The two Vendée Globe skippers who are expected to cross the finish line in the port of Les Sables d'Olonne on Jan 19 will knock four days off François Gabart's 2013 record of 78 days for the 24,000 nautical-mile, non-stop solo sailing race.
Sailing magazine Sailing Scuttlebutt sees French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h best placed for Vendée glory, with British sailor Alex Thomson only hours behind.
Twenty-nine skippers of 10 nationalities departed from the port on Nov 6. Australia, New Zealand and Japan are represented for the first time. The skippers will face icy conditions, mountainous waves and leaden skies in a race the organisers call the Everest of the Seas. The route takes them around the world from west to east via the capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn.
The Vendée Globe, which has been staged seven times since 26 Nov 1989, remains the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. According to the organisers, the event was created in the spirit of the Golden Globe, which was in 1968 the first non-stop solo round the world race via the three capes. Out of the nine pioneers who set sail in 1968, only British sailor, Robin Knox-Johnston made it back to Falmouth. On Apr 6, 1969, after 313 days at sea, he won the distinction of being the first sailor to sail alone around the world without stopping.
The idea of a non-stop around the world race grew out of the BOC Challenge - the solo round the world race with stopovers. On the 1989 date, 13 sailors set off on a race lasting more than three months. Only seven made it back to Les Sables d'Olonne. Since then, 138 sailors have lined up at the start of the Vendée Globe, and only 71 have managed to cross the finishing line.
Date written/update: 2017-01-15