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Transat Jacques Vabre: Rookie Portraits

Photo credit: JM Liot / DPPI
Photo credit: JM Liot / DPPI

Part 2: Going for experience.


At the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre, the nineteen IMOCA rookies have opted for different tactics. As we’ve seen, some of them paired up with other IMOCA newcomers. So why did some of them choose to join forces with a veteran?


Banque Populaire VIII:  The choice of skill


“If you want to win, you’ve got to have the right means,” says Armel le Cleac’h about his choice of Erwan Tabarly as a teammate. “I was looking for a sailor with a similar way of working to me but who could look at my sailing and the boat with a fresh eye.” The two men have a great respect for each other and share similar race-preparation methods. Physical and mental health is high on their list of priorities, and both approach the challenges of ocean racing with a cool head. “I think Armel was particularly interested in my multihull experience. With the advent of foils aboard the IMOCA60 boats, he wants to learn from my observations and feelings about them. And we still have a long way to go before fully mastering the foils.”


Bureau Vallée: Skill and camaraderie


Louis Burton had two things in mind when he went looking for a co-skipper: “I wanted someone with a different profile to me – I’m a bit of an adventurer in ocean racing – but we needed to share some common ground. Romain Attanasio and I have lots common: about the same age, both married to sailors, and we have similar interests.” Romain’s vital skills aboard Bureau Vallée will be his Figaro experience, his close-contact racing, and his strategy tactics. In return, he’ll learn what it is to race on an IMOCA60 and how to tame these complex machines. “This is a whole new world for me, and I’m loving it! Louis knows his monohull inside-out, it is an amazing way to learn.”


Le Bateau des Métiers by Aerocampus: friendship first


Arnaud Boissières and Stan Maslard are true buddies. Neighbours in Les Sables d’Olonne, their passion for the ocean stems from the Mini circuit where they shared pleasure as well as pain. “Stan and I know each other like brothers. We’ve been sailing together for a while and he’s a member of the technical team. Although this is his first IMOCA race, he was the obvious choice. He knows what we’re talking about, he knows the ocean and he knows the boat, so everything’s great.”

As for Stan Maslard: “We did not even ask the question. It is a project we are pushing forward together. Arnaud will set off on the Vendée Globe, but my role is to help him so that he can start the race in the best conditions. He is the boss, but we work in tandem.”


Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir:  Division of labour


Charlie Dalin was the obvious choice for Yann Eliès. “He’s an excellent sailor and much more proficient in computer skills than I. His routing tactics are amazing which will be a huge advantage in the Transat Jacques Vabre.” Yann knew what he could expect from him, “and I prefer this rather than setting off with a teammate where there’s no established hierarchy. Otherwise when you need to make a choice and you don’t agree, you’re stuck in constant compromise. Which can lose you the race! I have an intuitive way of working and I need to know that I can use that skill.” Aboard Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir, the roles are clear. There is a boss and a first mate and Charlie is happy with that. “I know how lucky I am to set off with Yann, and what’s more on an IMOCA60! This role distribution suits me perfectly and allows me greater freedom on the navigation side. I will give all the data analysis to Yann and he’ll make a choice, even if I know that we’ll agree most of the time.”

Looking at the first few days of racing, looks like a pretty smart model...


SMA: training on the go


Things couldn’t be clearer between between Michel Desjoyeaux and Paul Meilhat from Brest. Paul has 2 years to prepare for the Vendée Globe, a massive step from the Figaro circuit – where he excelled – and the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship. Getting up close to Michel Desjoyeaux’s experience was one way to make the giant leap. “Michel’s skills are undisputable. I would never have got so far had I not gained from his advice and sailed with him for days during the pre-season training sessions and races. The real test for me will be the St Barth-Port la Forêt transatlantic race since I’ll be on my own for the first time”. Sitting next to him, Michel Desjoyeaux laughs and adds: “Sometimes I wonder if he has not learnt too fast. More and more often I seem to be the one making mistakes and Paul corrects me. But that’s a good sign.”

There will be no established hierarchy aboard SMA, they’ll take turns. “We’re going to carry on the way we have since the beginning of the season, communicating a lot and taking decisions together. Together we’re smarter than alone - let’s not change a winning recipe!”


Spirit of Hungary: speaking clearly


“It was Nandor who chose me rather than the other way around. We’re both Hungarian and he wanted to be able to speak his language. It was a great opportunity for me to learn and help him. But truly, he’s the boss.” For Peter Perényi, the Transat Jacques Vabre is a real baptism of fire. Without any real ocean experience, his role is to help Nandor Fa get ready for his Vendée Globe quest. This mix may be more coherent than you think: a sailor doing everything he can to prepare for his solo round the world race, standing alongside a novice who has been given the chance to learn more than he ever dreamed of.


St-Michel / Virbac: The choice of continuity


“Fabien Delahaye has perhaps never raced in the Transat Jacques Vabre on an IMOCA60, but I had no doubt that I was setting off with him. He’s been involved in the project for months now and his role is to improve performance. I couldn’t see it any other way.” Jean-Pierre Dick’s preparation for the Vendée Globe required a fresh look, from a skipper with different experience. “Calling on the new generation is also a way to challenge our routine. Let’s make the most of it.”

Fabien Delahaye – winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Class 40 – can’t believe his luck. “We really are in the best category ever. There is a giant leap between the two classes. These are highly-sophisticated machines.” Fabien is in awe of Jean-Pierre’s amazing track of records (3-time winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre and twice winner of the Barcelona World Race).

“Not only is he incredibly experienced, but he’s amazingly easy-going on board. We chat a lot, and I can express my opinions.” Things are looking good!

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