Vendee Globe on Face Book

When we are so focused on something, we might tend to think everyone is fascinated by “it” too. When your 6 year old kicks a goal in Soccer, we might wonder, at least for two or three seconds, why such a momentous event is not on CNN.…? So since I am so excited by things like the Vendee Globe, I have to remind myself that the audience for this, world wide, is pretty small. This got me going on the subject of just how big is the Vendee Globe, outside of France anyway. As is normal for the race over a million souls passed through the village in the week before the start last Saturday.

One convenient way to measure how popular something is these days might be the number of Friends on Face Book. This dawned on me when I noticed the race had the ubiquitous Like button on the race’s home page.

At the time, Sunday afternoon, the race had on the order of 33,000 likes. (As of Wednesday afternoon 14 November at 1600 EST, the VG was up to 50,000 & at 1825 that number was up to almost 52,000 Likes).

I wondered how that compared with other sailing events, so I spent some time digging around in Face Book and I offer the following results of my research. The big numbers are in round figures.

The Big Names

America’s Cup: 120,000

Oracle Team USA: 63,000

Emirates Team New Zealand-AC: 11,500

Artemis Racing-AC: 7,500

Volvo Ocean Race: 211,000-(Puma Ocean Racing, 27,000)

Barcelona World Race: 5,266

Mini Transat (the 650 class) 2,421

Global Ocean Race: 1,000

 And for the “lesser” or Normal races:

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia The Hobart Race organizers: 428

RORC: -The rating office-512

Sydney-Hobart Race: 1224

Bermuda Race:  (2012) 872

Trans-Pac Race: 2,365

So then I looked to see what the level of interest in the sailors themselves was.

Alex Thompson Racing: 34,500

Ben Ainslie: his fan page-32,000

Ainslie, the athlete: 4,000

Mike Golding Yacht Racing 4,000

Loick Peyron: 5,400–His brother, Bruno, has a FB page but no Likes.

Coutts: 4,950

Cayard: 3,769

Francois Gabart-29 year old new Wunderkind presently leading the Vendee Globe: 1250

Dennis Connors, actually his shop in San Diego: 986

Samantha Davies: 838-Sole woman in the current VG, from GBR

Paul Elvstrom: 552.

Ken Read: Could not find any page for Ken. (I guess it’s hard to keep up circling the world at 25 knots…)


Quantum Sails: 2,700

Quantum Racing: 5,600

North Sails: 36,000

Doyle Sailmakers: 1,800

Ullman Sails: Could not find any page for them

UK Sailmakers: 603

Sailing websites forums and news:

Sailing Anarchy: 26,000

Scuttlebutt: 5,700

Cruising World: 8,800

Sailing world: 8,800-Since they are owned by the same company maybe this is 8800 together….

Sail Magazine: 6,900

Latitude 38: 4,200

Wind check: 800

Wooden Boat 5,500

Compared to:

NASCAR: 3 million

NBA-Basketball: 14.8 Million

NFL-American Foot ball: 6.4 million

FIFA world cup Football 2014: 22,000

Formula One Car racing-On their website there is no Face Book link and yes that seems odd to me too, but there you are.

And compared to Politics:

Pres. Obama: 33 Million

Mitt Romney: 12 million, May be this ratio tells a story too…

What does it all mean? Not sure, but I do find it interesting. When I figure it I’ll post here…








Vendee Globe-the depth of the human condition

Last Saturday dawned sunny and mild in Newport. Yet before we had slurped our first sip of coffee, 6 hours to the east, 20 intrepid souls were making their way to sea to start a 3-4 month adventure that makes climbing Mt. Everest look like a nice stroll in the hills.

I refer of course to the Vendee Globe. Not to disparage those who have attained the Summit of Everest, all 3,000 of them, this number according to Rich Wilson, the second all time US finisher in this race in 2008/9 but Wilson further cites 50 as the number of souls who have made non-stop solo circumnavigations.

