Oliver Heer vers le Vendée Globe

Vendée Globe: Selection has delivered its verdict

The race to qualify and be selected for the Vendée Globe 2024 came to an end on last Thursday evening with the arrival of the 27th and final competitor in the New York Vendée, Denis Van Weynbergh. Of the 42 candidates, 2 will not be on the starting line on November 10, unless an exemption is granted. The final list will be announced on July 2. Tip & Shaft tells you more.

The New York Vendée-Les Sables d’Olonne was won Saturday 8 June by Charlie Dalin, ahead of Boris Herrmann and Jérémie Beyou. At the end of this single-handed transatlantic race, 42 candidates had completed their qualification formalities for the Vendée Globe. There was little suspense, since to validate this process (see notice of race), the 9 sailors who had not yet done so simply had to cross the start line off New York.

The aim of the selection process was to decide between the candidates if there were more than 40 qualified boats at the end of the New York Vendée. This is the case, with 42 boats having qualified, 13 of which were not involved in this “race for the miles”, as they were exempt from the new-boat exemption.

Updated on the Vendée Globe website, the selection table has delivered its verdict: 39 boats have “made the cut”, the last on the list being Violette Dorange. Her father Arnaud, who is involved in the project, didn’t hide his satisfaction on Thursday, just after his daughter’s arrival in Les Sables (18th): “There were still a dozen of us on the hot seat, I did my calculations every morning, it’s a big relief. It can only give us a boost in our search for a title sponsor.” Clarisse Crémer, 16th in the NY Vendée and 37th in the selection table, confided: I feel like I’ve just come out of three years of fog! I kept thinking about it during the race, and it’s really a huge relief.”

For whom is the wild card?

As the 40th place is reserved for the wild card at the discretion of the organizer, SAEM Vendée, the three sailors on probation are, in order, Oliver Heer, 41st, James Harayda, 42nd, and François Guiffant, 43rd. In any case, the latter will remain the last, as he is sailing an Imoca launched in 2004, and therefore out of the Vendée Globe class – boats must have been launched from 2005 onwards. This led him to request an exemption from SAEM Vendée (which was granted) in case there was still a place among the 40.

A (small) uncertainty remains over the case of Oliver Heer, who is awaiting a decision from The Transat CIC jury, seized by the race direction on suspicion of assistance (see article in Le Télégramme). “Since finishing the race yesterday my team have now informed me that the International Jury of The Transat CIC have asked some questions to determine if there is a case of assistance. We are co-operating fully with their enquiries.”, the Swiss skipper informed us on Friday.

The penalty for assistance? “From two hours to disqualification, which remains unlikely”, replied the president of the jury, Yves Léglise, who is “awaiting the conclusions of the appointed investigator”. This sanction may be important, because if it is very severe in terms of time penalty, it could lead to Oliver Heer finishing outside the time limit for The Transat CIC (he had crossed the line on May 17, just over three days before the closing date, the 20th) and therefore possibly deprive him of the miles he had earned in the race. This would push him down the selection table behind James Harayda and François Guiffant.

Now, SAEM Vendée must choose the lucky recipient of its wild card from among these three. Given the profiles of the three candidates, none seems to stand out, which could lead the organizer to rely on the selection table. When questioned on the subject, SAEM Vendée declined to answer, referring us to the press conference on July 2 in La Roche-sur-Yon, at which the list of participants will be made official. François Guiffant wants to believe in his chance: “I’ve shown that I can be there with a reliable boat and a small project which is in the Vendée Globe DNA. I’ve finished all the races I’ve taken part in, on time. Now, if it’s not me, I’ll be extremely disappointed, but I’ll respect the decision.”

An unlikely enlargement

The skipper of Partage also hopes that SAEM Vendée will finally agree to deviate from the notice of race by accepting 42 sailors. “At the start, there were 56 pre-projects, now we’re down to 42, it’s not the same thing. It would be such a shame to let down two people who have put a lot of energy into three years.” Arnaud Dorange is also in favor of this expansion: “We’re hoping for an exemption for those who aren’t selected, because when you see the monumental investment we put into a project like this, it would be really too sad to leave them out in the cold.”

President of the Imoca class, Antoine Mermod has little faith in this: “It’s hard to accept for those who won’t be there, but you have to understand that it’s already a huge effort on the part of SAEM to have expanded to 40. Everyone knew the rules, which were discussed a long time ago. It’s also the strength of a competition to respect its rules.”

The verdict will therefore be known on July 2 – the two eliminated sailors will move to the waiting list – while the rules will be called upon to evolve with a view to the next edition. “The aim of this selection process was to push the skippers to sail a lot to be ready for the incredible challenge that the Vendée Globe represents,” adds Antoine Mermod. “When you look at the number of miles sailed by all the skippers, with the 39th skipper at over 13,000 miles, you can tell that the preparation was extremely solid. On the other hand, there have been subjects that have given rise to controversy and moments of stress, and we’ll have to correct what hasn’t worked.”

The Imoca President explains: “There is the case of foreigners who are at a disadvantage, because it’s more complicated for them to take part in races which are almost all based in France. We saw with the Clarisse Crémer affair that maternity hadn’t been sufficiently taken into account, and the same with Charlie Dalin’s withdrawal at the end of the year, we have to take into account injuries or medical problems.”

Rules set to evolve

The Imoca class has already given a great deal of thought to the subject, since at its last general meeting in April, it adopted its proposal for 2028. Antoine Mermod continues: “It’s based on a points system with a more sporting approach than the current one. We saw that participation, without necessarily considering the quality of that participation, could lead to certain limits. On the Imoca side, we think we need to reward skippers who take risks to win races more.”

Clearly, the class wants to put results at the top of the pile of criteria, as Clarisse Crémer confirms: “The current system creates too much inequity, with some people pushing like never before and not sure of their place, and others who don’t have much to do. It’s not logical, and I’m not sure it’s representative of the values of the Vendée Globe.”

The Imoca proposal also removes the bonus rule for new boats. “It worked well over this cycle, but the rule has been fairly criticized and unpopular for reasons that can be found in other classes, such as Mini [limiting budgets and ecological impact, editor’s note],” explains the class president. However, it won’t penalize projects that invest in a new boat and therefore risk leaving later, because those who have a new boat are more likely to quickly achieve very good results, which will be taken into account.”

In this campaign, the rule has largely benefited Jean Le Cam, who has thus been able to avoid the race for the miles – he has clocked up 3,539 miles, a long way behind everyone else. “It’s very complicated to make a rule that concerns everyone,” concedes Antoine Mermod. “Clearly, the Vendée Globe 2024 system wasn’t aimed at his type of profile, he’s been racing the Vendée Globe for twenty years, he doesn’t need us to show him the way.” To avoid such special cases crystallizing tensions, Antoine Mermod argues for more wild cards: “It could be a good solution to manage the few special cases.”

Candidates for the Vendée Globe 2028 will soon have their say on the new rules, as SAEM Vendée plans to unveil them before the start of the 2024 edition.

Photo: Jean-Louis Carli / Alea

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