Today there are 30 days left until the Vendée Globe 2020 begins. It will be a great and extremely exciting race, that’s for sure. With 33 boats, the circumnavigation of the world starting on the French Atlantic coast is larger than ever before. Six female solo sailors will ensure the strongest female participation in a Vendée Globe to date. The race is also more diverse than ever before among the nations represented.
And Boris Herrmann is the first German sailor to participate. For float, the race will be accompanied and commented on by a very special female circumnavigator: Dee Caffari. We asked her in advance who her favorites for the Vendée Globe are.
In 2006, the exceptional British sailor Dee Caffari was the first woman to sail around the world alone and non-stop against the wind. In 2009, she successfully participated in the Vendée Globe herself and finished sixth – two positions behind Sam Davies, who took part in the same year. The English woman, who has since been awarded the Order of the British Empire, also set the record for being the first woman to have sailed around the world alone and non-stop against the wind in both directions.
Dee Caffari at the helm of the Turn the Tide on Plastic © Beau Outteridge
As chairperson of the World Sailing Trust, she was involved in the study on the advancement of women in international sailing, which was published in 2019. Dee Caffari participated in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/2018. As skipper of „Turn the Tide on Plastic“ she led the youngest team with the strongest female participation in the Volvo Ocean Race.
„It’s great that so many female sailors are taking part“
float: Dee Caffari, how do you think the large number of women who participate in this Vendée Globe comes about?
Dee Caffari: It is funny how we can go from one year with no females to another year with six females. I am not sure why, but I am delighted.
There has always been one or two female entries since the 1996 race and then we had the bad year, 2016, of no female participants. So I am delighted to see so many female sailors take part. It is great for the event, the sport and as inspirational role models to all sailors everywhere.
Samantha Davies/Initiatives Coeur © float/Vendée
Clarisse Cremer/Banque Populaire X © float/Vendée
Alexia Barrier/TSE 4myPlanet © float/Vendée
Isabelle Joschke/MACFS © float/Vendée
Miranda Merron/Campagne de France © float/Vendée
Pip Hare/Medallia © float/Vendée
We have seen a rise in women’s sport and sponsors are seeing the benefit to partnerships with female athletes in all sports and it is good to see that sailing is no different.
Maybe the better sponsorship is also the reason why so many women participate. How do you rate the participants? Who has the best chances?
Wie immer gibt es hier einen sehr spannenden Mix unterschiedlicher Teilnehmer und Teilnehmerinnen. Alle haben ihre eigenen Gründe, bei diesem phänomenalen Event mitzusegeln.
As always there is an eclectic mix of participants. All doing this phenomenal event for their own reasons. Some are there to win at all costs, some are there to be competitive and put in a good performance and some are there for the adventure of a lifetime. All will share their remarkable journeys and we will be enthralled at the highs and lows and be with these sailors every step of the way.
There are some standout performances this year in the lead up to the race that give you the favourites for to win the event. Jeremie Beyou with his boat „Charal“ is a favourite, having the longest preparation time and knowing his boat so well. Charlie Dalin with his boat „Apivia“ is very consistent with his performance and has a great boat proving to perform well.
Jeremie Beyou/Charal © Christophe Favreau/Defí Azimut
Charlie Dalin/Apivia © A.Beaugé/ Defí Azimut
Kevin Escoffier/PRB © Jean-Marie LIOT/ PRB
Kevin Escoffier on PRB and Sam Davies on Initiative Coeur are also there for me. They have modified their older boats and have super confidence in their own ability and the boats potential. They are always in the mix and should not be discounted.
Then of course there are the unknowns. Alex Thomson on „Hugo Boss“ has yet to be seen to perform but he has developed his new boat just how he wants it and we have no reference to how she will shape up against the fleet or on the course.
Samantha Davies/Initiatives Coeur © Maxime Horlaville/Polaryse
Alex Thomson/Hugo Boss © Hugo Boss
Armel Tripon/L'Occitane en Provence © Jean Marie Liot/Defí Azimut
L’Occitane en Provence with her skipper Armel Tripon has always looked fast but has not yet had the reliability in his boat. Alexia Barrier and Pip Hare has similar aged boats so they will have a battle around the world. The fleet often falls into groups of boats and they have their won battles within the bigger race.
But as we know the Vendee Globe can be full of surprises and we know that not everybody that starts will get to reach the finish line. So it hooks us all for the duration as we know everyday may bring about some news.
Due to the climate crisis the weather conditions are much more difficult, especially in the Southern Ocean. What do you think about the safety of this Vendée Globe? Are really all skippers well-prepared enough?
The climate change effects the weather the fleet will see around the world. We are seeing more and more extremes of weather and there is a lot more ice with the warming of the poles. The fleet have really good support from race management and there is a watch for icebergs in the South
The Vendée Globe 2020/2021 map © SAEM Vendée
The race management have the ability to move gates in the South to keep the fleet from the worst risk. However, the increase in ice can result in the ice gates moving north and this route has more reaching angles with the weather which can be often something that has not been accounted for in sail selection or boat design.
The closest rescue to the sailors are their fellow competitors.
The closest rescue to the sailors are their fellow competitors and they are sailing with the best sailors in the world so they are in good hands and it gives you encouragement to sail fast and not be last!
The majority of these sailors know what they are heading into and for those that will be new to the south they will understand the risks and will, I hope, take their foot off the throttle at the appropriate times to ensure their safe passage. Part of being successful at sailing around the world, especially solo, is knowing when to push and when to throttle back.
Will the racing boats with their foils withstand the forces?
© A.Beaugé/ Defí Azimut
Not all the foils will make it, but the boats will be mesmerising while they are working and I just hope, if a foil breaks, it does not hinder the boats performance too much if they continue.
There is always a balance in the engineering of a boat between being strong enough to last the duration and light enough to go fast. Whoever sails around the world always balances both.