Well, I'm back from Les Sables d'Olonne and the start of the Vendee Globe. The start itself is something else altogether, the atomosphere along the canal as the boats departed port olona was electric. An estimated ½ million people lined the canal and packed the race village on Sunday.
The Vendee Globe in france holds a mystical attraction that spreads well beyond those with an interest in sailing. The concept of a race around the world, sailing alone, without any assistance and without stopping powered by the wind is an easy one to understand.
I was lucky enough to get a pass to get into the press area on the morning of the start. It seems strange to seeing the skippers bustling their way from the press conference to the pontoon surrounded by an entourage of journalists, photographers and assistants knowing that by that evening they would be facing their first night at sea completely alone.
I managed to find myself a spot amongst the 500,000 people along the canal to see the boats get towed out to the start area. Every single skipper gets cheered along the canal just as loud as the skipper before and the skipper after them.
With the start being a few miles out to sea, the best vantage point was back in the race village on the big screen. The start was televised live on French television at 2 minutes past 1. The crowds counted down the seconds until the start gun and then literally cheered the roof off the race village as Mike Golding crossed the line first on Ecover and began their race around the world the back to Les Sables d'Olonne.
The lead boat is due back to the finish in Febuary, having seen this epic start I have every intention of heading back to Les Sables for the finish. ½ million people watched the boats leave and the same number again will descend on Les Sables to see the first boat home.
The race can be followed on vendeeglobe.org I certainly know what I'll be doing every time I log onto the internet....the phrase of the race is "the legend continues" and the stories that come from the Vendee Globe are the stuff of legend.