Seeking out the Style, Craftsmanship, Tastes & Experience of a Good Life

Seeking out the Style, Craftsmanship, Tastes & Experience of a Good Life

Vendée Globe

What, Where, Who, When?​

Vendée Globe, Everything you need to know about the world’s ultimate yacht race

As the final qualifying race the next Vendée Globe leaves New York we find out what it’s is all about.

By Sam Clark

Skipper Boris Herrmann leaving Brooklyn marina to join start of the New York Vendee sailing race, in Brooklyn, USA, May 28 2024. Photo by Mark Lloyd / Alea


The Vendée Globe is a non-stop, single-handed, non-assisted sailing race around the world. 

The skippers face weeks of extreme hardship and sleep-derived mental endurance. They will be hammered by pounding seas, gigantic waves, freezing conditions, and relentless wind. And they must survive this alone, competing in what is considered the ultimate test in ocean racing. It’s one of the toughest races on the planet and is fittingly called the Everest of the seas.

This is much more than just a race. It’s an epic battle, balancing high-tech competition with raw survival against the elements. The course is continually moving through mountainous waves. The boats are like floating Formula 1 cars. They are highly sophisticated, lightweight racing machines and offer little protection from harsh weather conditions that rage 24 hours a day. The competitors are continually making calculations and adjustments to squeeze out every possible ounce of speed.

Who’s Crazy Idea Was it?!

Philippe Jeantot, a former oil rig deep-sea diver, built himself a boat to sail around the world. He went on to compete in the BOC Challenge twice, a solo yacht race around the world (now called the Velux 5 Oceans Race). On his first attempt, Jeantot won, breaking the record for a single-handed circumnavigation (159 days, 2 hours). Jeantot must have felt that the stop-overs allowed in the BOC Challenge didn’t create enough of a challenge. He wanted to push himself and other skippers and their boats to the absolute limit and created a new race, The Vendée Globe a single-handed circumnavigation with no stops and no assistance. 

On 26th November 1989, thirteen sailors set off for the first race. Only seven completed the voyage, lead by the winner Frenchman, Titouan Lamazou. Jeantot arrived in fourth place, a few hours shy of 115 days.

Floating Formula 1 Cars

The boats are all monohulls built with cutting-edge technology and designed for cutting through the oceans at high speed. They are known as IMOCA class (International Monohull Open Class Association) and are 60 feet long (18.28 m). The large sale area can propel them forward at top speeds of up to 40 knots.

Pip Hare skipper of l’Imoca Medallia in the Vendée Globe 2020 © Richard Langdon : Oceanimages


The race starts and finishes in the port of Les Sables d’Olonne in the Département of Vendée on the west coast of France. Competitors head south, racing through the Atlantic Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope, then travel clockwise around Antarctica, passing Cape Horn, and then back to Les Sables d’Olonne. The Vendée Globe Race Direction sets certain restrictions for the route, such as keeping to an area covered by The Australian Maritime Rescue Services and an Antarctic Exclusion Zone where the threat of ice burgs becomes too great. The competitor’s circumnavigation takes around 24,300 nautical miles (approximately 45,000 kilometres, 2,800 miles). However, given the unpredictable nature of the conditions, some skippers may travel much further.

Vendée Globe 2020 course map


The Vendée Globe is held every four years. The 10th edition of the race is due to start on Sunday 10th November, 2024. The race is held between November to February to place the competitors in the Southern Ocean during the austral summer. 

The time to beat is 74 days 03 hours 35 minutes and 46 seconds, set by French sailor Armel Le Cléac’h, winner of the 2016/17 race. Skippers in the latest generation of IMOCAs have their sights set on breaking 70 days. But the racing pushes design and materials beyond their limits, as British offshore sailor Alex Thompsom knows only too well. In 2020, Thompsom had high hopes, competing in his fifth Vendée Globe. He was sailing Hugo Boss, one of the most advanced boats in the fleet. But despite the cutting-edge design and sophisticated technology, Alex discovered cracks in the hull’s internal structure just 19 days after leaving Les Sables. He battled on for another 5 days and made a heroic effort to repair the boat at sea but finally had to concede defeat and retire from the race. 

Alex Thomson on the ground breaking Hugo Boss before disaster struck in the 2020 Vendée Globe © Mark Lloyd : Lloyd Images

Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by COVID-19, the race in 2020 was started without the cheering crowds lining the port and coast around Les Sables d’Olonne. 


The Vendée Globe attracts the very best skippers in the world.

Up to the 9 edition of the race 167 skippers had set out from Les Sables d’Olonne and only 89 made it back to cross the finish line.

More people have been to space than have completed this gruelling round-the-world race.    

You may remember Ellen MacArthor. Before setting several solo sailing world records to great media celebration in the trimaran B&Q/Castorama, she was the youngest competitor, at 24, to complete the Vendee Globe, finishing second in 2001.

Miranda Merron skipper of Campagne de France in the Vendée Globe 2020 © Team Campagne deFrance

Follow the last qualifying race before the main event – The New York Vendée Globe

Find out more about the Vendée Globe 2024 here

Title image: Skipper Sam Davis competing in the Vendee Globe 2020 © Eloi Stichelbaut:Polaryse

Want to stay on dry land while you enjoy the sea?
See what stunning treats we found at Médoc Atlantique

surfing in france
Médoc Atlantique


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