Solo sailors face Everest
What will you be doing for the next three months?
Probably working or studying a bit, plenty of days off, a few parties, Christmas, New Year, good times with friends and family, maybe even a holiday.
There might be a hangover or two, some lie-ins, hopefully plenty of food and drink and a warm, dry house.
Well, for 30 of the world's best offshore sailors there won't be any of those luxuries. On Sunday, the Vendee Globe fleet, including seven Britons, set off from Les Sables d'Olonnes in France to race around the world - non-stop and alone.
The ethos is the purest form of ocean racing. One sailor, one boat, one goal - first one back wins. No complicated points or rhythm-breaking stopovers.
That's all alone, by the way, just to make sure you got that. For roughly 90 days. On a 60ft yacht bouncing and bucking like a raging bull. It'll be wet, cold and dangerous. But they don't want our sympathy. It's their choice. They're highly competitive, hardened ocean racers and the conditions are part of the job.
"The best times are when you're surfing down a huge swell at 30 knots in the Southern Ocean," says British sailor Alex Thomson.
"The worst times are when you're surfing down a huge swell at 30 knots in the Southern Ocean not quite sure whether the boat will come back up after ploughing into the wave in front."
The race is often dubbed the sailor's Everest. Only 44 people have ever completed the race, compared with over 1000 who have climbed the world's highest mountain. Never has the old adage, "to finish first, first you have to finish" be more apt.
It's the race that made a name of Ellen MacArthur, but try to forget about the comic sketches of her crying in the supermarket. This is extreme sailing and it's brutal. These guys can't - make that won't - just hide in their bunk and pull the sleeping bag over their heads when things get tough. They will be racing hard all the way, and that requires monumental effort.
If something breaks at the top of the mast, there's only one person who can fix that - you, by climbing 80-odd feet into the sky while riding a rollercoaster. To keep the boat going fast - it is a race after all - they'll be constantly looking at the trim of the sails or changing sails, navigating, repairing things, eating (freeze-dried food) and sleeping - no more than about four to five hours in a 24-hour period, often in bursts of 15-20 minutes. Hampshire's Mike Golding has a car alarm to wake him up.
"I'm under no illusions," said British debutant Jonny Malbon. "It'll be extremely frightening and very lonely but I can't wait. It's the biggest challenge I think I'll ever face in my life.
"The hardest bit is knowing when to step off the throttle because there's always more horse power available. The boat will get around, the question is, will I?"
The sailors are driven, modern, professional sportsmen and women, and the boats are as high-tech and powerful as they come. Technology offers the ability for wall-to-wall media coverage and constant contact with the skippers, and phone bills will run into tens of thousands of pounds a month.
It's all a far cry from the yachtsmen of yesteryear, the bearded adventurers who would sail off into the distance and arrive back six months later without having spoken to a soul. In the very first solo around-the-world race in 1968, won eventually by Robin Knox-Johnston in 312 days, race leader, Frenchman Bernard Moitessier, opted to pass up the chance of fame and fortune and just carried on sailing around the world, Donald Crowhurst faked his position for months and then disappeared at sea, possibly after committing suicide, and Chay Blyth set off still learning how to sail. (Read "A Voyage for Madmen" - it's a cracker.)
A crowd of 300,000 turned out in Les Sables d'Olonnes for the start - this race is absolutely huge in France.
From there the fleet head south down the Atlantic, turn left at the Cape of Good Hope, scream across the Southern Ocean under Australia and New Zealand, round Cape Horn off South America and race back up to the Atlantic back to France.
Briton Dee Caffari, one of only two women in the race, said: "When it's all going well it's magical and awesome but if anything goes bad or conditions get difficult - and the boat is going so fast it's on the edge of control - that's when it really scary and a hard place to be."
So, next time you're snug and warm in bed after a tough day, spare a thought for these guys. There's no slamming the front door on the world or retreating down the pub to get over it. They're at it 24/7. But ask any of them, and they'll tell you they wouldn't have it any other way.
Here's a lowdown on the British entries:
Dee Caffari, 35, - Aviva
One of only two women in the race, the former schoolteacher became the first female to sail single-handed non-stop around the world against prevailing winds and currents (ie in a westerly direction instead of an easterly one) when she took 178 days to lap the planet in 2005/2006.
Samantha Davies, 33, - Roxy
The engineering graduate, now based in France, has been solo sailing for eight years and was a member of Tracy Edwards's all-girl team for their round-the-world attempt on Maiden in 1998. Davies's boat Roxy is the winner of the past two races and the current holder of the Vendée Globe record of 87 days 10 hours and 47 minutes.
Mike Golding, 48, - Ecover
The former fireman is now one of the world's best offshore sailors and one of the favourites for race. Came seventh in the 2001 Vendee Globe and third in 2005. Plucked rival Alex Thomson from the Southern Ocean during the 2006/7 Velux Five Oceans Race but retired himself after losing his mast.
A two-time offshore sailing world champion, Golding sailed around the world five times, three times solo, and was the first person to sail single-handed around world in both directions.
Jonny Malbon, 33, - Artemis
New to single-handed racing but has an extensive sailing CV, headlined by sailing around the globe non-stop aboard the giant catamaran Doha 2006.
"I've sailed 8,000 miles on my own now and I'm confident I won't go too mad, though I've already heard some voices and told myself to shut up," he said.
Alex Thomson, 33, - Hugo Boss
Hugo Boss was holed by a fishing boat off Les Sables d'Olonne on 17 October and Thomson's team have since worked around the clock to make repairs.
"Until the incident, I felt as prepared as I have ever been for a race and I felt I had a strong chance of becoming the first British skipper to win the Vendée. Since the accident, all I have been able to think and focus on is getting Hugo Boss repaired in time," he said.
Thomson is taking part in his second Vendee globe - he retired with damage in 2004. In the 2006 Velux Five Oceans race, Thomson's Hugo Boss lost its keel in the Southern Ocean and he was rescued by rival Mike Golding.
Brian Thompson, 46, - Bahrain Team Pindar
Unsung, but one of the world's most respected offshore sailors. Was a watch leader on board Cheyenne's round-the-world record in 2004 and was a crew member on the winning Volvo Ocean Race entry ABN Amro in 2006.
Steve White, 35, - Toe in the Water
A newcomer at this level, White remortgaged his house to part-fund his entry and only secured enough financial backing a few weeks ago. Has renamed his boat Toe in the Water to publicise the Armed Services rehabilitation charity Toe in the Water.