In the spirit that unites Ulysse Nardin with the explorers and fearless adventurers of the world, the brand has partnered with the Vendée Globe to sponsor the world’s most challenging sailing race.
The 9th edition of the Vendée Globe will start on November 8th and will mark 30 years since the first challenge. Around 30 adventurers will set off at the start of this ineffable non-stop and unassisted yacht race around the world and for which Ulysse Nardin will have the honor of being the Official Timekeeper.
The ultimate test in ocean racing, the Vendée Globe begins and ends in the Sables d’Olonne, in the Vendée region of France. Competed without any support, stops or technical assistance of any kind, skippers face icy cold conditions, mountainous waves, leaden skies and howling gales as they traverse the Atlantic and Southern Oceans to sail solo around the planet’s roughest seas.
“We are delighted to welcome Ulysse Nardin as Official Timer of the Vendée Globe 2020-2021. This pioneering brand of Swiss Haute Horlogerie has been built internationally in connection with the nautical world. It is therefore natural that the Vendée Globe, the international reference for solo offshore racing, and Uysse Nardin have come together to found this partnership for the next edition.”
It is the race of a lifetime, called by those who have sailed it, the “Everest of the Seas”. It is a thermic, social and physical shock unlike any other. The Vendée Globe is a mythical race, a challenge to be taken only by lion-hearted, intrepid explorers of the world’s ocean. Of the 167 skippers who have attempted the Vendée Globe since the race began in 1968, only 89 have made it across the finish line.
Taking place once every four years, the course takes the monohull yachts from the French coast 21,638 nautical miles (40,075 kilometers) on a north-south trajectory around the circumference of the Earth. To limit the risk of encounters with icebergs, the Race Direction has established a zone prohibited to sailing, called the Antarctic Exclusion Zone (AEZ) which goes around the Antarctic between the 45° on the Croset Islands side and the 68° S off Cape Horn.
In honor of the skippers who choose to risk everything by embarking on this daunting, dangerous and daring adventure, Ulysse Nardin and the Vendée Globe have created a webserie compoased of 6 chapters called #Odyssey by #UlysseNardin.
“This is not a race for those who doubt themselves. This is a challenge for modern-day Ulysses who believe that they will be able to confront themselves, their fears and nature’s strongest forces in order to complete an Odyssey of epic proportions.”
Cape Horn, one of the land points the Vendée Globe sailors must pass by on their voyage around the world, is one of the most treacherous routes. As they navigate around the southernmost tip of Chile, skippers face icebergs, violent winds and dangerous currents, making this one of the most confrontational chapters in the renowned round-the-world race. As they circumnavigate the globe, the passage around Cape Horn is one of the most harrowing because, as the point at which the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet, nature unleashes an array of furies, each more precarious than the next.
Nemo Point, a position in the South Pacific off of the coast of Chile, named after author Jules Verne’s seafaring captain, which is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Closer to the International Space Station than to solid land, Point Nemo is Located at 48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W, the location in the ocean that is farthest from land. It is an oceanographic location which sits within the South Pacific Gyre, the most remote position on planet Earth. Sailing through Nemo Point, many of the sailors participating in the Vendée Globe find themselves in this massive, rotating ocean current, a centripetal force that tests them to the very core.
Antarctica, the last continent to be discovered and the Earth’s southernmost, most hostile landmass - has been a source of fascination for explorers, scientists and historians for the two centuries since it was first sighted. A place of mystery and intrigue, the frozen tip of the planet has been fabled destination and source of fascination since Aristotle wrote about a possible Antarctic region in his tome Meteorology circa 350 BC.
Sebastien Destremau, friend of Ulysse Nardin and successful competitor in the 2016/2017 race, is planning to sail around the world once again in the 2020 race on his monohull, the Merci.
Destremau chose the name Merci for many – very personal – reasons. He wanted to thank his family, his sponsors and the friends who believed in him for helping him to the starting line. It is a crazy undertaking, one that even his brother tried to talk him out of - for his own safety – although he became his number one supporter. He is thankful for having completed the first race and even more so for being able to undertake a second one. For this next Vendée Globe Race, he called his boat the Merci (thank you) because it carries with it the notion of gratitude and the hope of tightening the bond between humans around the world. It is an intimate message – professional and planetary – of thanks that extend from his mother all the way to thanks for this that planet we live on. He wants to give meaning to this bold adventure – one without any stops or assistance - and raise awareness of how precious a resource our ocean is and how important it is to preserve them and the wildlife that lives beneath the waves.
“The Vendée Globe is a one-of-a-kind race. It is a challenge unlike no other on Earth. To conquer – and even simply finish – the ‘Everest of the Seas’ is an undertaking so vast and complicated that those who return safe and sound are all champions. The Vendée Globe encompasses many of the values we hold dear at Ulysse Nardin; respect for the seas, the willingness to navigate the Great Unknown and the desire to test oneself to the ultimate limit of human endurance. We are all Ulysses.”
The Vendée Globe is not as much a challenge as it is a calling. It is a test, a bet one makes against oneself and the elements, the weather, a deal made with Mother Nature herself. Destremau considers his last race a roaring success, even if he finished in last place. The simple fact of having accomplished the Vendée Globe made him stronger, more confident, hungrier. He said that it is madness, desperation, insanity. It is also the most satisfying, tremendous feat a sailor can accomplish in his lifetime. Among the other flags he flies, Destremau is a ‘test pilot’ for Ulysse Nardin; on his wrist, he will be alternating between wearing the UN Diver X Nemo Point, the Diver X Antarctica and the Diver X Cape Horn.