After a start delayed by fog, the 33-boat fleet of Vendee Globe solo racers began the nonstop race around the world on November 8, 2020, from Les Sables-d’Olonne in France. The fleet was the largest yet for the race, which requires the utmost in ocean racing skill and determination just to finish, let alone the effort required to push one’s self and one’s boat as hard as possible to win.
Normally, the race village and surrounding area is crowded with as many as 350,000 spectators, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the race village was locked down and the surrounding area was reportedly largely devoid of fans for the start.
The first boat with gear problems was Fabrice Amedeo on Newrest – Art et Fenetres, who had to return immediately to Les Sables-d’Olonne for repairs, but who rejoined the race. Three days after the start race, favorite Jeremie Beyou, on the foiling IMOCA 60 Charal, experienced rudder damage and a broken backstay and had to return 600 miles to port for repairs. Beyou later rejoined the race but has thousands of miles to make up.
On Nov. 16, racer Nicolas Troussel on CORUM L’Epargne was dismasted 260 miles northwest of Cape Verde. Troussel retired from the race and managed to reach Mindelo in the Cape Verde islands. Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut, meanwhile, had to cut 12 feet off of the tip of his damaged port foil while at sea.
British racer Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss was leading the race and setting a blistering pace when he experienced damage to the boat’s starboard rudder on Nov. 28. “I was averaging 21 knots, flying the small gennaker and one reef in the mainsail,” Thomson wrote in a message released by the race. “I was down below when there was a huge bang and the boat broached violently. The steering system was jammed and all I could do was roll the sails away. Once on deck, I could see the rudder blade was broken and swinging around with a large piece of fishing gear jammed into the cracks. So I think I must have hit something.” Thomson was forced to head to Cape Town under reduced sail for repairs.
Kevin Escoffier aboard PRB abandoned his sinking boat 840 miles southwest of Cape Town after a major structural failure that broke off a section of the bow and flooded the boat. Escoffier was picked up 12 hours later by fellow racer Jean Le Cam on Yes we Cam!.