The Vendée Arctic, as the organizers call the race, will depart from les Sables d’Olonne in the Vendée region in western France with 22 competitors on July 4th. The course will take the boats near the Arctic Circle to the west of Iceland before turning south to the Azores archipelago and returning to France. The fastest competitors, sailing in 60 feet monohull yachts, are expected to complete the 3,600 miles race in between 10-12 days.
Covid-19 forces change of plans
Traditionally, the organizers of the Vendée Globe offer a number of yacht races earlier in the year during which participants can both qualify for the circumnavigation and test their boats. A transatlantic crossing from New York to Les Sables d’Olonne in the Vendée was scheduled for mid-June as the main “warm-up” before the Vendée Globe around the world in November.
With ongoing travel restrictions to and from the United States, event officials were forced to devise an alternative race and landed on the Arctic Ocean as a challenging and yet attractive option.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic most competitive sailors have not been on the water in more than three months. The Vendée Arctic will serve as a prologue and “shake-down” race allowing sailors to test their modified or new yachts and for many it will be the first time they will have been on their boats this season.
In order to abide by ongoing strict health restrictions there will be no race village or public events related to the start of the race. Sailors will be tested for the virus, self-quarantine for five days prior to the race and proceed directly to the start line aboard their yachts.
Only test before the circumnavigation
The fleet will sail to 65 degrees northern latitude at the edge of the Arctic Circle. “This will be the only solo competitive and technical offshore race that the skippers will be able to take part in before the start of the Vendée Globe on 8th November, and that is why it was so important to ensure it takes place. This is an ambitious course,” explains Jacques Caraës, Race Director for the Vendée-Arctic-les Sables d’Olonne and the Vendée Globe.