t have made before,” said Thomson. “So this time we were very bold and I’m as happy as Larry you know.

“The feeling of these things going along, you’ve got the traditional sound of a boat going through the water and sometimes you feel yourself fully in the air, it’s an odd feeling to be on a monohull where you physically feel the acceleration, it’s been a massive change since I first started.”

This year’s edition sees 33 entrants attempting the solo non-stop charge around the globe, with a fleet that for the first time sees foiling mono hulls outnumber the non-foilers. Nineteen of the fleet boast foils, the design of which vary significantly.

The favorites are very much the newest designs, the eight second generation foilers built and designed after the finish of the last Vendée four years ago, which saw the first foiling monohulls taking part in this race.

As with the rest of the sport, the evolution in offshore foiling has been fast, and the results are stunning. World renowned naval architect Juan Kouyoumdjian has two brand new boats in this edition, and in his interview here provides a revealing insight into the design processes that go into a new generation IMOCA.

“The first page of the rule book, rule 101 I think it is, says ‘everything that is not explicitly forbidden is therefore allowed’ so you look at that and you think ‘this is my favourite book you know’,” notes Juan K. “But there’s so many compromises to be done because the best theoretical boat is probably the opposite of what a single handed guy needs to go around the world.”

He goes on to discuss the fleet, the performance gains that the new foils have brought, and how these gains may effect the level of racing as the fleet charge south down the Atlantic and into the Southern Ocean.

Robertson also talks to three Vendée Globe rookies across the two podcast editions.

She meets with rising French star Clarisse Cremer (Banque Populaire X) about her campaign sailing for the team that won the last edition of the race with Armel Le Cleac’h. Robertson talks to the impressive Charlie Dalin (Apivia), about taking on the race for the first time, and how his skills as a naval architect helped finesse his new generation foiling machine. And Robertson talks to the first ever German entrant into the race, the very experienced Boris Herrmann, (SeaExplorer Yacht Club de Monaco).

Taking on her third Vendée Globe, Robertson also chats with long time friend and ex-teammate Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) as she prepares to hit the start line for her third Vendée. Sam finished fourth at her first attempt back in 2009 but four years later suffered a cruel dismasting after just five days at sea.

This time around, she’s racing in another of the retrofit foilers, and is confident, after a well-thought out build up to the race. As a French resident, she’s also perfectly placed to explain just how big the race is in France.

“The Vendée is huge in France, its a race and a competition but it’s not just that, it’s huge, all the schools follow the Vendée Globe while it’s happening. Maybe the reason why it’s so huge is because it’s so simple at the same time as being so hard, and such an extreme event because it’s just one person on a boat sailing around the world non stop without assistance.”

This edition of the podcast is in two parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Shirley Robertson OBE made history by becoming the first British woman to win Olympic Gold Medals at two consecutive Olympic Games. Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, produced and edited by Tim Butt of Vertigo Films, is available to listen on her website or via most popular podcast outlets, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, and aCast.

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