Twenty-three of the competitors in France’s Vendée Artique sailing competition are seeking shelter in Fákrúðsfjörður Bay in East Iceland due to dangerous weather conditions on the Atlantic Ocean, RÚV reports. This is the first time that skippers participating in the race were supposed to have crossed the Arctic Circle north of Iceland, but given the current weather conditions on the course, race organizers have elected to end the race in Fákrúðsfjörður.
Three of the skippers had already arrived in Fáskrúðsfjörður as of Friday night, with the rest expected in the early hours of Saturday morning. Roughly a third of the sailboats were known to have been damaged in the difficult weather on the way to Iceland, where the East Iceland Sailing Club was preparing to receive them.
Route designed to be difficult
The newly-extended 3,500-nautical-mile Vendée Artique begins and ends in Les Sables d’Olonne in France and circumnavigates Iceland. It is the first qualifying race for the Vendée Globe, a single-handed, non-stop, round-the-world yacht race. As it is intended to help participating skippers test their boats and get a feel for the Vendée Globe, the course was designed to be difficult, with purposefully difficult weather conditions. Sailing from north to south “is a particular technical exercise,” explains the competition website, “requiring numerous manoeuvres and sail changes […] when rounding Iceland.”
In its explanation for why the race was suspended, the organizers wrote that “a low pressure system is threatening the fleet. The skippers are likely to face tough conditions and the back of the fleet already have more than 40kts at times and gusts to 60kts.” Given the fact that the race “is quite isolated,” there was also the additional risk that rescue would be complicated in the event it was necessary.
The next Vendée Globe will take place in 2024; in order to be entered in the race, skippers must take place in at least two of five qualifying races. The next qualifying race is the Route du Rhum in November, which sales from Saint Malo, in Brittany, France, to Pointe-á-Pitre, Guadelopue.