New York Vendée - Les Sables d'Olonne New York Vendée - Les Sables d'Olonne
New York Vendée - Les Sables d'Olonne New York Vendée - Les Sables d'Olonne

20 December 2023 - 17:30 • 1367 views

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On the Retour à la Base - a transatlantic race starting from Martinique - the Vendée Globe skippers experienced their first single-handed race after a series of double-handed races. For the winner Yoann Richomme, Sam Goodchild and Violette Dorange, it was even their very first solo IMOCA race. Now, all of them are fully focused on THE big event, the Vendée Globe 2024!

Retour à la Base, last qualifying race 2022-2023 

As Sam Goodchild, Yoann Richomme, Fabrice Amedeo, Violette Dorange and Clarisse Crémer didn't take part in the Vendée Arctique - Les Sables d'Olonne or the Route du Rhum on their IMOCA boats, they had to take part in the Retour à la Base. Indeed, this was the last qualifying race of the 2022-2023 period. As a reminder, to qualify, each skipper must be at the start of at least two qualifying races on their IMOCA: one in 2022-2023 and one in 2024. They must finish at least one of them, with a race time that is no more than one and a half times longer than the winner's time. All four finished this qualifying race on time. What a relief! Fabrice Amedeo admitted: "It's a big step for qualifying, and I'm very happy! I'm going to have a good winter. I've been missing this race to be able to project myself onto the Vendée Globe with this boat." All that remains now is to take the start of a qualifying race in 2024, The Transat CIC or the New York Vendée - Les Sables d'Olonne.

For the 2024 generation boats, the importance was even higher: by finishing this race within the allotted time, the skippers who have not yet validated their qualifying race on their IMOCA for the 2022-2023 period, Thomas Ruyant, Nicolas Lunven, Sébastien Simon, Yoann Richomme and Jean Le Cam have, in addition to validating a major step in their qualification, joined the list of projects "automatically selected" for the next round the world race. They will nevertheless have to take part in a qualifying race in 2024. 

© Pierre Bouras / Alea / RLB

Charlie Dalin and Eric Bellion, unable to take the start of the Retour à la Base, have benefited from the dispensation provided for in the Notice of Race: the Transat Jacques Vabre has been substituted for this qualifying race. Denis Van Weynbergh completed the Retour à la Base, but with a race time that was more than 50% longer than winner Yoann Richomme.  These three sailors will therefore have to finish one of the two 2024 qualifying races within the allotted time.
As Phil Sharp suffered damage while taking his boat to Martinique, he did not take the start of the Retour à la Base, the last qualifying race of the 2022-2023 period. 

Solo mode activated

Beyond the qualifying aspects, this race was a real baptism of fire for some of the skippers. Yoann Richomme, who was taking part in his first solo IMOCA race, got off to a faultless performance, choosing a slightly more northerly option than his rivals: "We have a boat that is designed to sail in breezes, in more seas than the others. She's made for downwind sailing in heavy weather, for the Southern Ocean, which is why I took this option and also in relation to what I'll be experiencing next year in the Vendée Globe. Sam Goodchild also impressed with 3rd place in his first solo race on his IMOCA For the Planet. The youngest entrant in the race, Violette Dorange rose to the challenge with flying colours on her straight daggerboard IMOCA DeVenir. She made no secret of her delight as she stepped ashore: "I'm so happy to have succeeded! It was a huge challenge to do an Atlantic crossing in an IMOCA, and in an unconventional way, it was a pre-Vendée Globe for me! I've done it, so I'm really happy and proud of myself. It was great training and I'm feeling better and better on my boat. I didn't give up until the end. It was hard at the end and even though I was a bit behind in the end, I said to myself: I'm doing this gybe as if I were in the lead, I was giving everything in all the manoeuvres." It's this unfailing tenacity that characterises her.

© Anne Beaugé / Alea / RLB

You can't make this up: the skippers in the Vendée Globe are, above all, solo sailors! Sam Davies can confirm this point: "I felt like it had been a really long time since I'd sailed single-handed, and I was really looking forward to it." While the IMOCA boats go into the shipyard for a refit, the skippers will be enjoying this Christmas in 2023 in the warmth of the fireside with their loved ones, before a somewhat different 2024 edition!