The Vendée Globe 2008 begins in Les Sables d'Olonne, France on November 9, 2008. From there, the fleet sails south into the North Atlantic and crosses the equator into the South Atlantic to round one of the great capes of the world, Cape of Good Hope, in South Africa. From there the fleet will sail east in the Southern Ocean, one of the most inhospitable places in the world for a sailboat. Throughout the sail in the Southern Ocean, the fleet will have to pass through a series of ice gates to limit the risk of the fleet from running into ice chunks and "growlers" that could endanger the boats.
The fleet will continue east and pass by the Kerguelen Islands on its way to a second great cape: Cape Leeuwin, located in southwest Australia. From Cape Leeuwin, the fleet will continue eastward with the goal of rounding Cape Horn, a cape notorious for difficult seas and dangerous winds*. Once around Cape Horn, the skippers will turn their boats north once again and head back to Les Sables d'Olonne, France and the finish line.
* It was near Cape Horn in 1990 that Skipper Rich Wilson and his crewmate Steve Pettengill capsized in a terrible storm and were rescued by the crew of the cargo vessel New Zealand Pacific.