Engaged and attracted as I am to all the issues that surround sailing alone or short-handed I am following the Vendee pretty closely. As part of my personal “pre game” show I sat with the entry list for a while and contemplated just what the depth of this event is beyond the pictures in the Sailing Magazines and You tube.

Late on Saturday morning I watched 90 minutes of Daily Motion replay of the preparations to the start with commentary by  three time circumnavigatrix Dee Caffari. Her impressive CV includes–once around the “wrong way” crewed, once wrong way, same boat-modified for solo (setting a new record to boot) & once the right way on IMOCA 60 Aviva in the 2008 Vendee Globe. For those of us used to watching solo races start with all the boat’s being late for the start, one measure of just how competitive this race has become was the five boats breaking the start, it looked more  like a J-105 one design start than 20 fire breathing 60 footers with only one person aboard.

As I have mused on elsewhere, the logistics and mechanics of the Vendee Globe are impressive.

A minimum of 3 months physically alone: When was the last time you had 24 hours alone?
A serious lack of sleep perhaps 5 hrs in 24 on a good day

Just think for instance of going to the store to buy food for the next three months- Meaning you cannot go to the store until, oh say after Valentine’s day, 2013.

And you do not have a fridge or freezer, no oven, no hot water unless you boil it on your one burner stove.

Several competitors have reported on the physicality of a simple maneuver like hoisting the (450#) mainsail.   Most of the spars are in the 95 foot high range with a 2:1 halyard. Rich Wilson relates in his fascinating book on his completion in the 2008/9 race of simply hoisting the main after shaking out ONE REEF required 175 turns in low gear. So when you are next at a venue where the Harken guys have their mock up grinder pedestal try putting 175 turns on it and see how you feel afterwards.

We live in a world now, at least the first and second worlds, where we are in contact with others all the time almost constantly-I read of people sleeping with their smart phones in their hands……We have 24/7 Customer Service lines, for recreational boaters, especially powerboat operators, there is Sea Tow and related services. If at sea, well the Coasties will always (I suppose) be there.

Much has been made in the last election of the concept of self reliance and responsibility, that we are masters of our destiny. Sailing is one of the last arenas where this is really true and the Vendee Globe is the highest test of this philosophy.   Stop for a minute and contemplate the last time where you were completely responsible for what was going on in your life, totally alone in the middle of nowhere with the likelihood of anyone coming to your assistance pretty thin. Unless we are at sea, this condition is in fact pretty difficult to get into, certainly in the US.

And consider for a moment the simple act of getting to the starting line in this Uber-Maxi-Ultra-Marathon. Even an old, used IMOCA 60, and there are several for sale on the internet boat sales sites for, in many cases, under US$300,000 a number that is I think well within the financial scope of many US yachtsman. But that is just the start.

There is the finding of a couple of competent guys to run the boat, move it around, coordinate with you and the yard and so on-Boat Captains in other words. There is fundraising-For a professional single handed racing event in the US, well that is possibly the only thing harder than the race itself. There is getting the boat to a location, in the US where the artisans skilled in the equipment these boats require are available and in the same time zone as you. Then there is the usual refit. Rod rigging out, Composite in, an interior re-do, updated performance meters, Autopilots, cordage, deck layout systems, Autopilots, safety kit, Sails, the list goes on as anyone who has even bought a used 38 foot cruising boat is intimately familiar with. If I was doing it I would want to have the two guys be a minimum of 50K a year guys who know what they are doing, so right there is $100,000 right at of the bat. You get the idea. The good news is there is in fact a remarkable history of excellent return on investment on these campaigns. The Vendee Globe is arguably better, certainly less cash cost than the Volvo and the Americas Cup.

With the telecommunications available today the sailors never actually sail out of sight over the horizon and reappear 4 months later as was the case from the 1960’s through the late 1980’s.

But at the end of the day, it is what the skipper is made of, to what depths he (and they are almost with few exceptions universally men) can plumb the depths of the will, resourcefulness: the Stuff of Heroes, almost at the Greek Tragedy level.