The latest big project that Arnaud Boissières is developing involves a new IMOCA campaign leading up to his fourth attempt at the Vendée Globe in 2020. After completing the handover of his previous boat to Manuel Cousin in the Transat Jacques Vabre (11th), Arnaud will soon be getting his hands on a new one, Mike Golding’s former Ecover. Michel Desjoyeaux’s Mer Agitée team has been entrusted with fitting foils and is set to carry out some other major structural modifications. This should give a boost to the performance capabilities of the 2007 Owen-Clarke designed boat. We met up with her new skipper to find out more.
Arnaud, how do you feel about the outcome of the Transat Jacques Vabre you raced with Manuel Cousin, who is now the new owner of your old boat?
“Great! The main goal was to ensure that everything went smoothly between us and also technically. It’s mission accomplished on that score, as we completed the course. We remained cautious in this race, maybe a bit too cautious at times. My only regret is that we weren’t able to hang on for longer with La Fabrique and Vivo a Beira. But we had a nice fight with Fabrice (Amedeo, sailing with Giancarlo Pedote, editor’s note). Everything went smoothly in the handover with Manuel Cousin. Manu is a skilled amateur, who is becoming a pro. He needed my help to get to grips more quickly with the boat. I am attached to this Farr designed boat and would like to see her continue to have a good life and that is certainly going to be the case with Manu and his team. They are in love with this IMOCA and will take good care of her. She will be moored up on the same pontoon in Les Sables d’Olonne as my new boat and our workshops are side by side. So there will be two great IMOCA projects in Les Sables, which is very exciting.”
Why did you decide to get rid of your Farr design to acquire Mike Golding’s former Ecover, an IMOCA which dates back to the same generation?
“It was a question of weight and keel. The Owen Clarke designs are more tolerant and can be modified more easily to be equipped with foils and therefore to enhance their performance. On top of that, setting off on a different boat means I’ll have a different story to tell. Looking for performance on an old boat is an intellectually stimulating project from a technical perspective.”
“A boat that can perform as well as the former Maître CoQ”
A major refit is being carried out at the Mer Agitée premises in Port-la-Forêt, and fitting foils is not the only improvement being made to her…
“That’s true. The foils are the most visible change. But we’re also fitting a mast with outriggers, moving back the foot of the mast by three feet, equipping her with kick-up rudders. We’re also working on the ballast tanks cutting them from ten to four… We want to launch a boat that has been customised and can perform as well as the former Maître CoQ (aboard which Jérémie Beyou finished third in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe – editor’s note) which has now become Initiatives-Cœur. She is a reference for us, as so far, she is the only boat from a previous generation to have been fitted with foils.”
When do you plan to get her back in the water?
“Work began early in July and the boat is due to come out of the Mer Agitée yard in mid-January. Most of the work will then have been done. The structural work wil have been completed, but there will be a lot of stuff to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne: deck hardware, hydraulics, electronics, decoration. The real relaunch is scheduled for mid-March. The aim is to get back out there sailing quickly, as it is going to take a lot of time to get used to her and carry out technical trials. That is even more so because adjusting the rake of the new foils is allowed when sailing (the angle of incidence from front to back and vice versa – editor’s note).”
“Going from the Route du Rhum straight to the Barcelona World Race”
How will you be preparing for the major race of the 2018 season, the Route du Rhum?
“The first date on the calendar will be the Guyader Grand Prix in Douarnenez. Then, there will probably be a solo race to deliver the boat between Douarnenez and Cascais (Portugal), as a qualifier for the Route du Rhum. The Rhum is a legendary race, an event we could not miss and around twenty IMOCAs are expected to line up. For my first transatlantic race with this new boat, it is going to be a huge challenge and I’ll really want to do well. So that adds quite a lot of pressure.”
Do you intend to compete in the Barcelona World Race, the double-handed round the world race, which starts on 12th January 2019?
“Yes, I’ll be going straight from the Route du Rhum to the Barcelona World Race. It’s going to be a busy schedule, but I want to prepare for the 2020 Vendée Globe as best I can. This double-handed round the world race is an interesting formula, as it enables you to sail around the world more safely. For the second leg between Sydney and Barcelona I’ll be bringing Etienne Carra aboard. I haven’t yet chosen my crewman for the first leg.”
The boat will be fine tuned and you should be well prepared… Are you looking forward to taking part in the 2020 Vendée Globe with a project that should see you get a better result?
“Yes. Everything is in place for me to make progress. If I have any regrets about the 2015-2017 cycle, it is that I didn’t have the financial means to make the most of my IMOCA. I wanted to set off again for a fourth Vendée Globe in 2020, but aboard a different boat fitted with the latest technology. In 2012-2013, Mike Golding completed the Vendée Globe in 88 days. In 2020, aboard this very same IMOCA, which will then have been updated, I should be able to do better than that.”