The Vendée Globe is back! 2016-2017 Edition

The Vendée Globe is back! After 4 years of patiently waiting, Vendée Globe fans have finally got what they have been patiently waiting for. Sunday the 6th of November 2016 saw the fleet depart from the French town of Sables d’Olonne. 30 years on from its inception, the adventure still provides that same magic that can only come from a competition that requires the tour around the world solo, without stopovers and without assistance! The challenge has been accepted by 29 brave skippers who all took to the starting line in this, out of the ordinary race.

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In this article, we will take you over all the key facts and figures so you can be in the know for the latest edition. We look back at previous editions, analyze the routes, look at who is competing and more. So let’s breakdown the Vendée Globe 2016-2017!


Presentation

1989 saw the first ever Vendée Globe take place. Philippe Jeantot, an off-shore skipper founded the competition. He decided to create something new. The only around the world race that is solitary, without stops nor assistance.

The start line is in Sables d’Olonne, a commercial port for fishing and leisure, located in the department (region) of Vendée, France. This mythical race is nicknamed Everest of the seas. Every 4 years the Vendée Globe sees the best skippers around the world confront the harshest conditions, including glacial waters, monstrous waves and gale force winds that batter the boat throughout!

In line with the circumference of the earth, 40,075 kilometers to be exact, the course is by anyone’s standard, considerably long. The 1st ever edition back on the 26th November, 1989, took more than 3 months to complete. In 2013, the latest edition saw a young François Gabart beat the record in style arriving in 78 days and 2 hours. The question for this latest edition is whether this record will be beaten.


The race:

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1) Start line in Sables d’Olonne, France.

2) Passing through the Bay of Biscay, known for its storms and busy shipping lanes.

3) Once the North Atlantic has been crossed, the boats head south hoping to avoid the calm winds of the Doldrums by catching inter-tropical trade winds passing from east to west.

4) Avoiding the South Atlantic High by profiting from winds carrying them down into the Indien Ocean. Down at 40º to 50º south, the Roaring Forties start, which are characterized by high winds and monstrous waves due to the lack of land to slow them down.

5, 6, 7) The long crossing of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and not forgetting navigating the 3 capes: The Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn.

8) For the second and final time, they must cross the Doldrums by going around the Azores High to arrive at the finish line in Sables d’Olonne.


The participants

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New technology for 2016/17 Vendée Globe :

The big addition to the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe are foils that have been added to some of the boats. Of the 29 skippers taking part, 7 of them will be sailing on a single hull equipped with this innovative technology.

But what are foils exactly ?

The foils for the Vendée Globe 2016-2017 edition are made up of 3 different parts :

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  • Shaft (the longest part which can be pulled back into the hull completely)
  • Plan porteur (the curved part)
  • Tip (the straight part) which provides anti-drifting.

During strong winds, these 3 parts come to together to help lift up the boat (but not completely out of the water), making its resistance in water lower and therefore increasing its speed.

Each boat in the Vendée Globe has different specs and so you could say they are not starting on a even keel. This new technology adds to this, as the traditional older IMOCA 60s are already fully optimized. Having said all this, these traditional IMOCA 60s won the last event in 2012-13. So may the best design win!


Did you know?

  • 31 days and 6 hours is how much the record has been cut down by in the last 23 years.
  • 53 % is the rate of retirement in the Vendée Globe since its inception.
  • 80 / 90 decibels, the average sound inside a mono-hull, equivalent to a road busy with rush hour traffic.
  • 20 000 € per month, is the cost of communication for those on board, split 50/50 between dedicated weather and imagery.
  • 40 tonnes, is the amount of weight that the keel can support.

Weather Routing strictly forbidden !

Vendée Globe is an old-school race, with rules that require that the skipper be responsible for his performance as much as possible. While using products such as TIMEZERO software with the Weather Routing module are great because they provide error free calculations that a human simply couldn’t do within a reasonable time, it also means that the skippers would be using an algorithm to select the best route rather than using traditional methods such as calculations by hand and gut instinct.

The skippers receive weather forecast files each day that they must then analyze and integrate into their current forecasts and planning. Combined with the polars of the boat, skippers can then create their own Weather Routing through calculations.

The skippers competing have a full range of paper raster charts that can cover unusual places such as the tour of the Antarctic as is the case for Arnaud Boissières, which is unusual only because it is very unlikely anyone would want to get so close to the Antarctic. However paper raster charts have been known to be essential in the case of an electrical short circuit on board.

All the IMOCA 60 boats which have started the Vendée Globe 2016-2017 use cutting edge technology as well as the old-school technology such as route planning by hand.

Being equipped with the best marine navigation software and having the most up to date paper charts provides a great start, but would you be confident that you could use these the information available to its full potential? Check out our guide: 5 Things you need to know about Marine Navigation Charts

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