Charlie Dalin: “I was made for the Vendée Globe”
With four podium places in a row in the Solitaire, twice French elite solo offshore racing champion, Charlie Dalin has certainly shown what he can do
Charlie Dalin: “I was made for the Vendée Globe”
With four podium places in a row in the Solitaire, twice French elite solo offshore racing champion, Charlie Dalin has certainly shown what he can do on a Figaro. At the age of 33, he is about to step up a level and join the IMOCA circuit, thanks to the support of his new sponsor, Apivia. He will take the helm of a brand new 60-foot boat designed by Guillaume Verdier, which is set to be launched in June 2019. His goal is clear. He wants to win the 2020 Vendée Globe.
Charlie, when did you first start thinking about competing in the Vendée Globe?
“I have had the Vendée Globe in the back of my mind since I first started solo long distance racing. I love being alone at sea in a sporting competition. I am not at all worried about spending 70 days alone on my boat. On the contrary, that is something that attracts me. The longer the race, the better I feel. I am a trained naval architect and I feel at home with the technical aspects, which is vital on an IMOCA, especially with a brand new boat. The Vendée Globe brings together everything I love, so I was made for this race. I started actively looking for sponsors in late 2016 during the last edition. My first discussions with Apivia took place last autumn. I am racing with Macif on the Figaro and Apivia is in fact the health insurance arm of the Macif Group. So everything fell into place quite naturally.”
So, you’ll be competing with a brand new boat, when you join the IMOCA circuit. Why did you choose Guillaume Verdier to design her and the CDK Technologies yard to build her?
“With Mer Concept (the company run by François Gabart, who will be the project manager, editor’s note), we met up with several architects. They all came up with some interesting things and it wasn’t easy to come to a decision. But we were won over by Guillaume’s way of thinking and the means at his disposal. He also has a lot of experience of IMOCAs, which was something that we were looking for. He won the last America’s Cup with Team New Zealand, and is one of the top architects in the world. It all went smoothly with him and his team and we got on well. We could talk about designs for hours without being aware of time slipping by. As for the construction, we chose CDK Technologies, which is also a safe pair of hands. This yard has worked a lot with Mer Concept and their relationship has been built on their mutual trust.”
“I was fully immersed in the 2016 Vendée Globe”
You already have a lot of experience of IMOCAs having worked with Armel Le Cléac’h and then Yann Eliès…
“I did in fact join the design team for Armel Le Cléac’h’s Brit Air IMOCA for six months in 2010. I was in charge of fine-tuning the boat to make her perform better. I did quite a bit of sailing with Armel and I soon got hooked, as these machines are magical. After that, I did some trips out with Bernard Stamm, Vincent Riou and François Gabart. But it was particularly working with Yann Eliès that I really acquired a great experience of IMOCAs. I took part in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre with him on Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir and we finished third. At that time, the race finished in Itajaí (in Brazil) and resembled the first fortnight of the Vendée Globe. I was able to look ahead and that confirmed my desire to set off alone around the world.”
You stayed with Yann Eliès’s team until the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe…
“Yes, I was in charge of taking care of performance and Yann appointed me substitute skipper. So I was at the heart of a team setting sail in the last Vendée Globe and really immersed myself in it. In Les Sables d’Olonne, I attended all the briefings and we worked on the weather together with Yann. I could see what sort of effect there is on your mental approach at the start of such a long and difficult race. It’s still quite something to cast off to set sail around the world. I was at the helm in the entrance channel and was able to experience that emotionally charged moment. That is going to be very useful for me in 2020.”
What is your programme going to be leading up to the 2020 Vendée Globe?
“The boat is due to be launched in June 2019, in other words almost eighteen months before the start of the Vendée Globe. That is ideal timing, as it is not too early or too late. You have to get it just right between having time to sail and make the boat reliable and setting off with a boat equipped with all the latest technological innovations. The 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre will be the first big event. Then, there will be the solo transatlantic race to come home. And in 2020, I’ll take part in the Transat from Britain and the New York-Vendée. I’ll therefore have sailed in four transatlantic races before the Vendée Globe. The partnership with Apivia is a long term plan leading up to the 2022 Route du Rhum. So we will have the time to write some great chapters together.
Are you aiming to win the 2020 Vendée Globe?
“Yes, it’s the battle to try to win, which interests me in ocean racing. But I am well aware that there are lots of unknowns when you are looking at a race the scale of the Vendée Globe. In any case, this edition looks fascinating, in particular as the new boats will be designed by different architects: Guillaume Verdier, the VPLP team, Juan Kouyoumdjian and maybe others… These will also be the first IMOCAs really designed around the foils with all the feedback that experience has offered. The designs will probably be fairly different depending on what the various architects and sailors believe in.”