2016 Vendee Globe, Sables D'Olonne, France
Paralympic Sailing Gold Medalist Damien Seguin intends to be on the start line of the 2020 Vendee Globe; his biggest - the biggest solo round the world sailing race on the planet. It's only 4 years away and there is so much work to be done between now (the 2016 Vendee Globe) and the the next one in 2020.
Being a professional sailor - a professional athlete is not all about racing and winning medals. Being at the top of your sport is about being a role-model, too. It's about sharing your passion and inspiring future generations to take up the sport you love.
Here in shadows of the 60ft IMOCAs, all being prepared for the 2016 Vendee Globe, Damien spends time sailing Radio Controlled Laser Class boats with children. Who know's maybe amongst them there is another great sailor in the making!
With public access to the pontoon closed the teams can get on with the final preparations for the "Grand Depart." It is a hive of activity with technical people from each team adding the finishing touches and making ready their IMOCAs for up to 3 months at sea. Every last detail is taken care of in the hope that it all adds up to a largely incident free and successful Vendee Globe for their skipper; once the skipper is out there he / she is on her own - not allowed to go ashore, accept outside assistance or take on anyone aboard their boat - solo means solo! They do have constant communication with the "outside world" and so over the radio assistance in solving technical or even medical issues, but otherwise it is up to them!
How do you describe the "Grand Depart?" It's a festival of the sea like no other. People throng the sides of the marina, the beaches, the channel out to sea and the sea itself! Hundreds of thousands of people turn out for the start of the Vendee Globe. I didn't believe it until I saw it for myself. I also couldn't believe the number of craft in the sea; small and large alike - bursting at the seams with supporters, VIPs and the press as well as security boats and team boats for the technical staff.
Indeed the technical staff can stay onboard with the skipper right up to 5 minutes before the start and then they have to disembark....for many if not most of them that means jumping ship....literally!..and being picked up by a team RIB. Then the skipper is on his own waiting to go.
When they do go they don't hang around. Neither do all the accompanying craft! The water boils with the propellers of all the boats speeding out to sea flanking the flotilla of IMOCAs. It is the incredible!! To be there in the thick of it was just amazing and never to be forgotten. What a beautiful site! I must confess to having felt a bit seasick after while, but one always finds one's sea-legs again soon enough - personally I would have given anything to be skippering one of those IMOCAs! What an incredible experience that must be!
Now as we watch them disappear over the horizon all we can do is follow them daily; wish them safe passage and the most incredible few months of racing around the world! A bientot :-)