Regarding sailboat popularity in Europe, particularly in France, some good news:
"The first week of the Race Village opening drew a record number of spectators. Since 20 October, no less than 230,000 people (including 10,000 school children) have walked the pontoons where the 20 participating boats are moored. The race's popularity is clearly evident.
The success of this 7th edition is also obvious online. The race's official website drew 200,000 visitors in a week."
Vendée Globe: record attendance | Yacht News | Yachting World
Webisode 6 : La vie s'accélère aux Sables d'Olonne por VendeeGlobeTV
The race starts in about a week