Take it away Simon!…
My favourite charter of the year is an easy one. Being a sailor at heart, solo sailing has always fascinated me and being offered the chance to get out on the Bay of Biscay in November was an easy decision to make! The 8th edition of the single handed Vendee Globe race started from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6th and saw 29 world class sailors set out around the planet on what is considered the ‘Everest’ of the sailing world.
Solent Rib Charter are well known for ‘have Ribs, will travel’, so 9 of us hitched up our trucks, caught a ferry to Saint Malo and trailed the boats over 200 miles to the Western French seaside town. I was pleased to have packed my thermals as it was a bit on the chilly side, but we launched the boats in the glorious afternoon sunshine in readiness for the following day’s charter.
Race day arrived and an early start was needed to get out of the lock gates. Once positioned for our pick up’s later that morning there was time to walk along to the banks of the nearby Carnival Canal to see the first of the yachts heading out of the marina on the way to the start line. Our charter was to support an entry from Alex Thomson Racing on the 5M Euro Hugo Boss sponsored yacht and we managed to see the Alex (led by one of our Ribs) on his way out of the canal, lined by what we later found out was an estimated 300,000 cheering spectators!
Time came for our remaining Ribs to get out to see the start, each with VIP guests, family and international press on board. The yachts prepared for the start with their support teams jumping off just prior to the gun and before we knew it they were off! 42 marshalling ribs tried their best to keep a clear passage corridor for the yachts to escape as thousands of spectator craft chased the boats (wished I had eyes in the back of my head for a job like this!). Our 9 metre boats took the 2-3m swell of the Atlantic in their stride along with the wakes of some pretty fast large ferries too!
Once 10 or so miles offshore the marshalling Ribs turned back and we got a chance to get up close to Alex and follow him for a while longer before heading back. The sight of this black 60 foot all carbon fibre ‘rocket’ steaming along really was a memorable moment that got the proverbial hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. We were back in port within the hour whereas these sailors have 80-120 days at sea ahead of them. It’s just a shame that the race is every 4 years!
You can Track Alex Thomson’s progress on the Vendee Globe site.