Alex Thomson might have hung up his Vendée Globe boots, but 2024 will see one of the most competitive line-ups of British skippers taking on the epic race
As the 2024 Vendée Globe draws ever closer it looks like British fans will have plenty to shout about in the next edition as a bumper number of British skippers are preparing to take on the solo non-stop round the world race. Despite long-time British Vendée contender Alex Thomson retiring from the event, the 2024 race is set to feature one of the strongest British contingents ever fielded in the Vendée.
So, who are the skippers flying the flag for Britain in the Vendée Globe?
English-born Samantha Davies has the rare status of being loved by both French and British sailing fans, having made France her home for many years since breaking into the Figaro class, a traditional feeder for the IMOCA 60.
Davies, 48, is now among the most experienced IMOCA 60 skippers in the fleet, and well known for being one of its best communicators, also being bilingual. Davies trained for many years at the prestigious Port La Forêt, and has more than 25 transatlantic races under her belt as well as three circumnavigations.
Davies is a long time Vendée Globe competitor having first taken on the race in 2008/09 on Roxy, crossing the line in 3rd place and finishing 4th after redress was awarded to other competitors (for the rescue of Jean le Cam).
She was dismasted in the 2012 Vendée Globe, but went straight on to the all-female Team SCA entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, in which she was made skipper. The Volvo Ocean Race has since become The Ocean Race and Davies is currently competing onboard Biotherm alongside Paul Meilhat on an epic 12,000 mile Southern Ocean leg. Sam has spoken about how this year’s crewed Ocean Race is an opportunity for skippers to really accelerate their learning on how the latest generation IMOCAs handle big ocean conditions, and optimum trim and foil settings.
Sam Davies missed out on the 2016 Vendée Globe, but returned for 2020 with the 2010 generation IMOCA Initiatives-Coeur, raising awareness for a campaign that funds life-saving heart surgery for children in developing nations.
Initiatives-Coeur suffered a collision in the South Atlantic with an unidentified floating object, and Sam Davies was forced to head to Cape Town to make repairs, which put her out of the race. She repaired her yachts and completed the course, though not racing, in order to continue fund-raising.
For the 2024 Vendée Globe cycle, Davies has her first custom-build new IMOCA, also backed by Initiatives-Coeur. The Sam Manuard design was launched in 2022 and is the second hull to come from the mould originally used for Armel Tripon’s former L’Occitane en Provence (now Bureau Vallée 3), a concept which was widely admired by skippers in the 2020 Vendée Globe for its ability to handle large seas and maintain high average speeds. Davies will be looking to compete at the very sharp end of the fleet in the 2024 Vendée Globe.
Pip Hare is a British professional sailor and solo skipper, and the 8th woman ever to finish the Vendée Globe. She needs little introduction to regular readers of Yachting World, as a regular writer and boat tester.
Pip Hare set out to join the hallowed ranks of Vendée skippers in 2018, committing to take part in her first Vendée Globe aged 46, at the time with no sponsor and no IMOCA experience, and an old, early generation boat which she had chartered.
Hare’s incredible determination got her to the startline of the 2020 Vendée with a tiny budget and a support team made up of volunteers and friends, winning her legions of fans on the way. In June 2020, just months out from the start of the race, she secured Medallia as a title sponsor for her campaign, allowing her to finally recruit a small team in preparation for the start in November 2020.
In her own words, Pip says she had to: “just make it happen, force a campaign into existence and not be fussy about what I had. I just wanted to experience the [Vendée Globe] and show potential sponsors that I was worth backing.”
Hare sailed an impressive 2020-21 Vendée Globe, despite the challenges of her 2000-vintage IMOCA 60 (the former Superbigou built by Bernard Stamm), which was well known to be one of the hardest to sail in the fleet – with halyards led to the mast base, a block and tackle canting keel system, no foils, and little in the way of cockpit protection.
She finished in 19th position, with a final time of 95d 11hr. Despite sailing the second-oldest boat in the fleet she finished within a few hours of two foilers ahead (Alan Roura’s La Fabrique in 17th, and Stéphane le Diraison on Time for Oceans).
Following the huge success of their original partnership, Medallia backed Hare again for a second Vendee Globe in the 2024-25 race and shortly after finishing the 2020-21 race Hare and Medallia secured the fastest boat ever to complete the Vendée Globe.
Launched in 2015 as Banque Populaire, the new Medallia comes with an impressive history. It was one of the first generation of yachts that were built specifically to foil, and it won the Vendée Globe for Armel Le Cléac’h in 2016, setting an unbroken course record of 74 days.
Over the winter of 2022-23 this boat has gone into the shed for a number of updates including a new boat – closer to the scow-bow style that has become increasingly popular within the fleet and new internal structure for the foils, ready for a more powerful set of new foils to be fitted.
