Vendee Globe to set sail behind closed doors

Rennes (France) (AFP) –


The start of the 9th Vendee Globe, the single-handed round-the-world yachting race, will take place as planned on November 8 in spite of a new coronavirus lockdown in France, organisers announced on Thursday.

The village of Sables-d'Olonne, where the 33 monohulls are stationed, will lock down at midnight on Thursday and no supporters will be allowed in to witness the start.

"The start of the Vendee Globe will take place as planned on November 8 at 1:02 p.m. behind closed doors, without an audience," the organisers said on their website a day after French President Emmanuel Macron had announced a new national lockdown to battle Covid-19.

The start, which attracted 300,000 people in 2016, will be broadcast live on the official website and on "numerous" television channels.

"The Vendee Globe 2020-2021 will remain as a symbol, that of our will to continue living despite the difficulties that our country is going through and in the scrupulous respect of the sanitary rules set by the State," organisers said.

Initially there was a limit of 5,000 visitors to the village, which opened on October 17, and to 9,000 people along the channel on the day of departure.

This is in stark contrast to the 2.25 million people that usually visit the village in the weeks leading up to departure.

In 2016, the immediate economic benefits were estimated at 35 million euros ($41 million) by the organisers.

Thirty-three skippers are involved in this race, won four years ago by Frenchman Armel Le Cleac'h.