After gaining a wealth of experience racing on a Figaro, Sébastien Simon, aged 27, has moved to the IMOCA circuit with a dream project. In 2020, he will line up at the start of the Vendée Globe aboard a brand new 60-foot boat, Arkea-Paprec, designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian and built by CDK Technologies. Work will begin in September with her launch scheduled for the spring of 2019. Moreover, Sébastien will be able to take advantage of all the expertise acquired by Vincent Riou, who is taking on the role of technical director. We met up with the young skipper, whose future is certainly looking bright…
Sébastien, could you have imagined things working out like this a few months ago?
“With great difficulty. What has happened is simply incredible and I could not have hoped for anything better. Lady luck has certainly shone on me. I have always dreamed of the Vendée Globe. I wanted to take part in this race with a project that would get me a good result, but for a long time, that was something that I could only imagine. In 2015, I won a leg in the Solitaire du Figaro and I could feel that I was getting somewhere. I talked things over with Vincent Riou and we got on well together. We said to each other that if I managed to find some partners, he would help me run the project and take care of the technical aspects. And that is what happened. So, I’ll be doing my first Vendée Globe with a brand new boat, a solid team and two great partners, Arkea and Paprec. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m going to make the most of it and grab this opportunity to gain some more experience. I won’t just be at the helm, but also fully involved in the project.”
Why did you choose Juan Kouyoumdjian as the designer of your future IMOCA?
“With Vincent Riou, we met the VPLP team, Guillaume Verdier and Juan Kouyoumdjian. We set out a number of criteria, and it soon became clear that we should go with Juan. He’s someone that is extremely friendly and that is vital for me. He is brilliant, pays careful attention to every little detail, and never leaves anything to chance. He showed he was fully motivated about getting involved with us and ready to join in with us on everything. He won’t just be dealing with the design of the boat. He will be involved in her development until 2020, which is not very common for a designer. But there is as much to gain in the development phase as in the design itself.”
Finishing high up in the Vendée Globe rankings
Can you tell us at this point what the main ideas will be about the boat?
“It is still too early to talk about it for the moment, as it is still very much in the early stages of the design. We are currently in the research phase and checking out the various shapes. The IMOCAs from the last but one generation were very much hybrids, while my boat will be based around the foils. In the end, the limiting factor will be the man, rather than the machine. We may have to put our foot on the brake and come up with something simpler and more reliable. In any case, all of this design and construction phase interests me as much as the Vendée Globe race itself. One thing can’t happen without the other.”
What experience have you had of IMOCAs?
“I sailed with Vincent Riou during his preparation for the 2016 Vendée Globe, during the training sessions at the Finistère Offshore Racing Centre. IMOCAs aren’t like other types of boat. They are powerful and you become addicted. I am going to continue to sail on Vincent’s boat in the coming months. I have a lot to learn and I’m going to be able to count on Vincent’s experience, which strengthens my project and raises my ambitions. It is an honour to have him as technical director and coach until 2020.”
What will be your programme between now and the 2020 Vendée Globe?
“Work will begin on the boat in September at the CDK yard. She is due to be launched in the spring of 2019, or in other words eighteen months before the start of the Vendée Globe. The timing is looking good. We have set up a race programme that we will announce shortly.”
What sort of result are you aiming for in your first round the world voyage?
“I hope to finish high up in the rankings, among the favourites. But I’m keeping my feet firmly on the ground and remain humble…”