Vendee Globe Update #1
Les Sables d’Olonne, France, first day at the “Vendee Village”. WOW. What a scene. It is difficult for words and even pictures to describe the excitement here. The crowds and publicity surrounding the preparations for the Vendee Globe Challenge are now in full swing. I arrived late last night on the TGV train and much to my amazement I was greeted by several friendly French people waving a sign with my name! They know I was entered in this race, and were very excited to meet a potential future American skipper. Well that and they rented us the houses too…
Everywhere in this good- sized city are signs, posters, and handouts about the race, which is this region’s signature event. I was also told that on the main NATIONAL French TV station, advertising time during the Vendee reports are the most expensive slots available. More than soccer and the race hasn’t started yet!
Early this morning I went to “Vendee Village” and received VIP passes for my supporters and press accreditation for myself. The gals in the Race office recognized me from the early entry list. They were Marcy, Mary, and Marine. Of course everyone calls them the 3- M’s. Marcy & Mary have been doing the English version of the Vendee website and were very helpful getting me caught up with the scene. I hung around for a while until Philippe Jeantot arrived. Mr. Jeantot is the 2-time BOC winner and head of the entire Vendee organization. He was very friendly and it was good to talk to him. From the window of his office we watched the huge crowds lining up to get to the docks. They only let 1000 people at a time on the pontoons to view the boats. Somehow they keep track with counting devices and radios but it doesn’t look easy.
The whole show is very organized and professional, which is good because every day the crowds grow geometrically as the start nears. Philippe told me that on the previous Saturday they had 21,000 people view the boats from the pontoons. On start day there is supposed to be 300,000 people in town to see the start! Yow.
I picked up Adrien and Tim in the afternoon at the train station. After getting them settled we went and hit the hospitality tents. And I thought the docks were crazy… More about the many cool booths later, but I did bump into Ellen MacArthur as you can see below. I don’t know if she will be able to grind a winch after signing so many autographs. There was quite a line.
Two other pics are attached. One is a shot of one of the innumerable vendor booths. This one was selling chocolate boats complete with bulb keels. The other is of the crew of “Sill” trying to get work done at night, with the Giant video screen overlooking the harbor behind them. The screen was loudly projecting live interviews with various personalities that were taking place at a press booth back in the hospitality zone.
More soon from “Wocket Weporting”