Alone against the Ocean: While Ellen MacArthur Was Busy Setting the Record for Sailing Single-Handed around the Globe in Her Multi-Hulled Yacht, There Was Also the Small Matter of the Vendee Globe. Nigel Hicks Examines the History of One of the World's Most Demanding Endurance Races

By Hicks, Nigel | Geographical, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Alone against the Ocean: While Ellen MacArthur Was Busy Setting the Record for Sailing Single-Handed around the Globe in Her Multi-Hulled Yacht, There Was Also the Small Matter of the Vendee Globe. Nigel Hicks Examines the History of One of the World's Most Demanding Endurance Races


Hicks, Nigel, Geographical


There's no doubt that at one time or another, most of us have looked out to sea and felt something pulling us towards the distant horizon. Some have responded by jumping into a boat and getting hooked on the ocean's terrible beauty. Only a relative few have been bold enough to take the next step and follow the invisible highways across the globe; even fewer have opted to do it alone.

The ultimate challenge is to sail single-handed non-stop around the world. Not many have done it, and several have lost their lives trying. Those with the desire to do it competitively get their chance every four years in the Vendee Globe, a race that starts and finishes in the French Atlantic coastal resort of Les Sables d'Olonne. This year was a Vendee year, and by the time you read this the race will be already winding down, its 20 entrants finished, retired or on the final leg. The fleet left the French coast on 7 November in a flotilla of 60-foot (18-metre) purpose-built monohull yachts. At the time of writing (mid-February), the first three yachts have already crossed the finish line after a record-breaking run of a little under 90 days, and seven boats have been forced to retire with a variety of breakages. Thankfully, there have been no deaths or serious injuries, but there was plenty of excitement and tension, courtesy of the leading three boats, who--even after 43,000 kilometres of ocean sailing--were within just 160 kilometres of each other as they crossed the Bay of Biscay in the final few days. It has been a classic race in the greatest of the Vendee Globe traditions.

The Vendee is the yachting world's Mount Everest, sailing single-handed, non-stop, unaided around the world from west to east, leaving--as the race rules put it in such disarmingly simple language--the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn to port, and Antarctica to starboard. To win is, of course, the supreme accolade, but just to finish is a stupendous achievement in itself, more than enough to guarantee a place in yachting's hall of fame. "It's the hardest race in the world. I don't think anyone would dispute that," said Alex Thomson, one of Britain's leading single-handed sailors, shortly before he entered this year's race. "For me it's the challenge of being able to do it. I want to be in the Southern Ocean alone. I can't wait for it."

The Vendee Globe is, perhaps, the logical conclusion of a story that begins with the pioneering efforts of the earliest single-handed sailors. The first recorded long-distance single-handed sail was by Newfoundland fisherman Alfred Johnson, who, in 1876, took 64 days to sail his 20-foot (seven-metre) boat across the Atlantic to visit relatives in Liverpool. However, the father of long-distance single-handed sailing is generally considered to be Joshua Slocum, a New England seaman who, in 1895, set out on the first known solo global circumnavigation, a trip that took him just over three years.

The first half of the 20th century saw a few more single-handed sailing firsts, but things didn't really take off until 1960, when the first single-handed transatlantic race took place. In that year, wartime hero Blondie Hasler bet Francis Chichester, a well-known aviator and yachtsman, half a crown that he could win a single-handed sprint across the Atlantic. Chichester took him up on his wager and three other yachtsmen joined in. And so, with help from Plymouth's Royal Western Yacht Club and the Observer newspaper, the Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island, Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race--or OSTAR, as it became known--was born. Hasler lost his bet, Chichester romping into Newport well ahead after a 40-day crossing.

The next OSTAR, held in 1964, hosted a much larger fleet that included an unknown Frenchman by the name of Eric Tabarly. He ran away with the race, beating the British at their own game, and in the process earning himself a tickertape parade through Paris and France's highest accolade, the Legion d'honneur. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Alone against the Ocean: While Ellen MacArthur Was Busy Setting the Record for Sailing Single-Handed around the Globe in Her Multi-Hulled Yacht, There Was Also the Small Matter of the Vendee Globe. Nigel Hicks Examines the History of One of the World's Most Demanding Endurance Races
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.