Torch Relay Stage 24: The Vendée and the Atlantic coast. DÉPARTEMENT VENDÉE

This Tuesday, the Vendée took pride of place in the Olympic Torch Relay. With 250 km of coastline, this region has a strong identity and is home to nautical sports, seaside tourism and fishing.

The Vendée is a land synonymous with sailing, as demonstrated by the collective relay organised by the French Sailing Federation and the presence of skippers Isabelle Autissier and Armel Le Cléac'h. After the Mediterranean Sea and the English Channel, the Torch made its first way along the Atlantic coast. The day began at the Passage du Gois, a 4.2km-long road that can only be crossed at low tide and links the island of Noirmoutier to the Vendée.

This first highlight was followed by an inland discovery of the Vendée, with its many paths, its wooded landscapes, its hectares of natural spaces and its rich historical heritage. The Olympic torch relay ended its visit to Fontenay-le-Comte in Place François Viète before moving on to Montaigu-Vendée to visit the Collège Jules Ferry secondary school and the Maxime Bossis sports complex. 

Then, like last year's 2.5 million visitors, it stopped off at one of France's most popular theme parks: the Puy-du-Fou. For almost three kilometres, the torchbearers took turns carrying the Torch through a park that tells the story of France. The last two torchbearers on this leg received an incredible welcome in the heart of the park's main arena. 

The Torch visited La Roche-sur-Yon, from its aquatic complex to the Place Napoléon, before heading to the Pointe d'Arçay, a sandy headland jutting out into the sea and a haven for many species of birds, before ending the day in Les Sables-d'Olonne. It began its day through the town at the Rudelière sports ground, sailed along the beach in a boat, passed by the Shell Museum and ended the day at the celebration site on the Place du Vendée Globe. 

The Vendée and Les Sables-d'Olonne are closely linked to the world's most famous ocean yatch racing event: the Vendée Globe. This legendary round-the-world race, was created in 1989 and takes place every four years, with the next edition starting in November. It was only logical that the collective relay organised by the French Sailing Federation should take place in Les Sables-d'Olonne. 

The relay was made up of 24 members of the club, led by captain and double Olympic medallist Charline Picon. She was joined by Hugo Revil, a rising young star in Olympic sailing, Léane Mignon, who sails every day at Les Sables d'Olonne, Tom Mallet, one of the leading para-sailors, and Aloïse Retornaz, bronze at Tokyo 2020. 

The last two torchbearers were also accomplished and experienced sailors. The penultimate torchbearer was Isabelle Autissier, the first yachtswoman to solo circumnavigate the globe and president of WWF-France, who is passionate about defending the environment and spreading ecological knowledge. 

She is also a talented writer who has produced inspirational novels about her expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Autissier passed on the Torch to Armel Le Cléac'h, who had the responsibility of lighting the cauldron in front of the crowds. He won the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe, often described as the 'Everest of the seas', and is still the event's record holder with a time of 74 days and 3 hours. 

Armel Le Cléac'h will also return to the Olympic Torch Relay on 7th June. Setting off from Brest in the Finistère, he will cross the Atlantic Ocean with a legendary crew on the Maxi Banque Populaire XI yacht. He will carry the it to Guadeloupe and Martinique as part of the unique oceanic chapter of the Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay. 

116 torchbearers carried the Olympic Torch, including sports personalities. Danish racing driver Tom Kristensen, a nine-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was followed by Emma Louineau, the world's sixth-ranked trial mountain biker. They were joined by Ulrich Robeiri, gold medallist in fencing at the 2008 Olympic Games, former international basketball player Françoise Amiaud and famous MMA fighter Cyril Gane. 

The Vendée is also a land where cycling is very popular, and of course former rider and current sports director Jean-René Bernaudeau and former Tour de Vendée president Bernard Martineau were present. Other athletes at Les Sables d'Olonne to carry the Torch included para-triathlete Gwladys Lemoussus, who won bronze at the Rio 2016 Games, and windsurfer Hélène Noesmoen, who will compete in Paris 2024. 

The day also gave pride to the public. Marcel Retailleu, who saw the Olympic Torch pass through his area in 1991, had the opportunity to carry it this time. Ludovic Schaub, a decathlete and sports teacher, also enjoyed the experience, as did Lucie Caumeil, a para-triathlete who dreams of taking part in the 2028 Paralympic Games. They all played their part in flying the flag high for the values of sport and the Olympic Games.