You were the first New Zealander to compete in the Vendée Globe in 2016: would you sign your return to Imoca today?
I never give up on the idea. Already when I was in the South Seas in 2016, I told myself I had to go back. I always told myself that the Vendée Globe in 2016 was not going to be a one-shot, and that preparation for this race was too short and that didn’t allow me to express myself as I would have loved against my competitors. Or at the level of renewable energies. 2016 was heart melting because it wasn’t cooked enough. In 2020, I missed the goal. I had rented a boat I was fixing and I had the team and covid put an end to this project. And there, I put the gloves on again to go back to the kitchen and cook the project better (laughs).
I fell in love with this boat which I find beautiful. I came to France in 2008 and the stars were in my eyes. It was the beginning of my story with France, marine racing and individual sailing. I was very impressed with this type of boat and thought it would be mine someday. And that’s it, it’s done. Shortly after what I would have liked, but I’m glad to have a nice boat under my feet and I hope to go up to the Vendée Globe. It is a good rule to go further and higher.
How did you buy it?
I had a lot of competition to get this boat because it’s a high performance boat, and it finished 10th in the last Vendée Globe thanks to a great Maxime race. It is the best left on the market. I moved very quickly. I did a show on the boat in December. It’s time to validate the loan with the bank… It took some time. We just left the construction site. We had a quick boat check out and we will be leaving tomorrow (Tuesday) in Lorient.
Did you change things on the plane?
We just fixed the boat because there are signs of wear after the Vendée Globe and the presto we put it in the water because it’s searching for miles and I don’t have time to do other than sailing as much as possible and participating in all the races this year.
Will you be participating in the Guaidar Bermuda 1000 in May?
Yes, yes definitely. There is no choice.
You don’t want a foil boat?
I would like to be a millionaire but I am not (laughs). But there was no more. There was still Stéphane Le Diraison, but things weren’t clear about what resources I wanted to allocate to the boat. She preferred this former boat “V&B” to the frustration boat of Stéphane Le Diraison. We have seen clearly in the last Vendée Globe, even if it is a special case of this version, that a boat with the correct, well-refined stilettos and well-running can always break through the middle of the fleet and these are my ambitions.
Indeed, what are your goals for this Imoca project?
I am glad there are good opportunities to fight with other good dagger boats such as the former Banque Populaire (now in the hands of Benjamin Ferret), and the former Groupe Apicil (in the hands of Tanguy Le Turquais / Clarisse Crémer). I look forward to the opportunity to display my characters at the helm of this boat. And to advocate for renewable energy, which will be the main focus of my project.
Do you now have to balance your budget?
I’ll be in the oven and the grinder. I feel like I’m planting a seed. You must be able to find partners, manage a project from a technical and logistical point of view, and be an athlete. There are these three main themes that I focus on at the moment. I have very promising discussions going on otherwise I wouldn’t have risked getting such a huge loan to buy the boat. This loan allows me to breathe a little and show that I am a serious candidate for sponsors. Compared to my last Vendée Globe and my last rom (2010’s Class40), I’m happy to have started three World Racing rounds, completed all three and won one race (Ocean Global Race in 2012). It shows my potential.
There is a Rhum road before the Vendée Globe, would it also be a great race?
It’s a race that every sailor wants to run on their own. The course is great. It’s not a tough course like the Vendée Globe, it’s not a fight. It’s a more subtle race: you have to be careful about the tracks you’ll make on the water, and be careful at all times to take advantage of a small advantage thanks to the cloud. The last time I sailed solo was in Figaro in 2019. I became a solo sailor, and now it’s part of my identity. I feel good about this new project.
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