Hundreds of thousands of internet gamers are currently up at all hours as they take part in a virtual version of the ultimate endurance sailing experience, the round-the-world single-handed yacht race the Vendee Globe.
The non-stop race runs from November to February and over 300,000 have signed up for the second version of the virtual version of the four-yearly event at www.virtualregatta.com .
As the real contenders embarked from France's west coast last Saturday racing full speed ahead toward the Cape of Good Hope, the gamers were able to measure themselves against their heroes using options like constant weather reports and sail changes either for free or for a small fee with added options such as a GPS.
"It's fun, you can be grounded, turn back or come to a virtual standstill. But unlike the real skippers you don't run the real risk of colliding with a trawler," explained Louis Andre, product manager at Players, the company that established the game in 2006.
"Our aim was to get people into sailing in big numbers. It seems to have worked," he said.
While on-line racers can count amongst their number two-time winner of the real race, Michel Desjoyeaux, around half the competitors have never set foot onboard a yacht.
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