Sunday, November 9, 2008

Everest of sailing

The Everest metaphor is nice, but the truth of the matter is that the number of navigators who have sailed single-handed around the globe would appear to be considerably less than the number of individuals who have scaled the world's highest mountain. In the waters off the French port of Sables d'Olonne, the 30 monohulls will hear the starting gun in exactly one hour.

This yacht race around the world can probably be considered as the toughest and most anguishing sporting event in the world.

BREAKING NEWS: I use the word "breaking" in a literal sense: Something has broken! The French TV channel 3 made an amusing free offer to Internauts enabling them to enroll as virtual skippers in a web version of the Vendée Globe. It was highly popular. Over thirty thousand virtual yachts were lined up for the start this afternoon. Unfortunately, a couple of hours after the start of our regatta, the server exploded. For the moment, our tens of thousands of virtual vessels appear to have been lost at sea a few dozen nautical miles off the French coast. For the moment, skippers have received no explanation whatsoever from the organizers of the virtual regatta, so I have no idea whether there's any possibility of our being salvaged. This disaster could well go down in virtual maritime history as the biggest sailing catastrophe of all time.

At 8 o'clock this evening, the France 3 website displayed a sad message:

Meanwhile, in the real world, the race appears to be evolving perfectly, with a dozen leaders separated by a nautical mile. Apparently there are fewer mishaps in the real world than in the virtual.

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