Of the twenty skippers who will take the start of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race on Saturday, 12 are French.
The eight others represent five different nationalities. Since the second edition of the Vendée Globe, raced between 1992-1993 when Alain Gautier won, there have been solo skippers from Great Britain in every successive edition. Britain provides three solo skippers this time Mike Golding (Gamesa) , Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and Samantha Davies (Saveol).
Alan Wynne-Thomas and Nigel Burgess were the first British skippers to start a Vendée Globe race. Tragically Burgess drowned in the Bay of Biscay three days into the race. Wynne-Thomas retired into Hobart, Tasmania after his Cardiff Discovery was knocked down between the Kerguelen Islands and Heard Island. With his rudder and tiller smashed and having sustained several broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung he struggled into Hobart, Tasmania where he retired from the race.
Briton Pete Goss was the hero of the 1996-97 race, a brutal edition in which only six of the 16 starters finished and Canadian Gerry Roufs was lost. Goss relinquished any chance he had of winning the race to return 160 miles upwind in storm force winds to famously rescue Raphael Dinelli from a liferaft after his boat had capsized and sunk.
In the 2000-2001 race Ellen MacArthur became the youngest sailor at 24 years old, and the first and only woman yet to finish on the podium of the Vendée Globe when she finished second just 24 hours after victor Michel Desjoyeaux.
In the following race Mike Golding finished third after losing his keel some 60 miles from the finish.
But it was in the record breaking 2008-9 edition when the complement of 30 skippers included seven different nationalities including no fewer than seven British skippers, Golding, Alex Thomson, Sam Davis, Dee Caffari, Brian Thompson, Steve White and Jonny Malbon. In that race in which only 11 boats finished four were British and three finished in the top six.
6 November 2012 21:58