Sailing’s most demanding solo, non-stop circumnavigation race around the world got underway on Saturday. Thousands of spectators gathered at the port of Les Sables d’Olonne in France to cheer on competitors of the Vendée Globe who partook in the traditional parade of sail down the town’s canal before heading off to sea. One of the biggest send offs went to skipper of Banque Populare – Frenchman Armel Le Cleac’h who is the bookies favourite for this edition. There are three Britons in the 20 boat fleet. Samantha Davies – who finished fourth in 2009 – again battles the demanding course. While Mike Golding and Alex Thomson make up the British trio. Having set off from Les Sables d’Olonne the fleet will make it’s way down the Atlantic Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope – sail clockwise around Antarctica before making its way back to France. The record for the gruelling solo race was set by Frenchman Michel Desjoyeaux in 2009, when he completed the course in 84 days and three hours.