It seems the sterling job done by British solo skipper in the 2016-17 Vendée Globe has sparked a renaissance for the solo round the world yacht race back in the United Kingdom.
A new initiative called Vendée2020Vision aims to create a structured route into solo offshore sailing for young British sailors believed to have the drive and the talent to follow in Thomson’s footsteps.
Britain is no stranger to long distance ocean sailing. Some of the sport’s earliest proponents were UK sailors.
Offshore pioneers Chay Blythe, Robin Knox-Johnston and Francis Chichester were all knighted by the Queen for their solo circumnavigation achievements. More recently, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Pete Goss, Mike Golding, Sam Davis, Dee Caffari, Brian Thompson and Alex Thomson have all flown the Union Jack proudly around the world.
Vendée2020Vision has been set up by the English yacht racing management company Whitecap and is backed by Artemis Investment Management LLP – the company behind the Artemis Offshore Academy. The initiative’s goal is a straightforward one: to put a British sailor on the top step of the podium at the 2020 Vendée Globe.
The first crop of sailors – Andrew Baker, Conrad Manning, Henry Bomby, Jack Bouttell, Lizzy Foreman, Nikki Curwen, Robin Elsey, Sam Goodchild, Sam Matson and Will Harris – are largely all graduates of the Artemis Offshore Academy. Through Vendée2020Vision the group have had help plugging the gaps in their required skillsets – both on the water and in the boardroom.
Whitecap CEO, Simon Clay, hopes to be able to draw in corporate cash for the sailors’ campaigns from the UK’s corporate community. As far as he is concerned, backing a British Vendee Globe campaign should be a highly appealing proposition to British businesses.
“Through Vendee2020Vision, British singlehanded offshore sailing has a huge amount to offer a commercial partner,” Clay said. “We are working with some exceptional youth talent, nurturing their potential with the belief that we can achieve the first British winner of a solo non-stop around the world race for over 50 years in 2020.
“We believe also that in this age of digital and social media we have an offering that competes favourably in the advertising and sponsorship marketplace. We have the ability to create compelling and authentic content portraying strong human and brand values in abundance.”
Since Vendee2020Vision’s formation in 2016, the sailors have been training and aboard the Whitecap managed Artemis Ocean Racing IMOCA 60 that British sailor Jonny Malbon raced in the 2008 Vendée Globe. The programme’s lead coach is Dee Caffari, the only woman to have sailed around the world singlehanded both ways and a past competitor in the Vendée Globe (2008-09) and Volvo Ocean Race (2014-15).
What is most impressive about the Vendee2020Vision is the support the sailors get to help them drum up funds for their campaigns. As well as Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank style sessions to help them hone their pitches, Whitecap has been running advertising campaigns promoting British participation in the Vendée Globe in the Financial Times, the Financial Technologist and Harrods media.
There is little doubt that Britain can produce a sailor with enough talent, drive and determination to take on and win a future Vendee Globe. Whether that will happen in 2020 remains yet to be seen, but for sure Vendee2020Vision is a big stride in the right direction.