The Vendée Globe Race Gets Underway

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The Vendée Globe, a single-handed, non-stop, around-the-world sailing race, was founded in 1989. The race, also known as the "Everest of the Seas," is held every four years and it is considered the ultimate test in solo ocean racing.

This year’s race kicked off on Monday from Les Sables-d'Olonne on France’s Atlantic coast with 33 skippers aboard their 60-foot International Monohull Open Class Association-rated (IMOCA) vessels. Some of the IMOCA 60s are equipped with foils and can go 40 knots.

Skippers prepare themselves and their boats for years, and when the time to start arrives, emotions run high. The goal is to win, but it is not just about winning. Every skipper will be testing him or herself (there are a record six women in the 2020 race) against the elements. Simply finishing is a massive accomplishment.

This video shows the departure of some of the first skippers as they board their boats on the morning of the start. It’s in French with subtitles, but it’s worth watching to get a sense of what it’s like to set off on a sailboat, leaving friends, family and team members behind, and knowing that whatever Mother Nature throws at you, you will be facing it alone.

This year’s race was made even more complicated because of coronavirus. Usually, a massive crowd gathers to watch the start from shore and on the water, so the usual spectacle was downsized.

The record for the 24,000-mile circumnavigation is 74 days, which was set in 2016 by Armel Le Cléac’h. You can track the race on the Vendée Globe website and see a video of Monday’s start here.

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