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How the organisers of the Vendée Globe decided to expand the list of registered skippers

Yves Auvinet who is the president of SAEM Vendée which organizes the Vendée Globeannounced last Wednesday that the list of skippers who can register for the next edition of the famous solo round the world race is to increase to 34 skippers (30 and 4 wild cards). Tip & Shaft tells you how this decision was made.

Yves Auvinet finally gave in. Until now he has appeared to be completely inflexible so far, sticking to the Notice of Race (see our article). But now the the president of the SAEM Vendée has finally decided to open the capacity of the Vendée Globe 2020 to 34 entries, the solo non stop race starting in a little over a year on November 8. So there will be 30 registrations available and the criteria remains the same: priority given to the finishers of the previous Vendée Globe, to new boats and beyond that selection is based on the number of miles raced on the Imoca Globe Series races for the others. Beyond that there are four discretionary invitations open to the SAEM.

What finally influenced the President before he presented the outline of the 2020 edition this Thursday?

“To be honest, I was very firm on the 30 as we had released the rules very early, he said. “But I don’t think that ultimately we can leave skippers behind who have spent more than a year preparing without knowing if they can start or not, or to let companies get involved without knowing if they will actually be in the Vendée Globe. I also thought about it and based on the level of interest at the moment decided to expand the field and bring some peace of mind. I wanted the issue to be resolved before this meeting of October 3.”

Has there been pressure from some skippers or partners, such as Banque Populaire and PRB, historic partners in sailing and the Vendée who until now have been relatively poorly placed in the race for miles (see the list below)?  “There are a number of people I know well and so I spoke with a lot of people, including partners. Over the last three months I have I consulted quite widely,” says Yves Auvinet.

Kevin Escoffier, skipper of PRB, says: “Of course, Jean-Jacques Laurent (boss of PRB) and Yves Auvinet have talked because they know each other well. We hoped to go to 34 entries, but at no time did Jean-Jacques put pressure on. On the contrary, Jean-Jacques always told me that we had to be beyond reproach in the chase for qualification for the Vendée. The goal is to qualify within the rules. Personally I do not really want to participate in the Vendée Globe on a wild card “.

That said Escoffier considers the announcement is “a relief” for him and for others: “Although I never doubted that we would succeed in qualifying, I could not conceive of the organization saying to someone in eight months time that ‘sorry you can’t do the Vendée Globe’….. when they had bought a boat and incurred expenses. And so this announcement will allow everyone to sail and build miles without having the knife at their the throat, worrying about abandoning after three days of racing. “

Benjamin Dutreux, at the bottom of the list concerning the number of miles sailed replied in a similar way. “This is a huge relief. It will help us get partnerships with sponsors sorted out. They were already helping us and were ready to go further, on condition that there would be the Vendée Globe.” 

As for Isabelle Joschke, 15th in the list, she said, “It is highly appreciated that the organiser made the effort to think about this matter and to come to a decision. It’s an important move, as for the skippers and sponsors, there is a lot of commitment involved.” Nevertheless, the skipper of MACSF added, “Although it doesn’t really change anything  in terms of our goal in the Transat Jacques Vabre, which above all is to finish, as if we don’t finish a race, we’ll fall right back in the rankings based on the number of miles, so it only partly changes things for us.”

The race to clock up the miles is still on, as 34 sailors have registered their intention to compete, which is the pre-requisite for the official registration (which has to be carried out before1st July 2020). There are likely to be more there on 1st November, which is the deadline by which candidates have to express their interest. Three skippers are currently working on their application, the Finnish sailor, Ari Huusela, the Spaniard, Didac Costa and the New Zealander, Conrad Colman. As the last two finished the previous race, they are not concerned by this race to clock up the miles. Ari Huusela who sailed 5 600 miles, and Didac Costa told us it would all be done on time, while Conrad Colman explained that “The aim is to fill out our application completely by early November. We’re looking for a boat to charter. We have a few ideas, but nothing has been confirmed.”

That means there will be 36 or 37 candidates and that some may well find themselves left on the sidelines on 1st July if all the skippers manage to complete their funding. That led Yoann Richomme, who confirmed that he has a boat at his disposal (Pierre Lacaze’s boat, the former Vivo a Beira), to tell us he has a headline partner and two thirds of his total budget of 1.5 million euros. “This is the good news we were waiting for and things should become easier. But there are still complications though if there are more than 34 boats registered. We don’t know how exactly they will distribute the wild cards. When I look at the list of skippers potentially taking the number to above thirty … Sorel, Giraud, Joschke, Escoffier, Crémer, Richomme, Dutreux… , we can imagine that they will be getting some of the big sponsors from the past. If that is the case, there will not be so clear for the others. Maybe they could find another two or three places?

In answer to that, Yves Auvinet replied, “I’m keeping mum about the criteria for the time being. I’ll take my responsibilities when the time comes. As for the number of 34 boats, that is now decided and will be the final number for the 2020 Vendée Globe.” For the president of the SAEM, there is no question of mooring up boats anywhere other than the special Vendée Globe pontoon, although some people had been talking about putting boats in the harbour for commercial shipping. “I am completely against that. I have always said that it was important to have everyone in one place, so that the celebrations were fantastic for everyone, the general public, the skippers and their partners.”

The pontoon will be laid out in such a way (the configuration was presented to the skippers on Thursday and the spaces will be allotted with the three draws taking place depending on the type of boat – new foilers, older foilers, Imocas with daggerboards), after works have been carried out to deepen the harbour, which were in any case planned, according to Yves Auvinet: “Even if there were thirty boats, this needed to be done for the new foilers, which are wider, and to allow other boats to be perpendicular on the right of the pontoon.” The cost of this work? “680,000 euros excluding tax,” the president of the SAEM said. This will be paid for by the Department and the district council in Les Sables d’Olonne.


 The 34 candidates as of today’s date:

  • 8 new boats: Jérémie Beyou, Charlie Dalin, Thomas Ruyant, Kojiro Shiraishi, Sébastien Simon, Alex Thomson, Armel TriponNicolas Troussel.
  • 7 Vendée Globe 2016 finishers: Fabrice Amedeo, Romain Attanasio, Arnaud Boissières, Louis Burton, Sébastien Destremau, Jean Le Cam, Alan Roura.
  • 19 skippers ranked by the number of miles sailed: Boris Herrmann, Stéphane Le Diraison, Manu Cousin, 6 650 milles ; Alexia Barrier, 6 250 ; Damien Seguin, 5 900 ; Erik Nigon, 3 600 ; Sam Davies, 2 840 ; Yannick Bestaven, 2 752 ; Giancarlo Pedote, Miranda Merron, Pip Hare, Denis Van Weynbergh, 2 300 ; Maxime Sorel, 2 050 ; Clément Giraud, 2 000 ; Isabelle Joschke, 1 102 ; Kevin Escoffier, Clarisse Crémer, Yoann Richomme,  300 ;  Benjamin Dutreux 0.

The 3 applications still in progress: 

  • Conrad Colman and Didac Costa (Vendée Globe finishers), Ari Huusela, 5 600 milles sailed.

Photo: Défi Azimut / Yvan Zedda

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