Marathon sailing race that covers 25,000 miles, goes around Antarctica, and lasts more than 100 days. Even worse, you have to sail the whole thing alone and without stopping.

The course starts in England, works south past Africa, circles Antarctica and runs back north to France. The idea is to hit all three capes: the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Horn, and Cape Leeuwin (southwest horn of Australia). Organizers time the race to hit the Antarctic summer but conditions are nonetheless brutal, and boats have been capsized or simply lost.

The race is named for the Vendée region of France, which includes the finish line at the city of Les Sables d'Olonne. It was first run in 1989, the brainchild of a group of circumnavigating sailors looking for new challenges, and has been run three other times: 1992, 1996, 2000.

The 2000-1 Vendée Globe set a few records. Frenchman Michele Dejoyeaux won in a record 93 days, and the second-placer, Ellen MacArthur, recorded the fastest woman's time and was the youngest sailor (24) to complete the race. Both were the first people to ever complete the course in less than 100 days.

Sailing around the world is quite the business. Several competitions similar to the Vendée Globe exist, including Around Alone, formerly called the BOC Challenge, due to start in September 2002. There's also The Race, which follows a course similar to the Vendee Globe.

-- Dateline NBC (yeah, yeah, I know -- my wife was watching it, I was in the room, what can I say.)
-- The Vendée Globe site:
-- The Torreson Marina site:

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