As Great American IV arrives in les Sables d’Olonne ready to complete training, we’ve surged ahead in our bid to appeal to audiences in France, where the Vendée Globe is well known. We are set to launch a French version of our website; our Teachers’ Guide has already been translated into French; and, most importantly, the Directorate-General for Schools of the French Ministry for National Education has agreed to collaborate on our educational program. More details to follow after administrators return from the August holidays.

Left to Right: Chirine Anvar (French Ministry of Education), Christian Audegay (French Ministry of Education), Rich Wilson (sitesALIVE!), Victoria Reppert (US State Dept.), Fabienne Molle (US Embassy)

Although the Vendée Globe already offers an education program for school children via their website, the education ministry appreciated several novel aspects of sitesALIVE! They liked that we put curricular topics into real world context and that we offer a team of experts, plus the chance for students to interact globally around the various topics. After an initial favorable meeting in February with ministry officials (thanks to the introduction of the American Embassy in Paris) we met again in June to hash out details. The ministry has approved our program for use in French schools.

In other Frsunset-enroute-france-GOPR0088--600x450ance-related news, we arrived in les Sables d’Olonne on August 17th (see details below),  after motoring for the last part of the trip over calm seas. Training will be completed here. Previously, at the end of June, we sailed a short training run with British sailor Dee Caffari (who was also on board to help on the voyage from the Azores to South Hampton in November last year). Although we started out on this latest training run with lightning storms, which Dee categorized as “very, very, frightening,” we managed to put skipper and boat through their paces, tacking and gibing, changing sails and checking all systems on board. As in November, it was reassuring to have Dee aboard as we got the hang of sailing the big boat in a variety of conditions.

Seventy-five days before the start, French enthusiasm for the Vendée Globe is building, and this time around we want to make sure to do everything possible to make our educational program accessible to French-speakers. We’re on track to launch a French version of the sitesALIVE! site, due in September. We’ve also had the teachers’ manual translated into French, giving francophone teachers — wherever they may be in the world — instructions on how to guide their students through our math, science, history and geography curriculum, based on a sailing adventure that circumnavigates the globe.

Contributed by Louise Bullis-Yarmoff 

jean-yves-bernot-r-1680-1200Studying with Weather Guru Jean-Yves Bernot
In July, I spent three days studying world-wide oceanic weather patterns with Jean-Yves Bernot, the guru of the great French weather routers. Outside assistance in selecting your route is forbidden in the Vendee Globe; each skipper must do it on his own at sea. Whereas I had always thought that I was pretty good at weather and current routing, given our victory long ago in the complex Bermuda Race, studying with Jean-Yves is another level entirely. He has answers to questions that I would have never thought to ask. It’s serious, it’s intense, but it’s wonderful fun as well to study with him. And he has a distinct advantage over other weather forecasters and routers in that he has raced himself around the world twice. My 16 pages of notes now in pdf are alongside my 23 pages of notes from 5 days with him in 2008, and are prominent links on my onboard laptop computer screen. Thanks Jean-Yves!

Delivery Voyage to les Sables d’Olonne
Although planning a solo offshore training voyage, when one severe low was forecast to form off the Azores, and another would follow it, we tried to figure out if we (I) could change plans and head northwest to go around the southwest corner of Ireland and get out of the way of the counterclockwise rotating low, wrap around it, and use the strong downwind sailing as a test for the autopilots in heavvy seas. However eventually, with direct input from Joff Brown, managing the boat, we decided not to risk heading in front of what was forecast to be a 986mb low, and instead, Olly Young and I would sail the boat directly to les Sables d’Olonne to get established there for final preparations, and the intent to do a training voyage in a few weeks when we have a good weather forecast. Olly and I had a good sail out of the English Channel, averaging 12-15 knots of boatspeed with our biggest sails up, the masthead gennaker and the full main. We were at the limit of our self-imposed Portland Protocol of 20 knots true wind speed for that mammoth sail most of the way. Thanks Olly!


Photos taken by Bernard Gergaud.

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