The course has been constructed according to the values exhibited for the event: the sporting competition, as well as the adventure and the voyage, legs of varying duration, a rhythmical course, no ‘marathon’ legs of over 30 days or so at sea, no long courses in the lower latitudes of the ‘deep south’ save for the cape roundings, together with some unique destinations. It is a course which comprises both long periods of offshore and a significant coastal portion with numerous islands as passage marks.
The race start will take place in the summer of 2021 with a start / finish destination primarily targeting French soil, and to date we’re in discussions with several groups, without closing the door to proposals from another European offer.
Next, there will be an introductory leg of around 2,200 miles to the Cape Verde Islands and its main marina in Sao Vicente, with the island of Madeira and the Canary Islands as passage marks, framed by the wild beauty of the volcanic islands, the scents of nearby Africa, the first exotic aromas.
The second leg is a big 6,200-mile section over the ground, which equates to around 7,000 miles (or around 30 days for the first boat) towards the South Atlantic and African soil again with the passage of the Cape of Good Hope, a course of around 400 miles along the South African coast and then a climb up into the Indian Ocean to the South of Madagascar to Mauritius, a multicultural pearl amidst landscapes truly beyond compare.
Next comes another long 6,200-mile course setting sail from Mauritius as a third leg, leaving the wonderful Rodrigues Islands to starboard, with a dive down to the heart of the Indian Ocean towards Australia and its famous Cape Leeuwin, an island whose name seems destined to sport a lighthouse (Eclipse Island) to negotiate and then another dive down towards the Bass Strait before crossing the Tasman Sea towards Auckland, a global Mecca of Sailing if ever there was one.
Having sampled the delights of New Zealand’s shores and lands, whose peaceful people have managed to blend western and Maori cultures, this will be the grand start of this fourth leg to French Polynesia, surely the ultimate landfall in our maritime dreams. Ahead lies a 2,100-mile climb towards the Austral Islands, bound for Bora-Bora and a course amidst the Leeward Islands of the Society archipelago before reaching Papeete.
The fifth leg will take us away from balmy Polynesia for a descent bordering on 4,400 miles towards the southern fringes of South America, in search of the legendary passage around Cape Horn before making for the Argentinean town of Ushaïa at the heart of Tierra del Fuego, the most southerly town on the planet, via the Beagle Channel.
The climb along the coast of South America, including Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, will be on the programme for the sixth leg, which involves a 3,300-mile sprint to Recife, the large city of north-east Brazil; the Brazil that lingers in all our imaginations. Considered to be the Venice of Brazil, Recife with its heavenly beaches and its colonial architecture, is deemed to be one of the country’s main tourist destinations.
The 7th leg will slip along for 2,000 miles in favourable winds and currents to the south of the Antilles Arc and the beautiful island of Grenada. A former French colony, the island with its crater lakes and its slopes carpeted in tropical forest, is a jewel to behold.
Finally, there’s the fine return sprint across the Atlantic to Europe stretching some 3,600 miles for the 8th and final leg, with the Azores archipelago as a passage mark.
In total then, an Odyssey spanning approximately 30,000 miles and 140 days at sea for the first boat, provisionally setting sail on Sunday 27 June 2021 and returning mid-March 2022 for the frontrunners, late March for the tail end of the fleet. The legs for the front runners will be spread over 12 to 24 days, whilst the duration of the last leg is calculated at 8 days. The Great Circle company has been commissioned to carry out a climatological study of the course.