Pip Hare and Sam Davies will be well-known names for followers of the Vendée Globe, but one to watch in the 2024-25 edition of the event is sure to be Sam Goodchild. Goodchild has been skippering an Ocean 50 trimaran for the Leyton Sailing Team and earlier this year the it was confirmed that Leyton would be supporting him in a move into the IMOCA fleet.
Sam Goodchild was born in Britain and spent his early years living aboard a yacht in the Caribbean. In his 20s he competed in the Solitaire du Figaro, before moving into the Class 40 and Ocean 50 multihull. He has sailed on giant multihulls Sodebo and Spindrift, with Mapfre in the Volvo Ocean Race, and with other high profile teams.
Now 34, he is currently racing in The Ocean Race on Kevin Escoffier‘s IMOCA Holcim – PRB. The crew has won the first two legs of this crewed round the world race with stopovers, ahead of the four other IMOCA boats entered in the race. This experience on the latest generation IMOCA 60 alongside the very experienced Escoffier is bound to stand him in good stead.
“Kevin has set the team up in a very open way,” says Goodchild of the opportunity, “He’s very communicative about why the boat was designed the way it was, and the theory as to how it works. It’s not just ‘this is your trim book, do this.’”
“Going into the Southern Ocean on an IMOCA before my first Vendée Globe is kind of gold dust,” he adds, “You can sail around Brittany in the summer and then do a transatlantic, but it’s not at all the same. This is the best training you can get.”
If The Ocean Race experience is gold dust, then his recently announced boat purchase and partnership could possibly be considered platinum dust. In early February 2023 it was announced that Goodchild would join the “TR Racing” team alongside skipper Thomas Ruyant and would take over Ruyant’s previous boat LinkedOut (one of the fastest and best optimised boats in the fleet from the last Vendée cycle).
Sailing LinkedOut, Ruyant was 6th in the 2020 Vendée Globe and won the 2022 Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe. He will be working alongside Goodchild with the team fielding two skippers at the start of the next Vendée Globe.
While Goodchild will take the helm of the former LinkedOut, Ruyant will soon receive his brand new IMOCA boat, a Koch – Finot Conq design, scheduled for mid-March. This two-skipper configuration will allow for a pooling of skills in the team and will allow them to optimise performance between the two boats, while Goodchild also has his own continued financial backing from Leyton.
Another name who might be new to followers of the Vendée Globe is Phil Sharp, but he is far from a new name in the ocean racing world with a long career in Figaro and Class 40 racing. Sharp, now 41, has announced a new Manuard-designed IMOCA currently in build for the 2024 Vendée. The new generation foiler OceansLab will uniquely utilise hydrogen power.
Phil Sharp has been building a solo racing profile for nearly 20 years, since competing in the Mini Transat in 2004 (finishing 4th), he’s also won class in the Route du Rhum, and 3rd in the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre. His new IMOCA will be a third-generation foiler from designer-of-the-moment Sam Manuard, and is in construction at Black Pepper in France.
Sharp and Goodchild were both part of a cohort of talented young British offshore sailors that took part in the Artemis Offshore Academy, a programme run by OC Sport from 2010-2018 to nurture British ocean racing talent and – perhaps one day – to achieve a British win in the Vendée Globe.
Sharp has been on the Vendée radar for years, and has been talked about as a potential contender in the event. In the Class40 fleet he has won almost everything it’s possible to win, including the Class 40 Championship, which he dominated in 2017. The championship consists of: the Trophée Guyader, Normandy Channel Race, Les Sables Horta, Rolex Fastnet Race and the Transat Jacques Vabre. Easy to see, then, that he certainly has the pedigree needed to compete at the front on the IMOCA 60 fleet.
While the road to a Vendée Globe entry is often a long one, requiring dogged determination, 25-year-old James Harayda is aiming to compete in the 2024 Vendée Globe as one of the fleet’s ‘young guns’.
Former keelboat sailor Harayda has acquired a 2007 Finot-Conq designed IMOCA 60, which was first built for fellow Brit Alex Thomson to take on the 2008 Vendée and is now named Gentoo Sailing Team.
With a relatively old, non-foiler Harayda will be unlikely to trouble the very front of the fleet in the forthcoming edition of the Vendée, but the young skipper has big ambitions, with a stated aim to complete the 2024 Vendée Globe and then come back in 2028 with a new boat at the head of a competitive campaign.
Harayda will should benefit from the mentorship of 2008 Vendée Globe finisher, Volvo Ocean Race skipper and the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world “the wrong way”, Dee Caffari, who is helping with his campaign. Together, Cafffari and Harayda also won the British Double Handed National Championships on two occasions.
Harayda’s experience in the IMOCA fleet to date extends to only the Défi Azimut, where he finished 19th, and last year’s Route Du Rhum, where he finished a highly credible 14th, both on Gentoo.
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