Skippers at the Vendee Globe prize giving on Saturday refused to comment whether they would participate in the next Vendee, the start of which has been confirmed as the 7 November 2004

The countdown begins to 7 November 2004. That will be the start date of the next Vendee Globe, single-handed non-stop around the world race. It was announced in front of an estimated 80,000 strong crowd gathered on the beach (at low tide) of Les Sables d’Olonne for a spectacular official prize giving for the race on Saturday night.

Giant screens, an extraordinary fireworks, light and sound display and 21 of the 24 skippers that entered the race kept the audience captivated for nearly 2 hours – the maximum time it could go on for before the tide came back in!

Not one of the three podium skippers would commit either way for the next Vendée – Roland Jourdain (Bilou) “No comment”, Michel Desjoyeaux “I might, I might not” and Ellen “we’ll see, I can’t say definitely no”. Bilou continues at present to race his monohull ‘Sill’ and will line up against Ellen and ‘Kingfisher’ at the EDS Atlantic Challenge in just a few weeks time. Both skippers are also crewing onboard 60-foot trimarans during the year, keeping their options open. Meanwhile Vendee winner Michel Desjoyeaux continues his search for sponsorship in time to build a new trimaran for the Route du Rhum solo transatlantic race in 2002, but plans to line up against the other monohulls in ‘PRB’ at the Grand Prix inshore event (intense races of just 3 to 4 hours) in Quiberon June 15-17th.

All of the skippers spent the afternoon with the race organisation for a debriefing and discussion on safety and other aspects of the race, the first time that they have all been together since before the start. Philippe Jeantot, the originator and organiser of this incredible event promised to have the rules fixed by April 2002, and coupled with the same intention of IMOCA (the Open 60 Class Association) from a technical viewpoint, should give would-be entrants a much more stable situation than in the past to secure funding and construct new boats. With interest in the race at an all time high, and a limit on the number of entrants likely to be imposed, discussion of qualification criteria was already on the agenda.

Pre-race favourite Yves Parlier, the ‘Robinson Crusoe’ of this event after his amazing survival story following his dismasting, also has new plans with ‘Hydropter’, a space-age flying machine that skims the water on hydrofoils and was conceived with French aerospace companies to break as many speed records as possible. He’s also just launched his book of the race, a copy of which he handed out to all the other skippers backstage…Michel Desjoyeaux is also writing a book with his shore-side manager Eric Coquerel.