On the 6th November 2016 Enda O'Coineen (60) will set sail as Ireland's first ever entrant in the world's toughest yacht race. The Vendee Globe is a non stop, unassisted, extreme sailing race around the globe. O'Coineen's Irish tricolour is flying proudly among the fleet of 28 entries gathered in Les Sables d'Olonne, France in advance of the race.
The Galway Bay debutante, O'Coineen will compete in an IMOCA 60-foot monohull, which are among the fastest racing yachts in the world. It is the same boat in which the Galway Bay and Royal Irish Yacht Club sailor finished third in a Transatlantic race last winter to qualify for this year's Vendee Globe. A strong team of professionals, volunteers, and partners is working to ensure the Team's skipper has the best chance possible of completing the gruelling competition, widely acknowledged as the Everest of sailing.
Held every 4 years, the competition is now in its 8th year and to date 138 sailors have attempted the race. 71 have managed to cross the finishing line. This figure alone expresses the huge difficulty of this global event, where sailors face icy cold conditions, mountainous waves and leaden skies in the Southern Ocean. The Vendée Globe is above all a voyage to the ends of the sea and deep down into the sailor's soul. It has been won by some of the greatest names in sailing: Titouan Lamazou, Alain Gautier, Christophe Auguin, Vincent Riou and François Gabart. Only one sailor has won it twice: Michel Desjoyeaux, in 2001 and 2009. The race record is held by François Gabart with a time of 78 days.
This year's race will see the first Irish team and skipper compete in the race but the influence of the Irish reaches across many aspects of the race with four teams having a strong green influence including entries from Ireland, the UK, France, and Japan. Hugo Boss, the UK entrant is run by Irishman Stewart Hosford. Next is the French SMA Team run by another Irishman and Dublin native, Marcus Hutchinson. The final Irish link is in Japan with the Japanese sailing team 'Spirit of Yukoh' managed by Irish native Tony O'Connor. If the luck of the Irish is with them, we could see great things in this edition of the world's toughest sailing challenge.
As for Team Ireland, Enda O'Coineen is no stranger to big sailing challenges. He has crossed the Atlantic alone in a 16 foot inflatable dinghy, competed in the Mini Transat, broken round Ireland records, and if successful in the race, stands to be the first Irish person to complete a non-stop solo sailing lap of the planet. In wishing Enda and Team Ireland the best in the race, Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute said: "The level of dedication and commitment Enda and Team Ireland have shown in preparing for this race is inspiring. Enda is a wonderful ambassador, representing Ireland and promoting ocean awareness and adventure in Ireland. We look forward to tracking Enda's progress and to seeing him cross the finish line."
The Marine Institute is delighted to support an exciting primary schools initiative, where primary school pupils around the country can join in the adventure and track the race and learn about our Oceans along the way. More details on the team Ireland and the Primary Schools initiative can be found here.