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The Mediterranean, the other playground for IMOCA skippers

@Gilles Martin Raget
@Gilles Martin Raget

Far from the busy pontoons of Brittany, several skippers belonging to the IMOCA class are preparing in the Mediterranean. These include Kito de Pavant, Sébastien Destremau and Boris Herrmann (respectively 4th and fifth in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre). Other sailors from the South of France intend to set up projects, such as Alexia Barrier and some Spaniards, who are dreaming of the 2018 Route du Rhum, the 2019 Barcelona World Race and the 2020 Vendée Globe… These skippers and others will be getting together next week for the IMOCA AGM, where the topic will be the main features for 2018.

 

At the start of the eighth Vendée Globe, just a year ago, there were three skippers, who had prepared in the Mediterranean: Kito de Pavant, Sébastien Destremau and Didac Costa. Kito was forced to retire in the Indian Ocean, while Didac and Sébastien managed to complete the course respectively finishing in fourteenth and eighteenth place. There was also Jean-Pierre Dick (4th), whose project was based in Lorient, but he originates from Nice.  Two of them, who recently took part in the Transat Jacques, obtained an excellent result. Along with Yann Eliès, Jean-Pierre Dick won the race, while Kito de Pavant and his partner, Yannick Bestaven took a fine fifth place aboard an IMOCA launched in 2006 (Bastide Otio).

 

 

Training in the Mediterranean has its advantages and disadvantages

Based for many years now in the South of France, Kito de Pavant is well placed to tell us about what it is like to train in the Mediterranean. “We’re lucky to get some good conditions with plenty of wind, probably more than in the Atlantic, contrary to what people might think,” he said. “The weather is very varied, with powerful conditions with the Mistral wind blowing once a week. And it is very practical to enter and leave the harbour when you want, without having to worry about the tide and harbour gates. The major drawback is that we don’t get to see how we match up against our rivals. We are world champion in Aigues Mortes Bay with Bastide Otio. Whatever training we do, we don’t see much competition. Having said that, our frriends are welcome to come down from Brittany. They can come and train here when they want.” A message that is loud and clear…

 

The importance of being organised

In 2003, Kito gave a boost to the creation of the Mediterranean Training Centre (the CEM), which prepares and trains professional ocean racers in la Grande-Motte. The CEM has grown rapidly in importance. Sébastien Destremau also understood that it was vital to be well organised and to be able to compete. He is behind another ocean racing preparation centre in Toulon. “We were inspired by the CEM, but also by what we see in Brittany with the Finistère Centre, where the cream of French sailing has been based now for 25 years. There are some excellent facilities now available in the waters off Toulon. This ocean racing preparation centre aims to bring together all the individual initiatives developing in Toulon, by pooling resources and partners.”

In any case, Mediterranean projects are being set up, as sailors look forward to the 2018 Route du Rhum, the 2019 Barcelona World Race and the 2020 Vendée Globe. With the backing of the Monaco Yacht Club, the German sailor, Boris Herrmann has based his foiler project in the Principality (Sébastien Josse’s former Edmond de Rothschild). He too took part in the Transat Jacques Vabre, with Thomas Ruyant on the foiler Malizia II. The two ended up just missing out on the podium, an excellent result for their first major race together aboard an IMOCA.

 A member of the CEM, Alexia Barrier has said that her project for the 2020 Vendée Globe is now well advanced. There are also some Spaniards getting ready to compete in the next big events in the IMOCA circuit. We are thinking in particular of Alex Pella, joint holder of the Jules Verne Trophy, who certainly has a lot going for him…

 

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