Hundreds of thousands turn out to wish the fleet well

Despite the less than heroic weather, hundreds of thousands of yachting fans descended on Les Sables d’Olonne to cheer the skippers as they made their way out of the village, through the Chenal and out into the Bay of Biscay.

Every possible vantage point was occupied. Apart from those standing and craning their necks to get any sort of view, there were people sitting on the rocks of the Chenal breakwater, standing on traffic bollards, telephone boxes and cars, hanging off lamp posts. One enterprising fan persuaded his crew to haul him up the mast.

The emotion of the departure was tangible. Jeremie Beyou, was seen on the giant screen wiping away more than a few tears as his Open 60 Delta Dore slipped her lines and took him out to his first Vendée Globe.

The gnarly old veteran seen here, Loïck Peyron, was motoring Gitana 80 out at a snail’s pace, soaking up the applause and adulation that comes with his double-favourite status, bookies’ and people’s. He came second in the first ever Vendée Globe and, aged 49, it would take something special to get him out here again.