Record-breaking number of women set off for mammoth solo round the world race

Lucia Santiago

Sports Desk, Nov 8 (efe-epa).- The challenge is colossal, but Alexia Barrier is not afraid. Making her debut in the Vendee Globe, the French sailor set off from Les Sables d’Olonne in western France on Sunday to sail solo, non-stop around the world.

She was among 33 people to take part in this year’s race, and is one of a record-breaking group of six women to set sail and attempt to circumnavigate nearly 45,000 kilometers around the planet, across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.

“It’s a difficult race, the most difficult race in the world,” she told Efe ahead of the start. “But I don’t want to think about that now. I just enjoy the fact that I’m here at the start. The weather might be tough, but I’m ready for that.

“What I expect from this race is to finish it, to come back to Les Sables d’Olonne with my boat in one piece. And also, to have fun during the race.”

Her determination has helped set a record for women’s participation this year. Along with Barrier, five other women, Sam Davies, Pip Hare, Clarisse Cremer, Isabelle Joschke and Miranda Merron, set sail on Sunday, an all-time high for the Vendée Globe. Only six women have ever taken part before this year’s edition.

“The fact that more men have walked on the moon than women have finished the Vendée Globe just shows you how incredible it feels for me to be on this start line and how determined I am to get to the end,” Pip Hare said. “And not just get to the end, but to come back in 2024 and do it again.”

Her experiences in the sport have shown her that “offshore sailing in general is a massively male dominated sport.” A mere 5 percent of competitors in offshore sailing are women.

Their involvement is still in its infancy, despite the groundbreaking efforts of Ellen MacArthur, who came second in the 2000/2001 edition after completing the feat in 94 days, 4 hours and 25 minutes.

She raised the level considerably, although Isabelle Autissier and Catherine Chabaud are recognised for having first broken the barrier of women participation in the Vendée Globe in 1996. Anne Liardet and Karen Leibovici competed in 2004 and Dee Caffari and Samantha Davies in 2008. The latter returns this year, hoping to improve on the fourth position she achieved then.

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