Vendée Arctique skippers under starter’s orders

Vendée Arctique skippers under starter’s orders

The start gun of the second edition of the 3,500 nautical miles Vendée Arctique - Les Sables d'Olonne race around Iceland will sound today, June 12 at 1700hrs (French time, 1600hrs BST, 1500hrs UTC).

The local forecast promises good conditions with sunshine, some cloud and a north-northeasterly wind between eight and 12kts. The 25 IMOCAs and their solo skippers will start leaving the dock and the famous Channel at 1330hrs local time. This is the first time the IMOCA class has raced so far north, into the Arctic Circle on a course which will take them anti-clockwise round Iceland from the east.

Among the favourites are French skippers Jérémie Beyou (Charal) who won the inaugural race in July 2020, Charlie Dalin (Apivia) who was second in the Vendée Globe but broke the finish line first but displaced by Yannick Bestaven who was given time compensation for helping in the search and rescue of another skipper. Dalin convincingly won last month’s Guyader-Bermudes 1000 race. Thomas Ruyant (Linked Out) had to pull out of that warm up race with steering problems but won last autumn’s two handed Transat Jacques Vabre.

Among the international skippers to watch are Italy’s Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group), Switzerland’s Alan Roura (Hublot), GBR’s Pip Hare (Medallia) and Kiwi Conrad Colman (Imagine) whose first IMOCA race since finishing the Vendée Globe in February 2017, the Bermudes 1000, saw him take a promising tenth place.

Conditions at the start

The weather forecast for tomorrow in Les Sables d'Olonne promises ideal conditions although a slight risk of thunderstorms persists on the eve of the start. Sunshine, a relatively flat sea and a moderate northerly wind, between 9 and 14 knots are forecast. The start for the 25 competitors will take place on a north-south line 1.5 miles off the Vendée coast. The reaching start should see the foiling boats off and flying from the line.

From the start of the race, the competitors will face a first obstacle, an anticyclonic ridge stretching from the Azores to Ireland. “It will probably be in the second night, it will not be an easy time because we will hardly be able to sleep.” indicated Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) this morning, at the end of the weather briefing. The first challenge for the sailors will therefore be to find the best route either going directly north, with a course close to Ireland, or working to the west, an option allowing them to maintain a better wind angle for the fast climb towards the north of Iceland.

Into the unknown

On the first race in July 2020 competitors rounded a waypoint to the south of Iceland and did not round the island. Jérémie Beyou (Charal), defending champion, says, “We are reckoning on ten days racing again, that gives us a good idea of how fast we should be going. Nobody has the experience of rounding Iceland or the far north, I think. It's good to have at least the experience of the last race. Ten-day solo races, we don't do a lot of during a cycle. There is the Route du Rhum, it was the last, in 2018, apart from the first edition of the Vendée Arctique. So this is a great challenge for the 25 IMOCA competitors. It is a race full of promise.”


A Live FR transmission will be broadcast on the YouTube and Facebook accounts of the Vendée Arctic (1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. then 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.). This moment will be commented on by Maxime Cogny, accompanied by skippers Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire), Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa), Maxime Sorel (V and B Monbana Mayenne) and Nicolas Troussel (CORUM L'Épargne).

The EN Live video (1:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. then 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.) will be hosted by Andi Robertson and skipper Will Harris (Team Malizia) on the YouTube EN and Facebook EN accounts of the Vendée Arctic.