Unlucky in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, when he was forced to retire early in the race, Yannick Bestaven will have another chance to complete the solo round the world voyage in 2020. Thanks to the support of Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou’s former sponsor, the experienced skipper from La Rochelle will take part in the races in the calendar for the IMOCA Globe Series. In Saint-Malo on 4th November, he will line up at the start of his third Route du Rhum, his first on an IMOCA, aboard the 2006 Farr-designed boat on which he finished fifth in the Transat Jacques Vabre last year with Kito de Pavant. We met up with him to find out more.
Yannick, how does it feel to have a new headline sponsor for your project?
“It feels great, of course. I haven’t had the opportunity to prepare for a Vendée Globe since 2008 with Aquarelle.com (Yves Parlier’s former Aquitaine Innovations, editor’s note). It’s been quite some time now that I have wanted to return to this race. But we all know how hard it is to set up these projects. I fully appreciate now how lucky I am to be able to benefit from this partnership, as this allows me to look ahead, compete on a reliable boat that I have already got to grips with and with such a huge partner as Maître CoQ, who knows the score. It is an honour to follow in the footsteps of Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ sponsored Jérémie in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, editor’s note).”
Unlike for the 2008-2009 edition of the Vendée Globe, this time you will have plenty of time to prepare…
“Exactly. In 2008, I set off with few means and a project that was put together at the last moment. On top of that, a major sponsor dropped me three months before the start. I fought hard to be able to line up in Les Sables-d’Olonne, but by then, I was already exhausted. Being forced to retire in 2008 so early on was a failure that kept nagging at me and I still think about it today (Yannick’s boat was dismasted in the Bay of Biscay, just thirty hours into the race). I certainly don’t want to have to go through all that again. For the 2020 race, I have the funding and the time to do things well. Preparing is going to feel much more relaxed this time.”
“I won’t be fitting foils on my current boat”
You know your IMOCA well – a Farr design built by Vincent Riou (PRB) for the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe, which then passed into the hands of Arnaud Boissières in 2012 and Tanguy de Lamotte in 2016. Is that a major advantage?
“Yes, of course. Thanks to the support of a group of investors, I bought this boat from Tanguy de Lamotte at the end of the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe and I have been sailing on her for a year and a half. This IMOCA was well thought out by Vincent Riou. I love being on board her, as she feels great. To start off with, I felt a bit overwhelmed, but I soon got to grips with her and found my feet. With Kito de Pavant, we took advantage of the experience of the Transat Jacques Vabre last year to do some real work on her and remove everything that was not necessary to save weight and to adapt the IMOCA to my requirements.”
Do you intend to follow your rivals and carry out work to replace the straight daggerboards with foils?
“Ultimately, I’d love to sail aboard a boat withfoils, but I won’t be fitting them to my current boat. It takes around 500,000 euros to carry out that huge modification, but that doesn’t mean I would win races... I don’t think it is interesting to spend so much money to move up a couple places in the Vendée Globe. I prefer to sail my boat as she is, as she is already great. In the Transat Jacques Vabre with Kito, we managed to finish in the Top 5 leaving two foilers behind us (Initiatives-Cœur and Bureau Vallée 2).”
Is it still possible to think about buying a foiler from the last but one generation?
“If the opportunity arises and the sponsor agrees, I would not hesitate. I am a keen competitor and it would of course please me no end to be up there with the frontrunners.”
“I really have to get to know the Southern Ocean”
What are your goals as you prepare for the Route du Rhum?
“My first goal is to make it to Guadeloupe with a lot done to qualify for the Vendée Globe. A lot of sailors would like to compete in the 2020 race and there will only be thirty places. Finishing in the top half of the rankings would be a pleasing outcome. Now, we can more or less confirm that there are two types of IMOCA: the foilers and the ‘vintage’ boats. I will be doing my utmost to make sure there aren’t any boats with straight daggerboards ahead of me, apart from Paul Meilhat, who really stands head and shoulders above the rest, and I’d like to see a few foilers finish after me.”
Taking into account your retirement early on in the 2008 race, do you think you’ll feel like a rookie when you take part in the Vendée Globe?
“Yes. I don’t really feel that I have taken part in the Vendée Globe. I just lined up at the start. I was dismasted much too early on, so I didn’t see anything in this solo round the world voyage, apart from the pre-race atmosphere. I have already completed a lot of solo Atlantic crossings, but I have never sailed in the Southern Ocean. I don’t know that part of the world and I really need to discover what it’s like. The 2008 race stayed with me for a long time. I had made so many personal and financial sacrifices that I really believed dismasting was profoundly unjust. But I’ll be getting another chance in 2020…“