Vendée Globe – To finish first, first you must finish

Fri 20th January 2017

Here at RibRide, we are HUGE fans of the Vendée Globe Yacht Race. Armel Le Cleac’h crossed the finish line, having been completely alone at sea for 74 days.

Here are the reasons (pick your favourites) we think you should like the Vendée Globe too.

Vendée Globe Facts

  • More than 4,000 people have climbed Everest and over 500 have been into space, yet only a handful have sailed single-handed, non-stop around the globe.
  • The race developed from the 1968 Golden Globe that was won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, after 313 days at sea.
  • The Vendée Globe route goes around the three major capes, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn, non-stop with no outside assistance.
  • It is a huge event in France – 350,000 people gathered along the seafront in Les Sables d’Olonne to watch the start.
  • Of the 138 sailors who have attempted the Vendée Globe, only 71 have made it across the finish line prior to this event.

Arrivée de Alex Thomson (GBR), skipper Hugo Boss – Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

  • A number of records were smashed in 2016/7: fastest to the Equator (Alex Thompson), longest distance sailed single-handed in 24hrs (Alex Thompson), and fastest Vendée Globe by almost 4 days (Armel le Cleac’h)
  • Most Skippers do not use harnesses or lifejackets. Falling overboard completely alone in the Southern Ocean from a boat travelling at 30mph is not acceptable.


YouTube AlexThomsonRacing: “8 tonnes of carbon fibre yacht, a 255 horsepower jet ski, 45 combined years of sailing experience, and one crazy guy in a suit”

  • The lead yachts utilise foils to lift the hull out of the water, making them much faster than their predecessors. This has led to this year’s records-smashing race.
  • The boats are made of carbon fibre. The drum-like hull amplifies sound. The horrific sounds of smashing waves are so loud the Skipper has to wear noise-cancelling ear protection below decks.
  • A simple turning manoeuvre burns over 300 calories of the Skipper’s precious reserves. Tough on a body that eats freeze-dried food and has not slept for more than a few minutes at a time from November to January.

Winner Armel Le Cleac’h (FRA) congratulates Alex Thomson (GBR) – Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

  • Skippers catnap rather than sleep. They always lie down to nap feet first, as the boat can decelerate so fast falling off a wave that lying head first could lead to a broken neck.
  • Skippers have no facilities for washing and, short of the odd saltwater lashing while on deck, have not washed since November

Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss

Skippers Phil and Tom have been allowed to view both Armel and Alex’s boats. Amazing machines but not exactly luxurious; the toilet is a simple carbon-fibre bucket.

Travelling the world’s oceans, the fastest boats have averaged over 15 knots and max out at 35 knots. To understand what this feels like, join us on a RibRide and ask the Skipper to demonstrate and explain these speeds.

Skipper Alex Thompson

We have been supporting Alex Thompson and cheering him on. He was born in Bangor and grew up on the beach in Rhosneigr. His father was a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot at RAF Valley, Anglesey.

He has finished just a few miles behind Armel, having been neck and neck for most of the journey up the Atlantic. Shortly after crossing the Equator the first time, he suffered a high-speed collision with an unknown object that broke a foil. Later, a large fitting ripped off the deck, forcing him to sail 100 miles the wrong way to recover the situation. In the last few days of the race he ‘lost electronics’, meaning he’s had to hand-steer for 3 days non-stop.

Despite all of this, we know he will have had a smile on his face. He’s ‘The Boss’ and a pretty cool character!

YouTube AlexThomsonRacing: “HUGO BOSS presents The Skywalk by Alex Thomson, featuring Mercedes-Benz”

The RiBride Team are massive Kite Surfing fans too!

Photo credit: Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe
YouTube: AlexThomsonRacing