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Saturday, November 22, 2008

In France, the Vendée Globe Race Gains Popularity

The French do not lack for creativity, and some of it has been expended over the years to develop sports events.

The French were the driving force behind the modern revival of the Olympics. They played a vital role in starting soccer’s World Cup and European Cup, which is now better known as the Champions League, and in Alpine skiing’s World Cup. They also dreamed up the Tour de France and the Vendée Globe yacht race.

That last event is surely the most obscure. But in France, the Vendée Globe is a major happening — a quadrennial opportunity for Gallic sea dogs and landlubbers alike to reacquaint themselves with the iceberg-infested dangers of the southern oceans and man’s (and woman’s) capacity for salt-stained, sleep-starved solitude.

The concept is brutal if attractively simple: competitors race alone around the South Pole and back in 60-foot monohulls without stopping. There are strict limits on outside assistance once the sailors leave Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France. read more...

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