Our resident YouTube aficionado Kass Schmitt wonders if the reigning Vendée Globe champion risks being dethroned by a rookie with a chicken.

The buildup to the 2024 Vendée Globe Race is well underway, after 25 solo skippers took part in the first qualifier. The Vendée Arctique Race was meant to send the fleet 3,500 miles from Les Sables d’Olonne around Iceland and back.

As it happened, a deep depression caused the organisers to end the course at the island, giving many time to admire its rugged eastern coastline (as much as one can while managing a 60ft boat solo in survival conditions) before turning for home.

A week later the convoy was welcomed in Les Sables d’Olonne, the majority arriving on a single high tide, with each skipper having only time to tie up, open their magnum of champagne and issue a few soundbites before the crowd moved on to the next.

A few more arrived on the evening tide, and then on the following afternoon ‘that Breton with the chicken’, as Guirec Soudée is often referred to.

Guirec first achieved notoriety in 2014, completing a transatlantic passage from the Canary Islands to St. Barthélemy as a novice sailor, with his pet chicken Monique for company.

You may have read Yachting World’s feature on Guirec Soudée. I didn’t take much notice beyond thinking it was a cute story, but the next I heard of him was the launch of his 2024 Vendée Globe campaign, with both sponsor and boat secured.

Guirec Soudée’s fascinating, yet unconventional story

His YouTube channel offers a glimpse into his fascinating, yet unconventional, path. After arriving in the Caribbean, he spent a year working and repairing the leaky steel hull of his 1985 Scorpio 9 Yvinec.

He and Monique then embarked on a four year circumnavigation of the Americas, overwintering in a remote bay on Greenland’s west coast, before transiting the Northwest Passage.

They rounded Cape Horn, called in at Antarctica, Cape Town, Brazil, French Guyana, the Caribbean, and the Azores, before finally arriving home in Brittany in December 2018.

By late 2020 he was off again, this time on an ocean rowboat without Monique. In less than a year he rowed solo trans-Atlantic in both directions. In between, he also published three books, produced a feature length documentary, and had a child.

I suspect that between now and the next Vendée Globe Race we will have to be content with the short video snippets he, like all the IMOCA skippers, are required to produce while racing.

He is already one of the most entertaining and engaging skippers, and shows signs of being a credible threat to those at the top of the rankings. It’s a truly inspiring and remarkable story that reminds us the route to the top of any discipline isn’t always the obvious. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.