In the holiday resort of Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France the crowds have gathered to see their heroes and heroines. It is the start of the Vendee Globe.
British yachtswoman Samantha Davies is one of 20 sailors from five different countries competing in the non-stop single-handed round-the-world yacht race. No woman has ever won the event though Ellen MacArthur won global acclaim coming second eleven years ago.
It has been called the, “Everest of the ocean” for which the training is rigorous and the conditions often treacherous.
Frenchman, Jean Pierre Dick who is skipper of Virbac Paprec3 explained some of the difficulties.
“The movement on board is constantly changing and very complicated, sometimes you are on your knees and so we work all our muscles to try and avoid any injury,” he said.
Nothing is left to chance with the sailors prepared for the changing elements like the hostile Southern Ocean where there is the added danger of icebergs followed by the mountainous seas as the yachts round Cape Horn.
“If you lose weight then you will lack the energy which is needed on board. There is always some risk but everything is designed to make sure I do not lose weight,” explained Luis Burton the skipper of Bureau Vallee.
The oceans have claimed the lives of competitors in the past and fewer than a hundred sailors have completed the tough and lonely event which was first started in 1989.
It is a test of human endurance while the sea will find the slightest weakness in any yacht.
Those who make it to the finishing line this year are expected back in France in about 90 days.