The Vendée Globe 2016 solo round the world race is on a firm footing and may even be heading for a record field

Although there are two years to go before the start of the Vendée Globe 2016 solo round the world race, the organisers were staking out their ground early this week with a presentation in Paris.

The race does not begin until 6 November 2016, but in a clear sign that sponsors are back, the race is on a very firm foundation and may even be heading for a record field, they announced 15 confirmed entries and another 28 possibles in the wings.

Backers are clearly feeling bullish enought to commit to the two- to three-year, multi-million Euro spends for a campaign. The race organisers announced that there are seven new IMOCA 60s in build, for Morgan Lagravière (FRA / Safran), Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA / Banque Populaire), Alex Thomson (GB / Hugo Boss), Sébastien Josse (FRA / Groupe Edmond de Rothschild), Andrea Mura (ITA / Vento Di Sardegna), Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac), Nandor Fa (HG / Spirit of Hungary).

In addition seven skippers have entered in earlier generation boats that are all relatively recent and of high quality. Those are Vincent Riou (FRA / PRB), Yann Eliès (FRA/Groupe Quéguiner), Jérémie Beyou (FRA / Maître Coq), Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA / Initiatives Cœur), Louis Burton (FRA / Bureau Vallée), Eric Bellion (FRA / Comme 1 seul Homme), Rich Wilson (USA / Great America IV), Armel Tripon (FRA / For Humble Heroes).

But a group of other skippers is still trying to find funding to take part, and it is likely that many established names and previous competitors, such as Yannick Bestaven, Roland Jourdain, Jean Le Cam and Bertrand de Broc will manage it. And there are some very promising potential newcomers, such as Spain’s Alex Pella, who has just won the Class 40 division of the Route du Rhum, and Britain’s Phil Sharp, perhaps one of the most talented of the upcoming generation of UK solo sailors, and also a previous Class 40 winner in the Route du Rhum.

But if the entries to the race seem to be booming, so has the impact and fame of the race itself. At the presentation, Bruno Retailleau, President of Saem Vendée, the company that runs it, said: “The Vendée Globe is already France’s leading sporting event in terms of media coverage along with the Tour de France and [the French tennis Open] Roland-Garros, with coverage representing €200 million.”

Retailleau outlined some other exceptional figures about this legend-maker of an event: the official website had 285 million page impressions during the three months of the race in 2012/3, some 30 million video views, and 85 hours of live TV were watched. The race illustrates the power of sailing as a sports spectacle where people and their human endeavours are the focus, yet with the exception of the Ellen MacArthur phenomenon in 2001, the Vendée Globe has never managed to be an international draw on anywhere near the same scale.

The 2016 race will see a new batch of favourites, among which Armel Le Cléac’h is a prime contender. But Britain’s Alex Thomson, who intends to be on the line with a brand new VPLP/Verdier Hugo Boss, will be back in the hope of a first ever British win.

A well-liked maverick in French eyes, now with massive amounts of experience, Thomson is shortly to race round the world in the two-handed Barcelona World Race, and the 2016 Vendée Globe will be his fourth entry. He finished 3rd in 2013.