I had a nightmare during the last night – I saw this big wall of a fishing trawler with the sail stuck in it and my boat not moving, but then a shroud broke and we got free. After that most of the negative thoughts went away… The finish is a relief – it’s the fact of seeing the RIBs come out of the fog and then they get closer and you see all these people with masks, then get close enough to see their eyes. It’s a special moment.
We told ourselves four years ago that we wanted to do the Vendée Globe and finish the race. It was the first one for me and the first with a German skipper, although with a team half from Monaco, was it was very important to finish. So there is this contradiction between pushing hard and taking care not to break the boat and to keep it in good condition. I was pleased not to have to started as a favourite because then you have pressure to push hard all the way.
In this edition of the Vendée Globe the line-up of men and women was really exceptional and it’s a real privilege to do the race with them.
Do you regret taking the 17kg of scientific equipment and will the experiments you carried out be useful?
I really like to talk about the scientific lab we have on board. The machine ran until the end and the data we collected was almost as good as the normal for InfoMer. The database we brought back will justify the effort we made to do the race. There are ships with 30 people on board that go to sea to collect this type of data – and we get it just by passing by.
It was also important for me mentally. Before the start I had a coffee with Sam Davies in Lorient and we discussed what we would each do if we had to pull out of the race. For both of us we had our causes as reasons to continue hors course – she has the heart charity, and I have this scientific programme and the educational side. Both are good reasons to keep going.
We realised there’s more that we can do with this race than sport for us and for our egos. We created an educational programme with more than 10,000 children following the boat in 8 languages. Our vision is to deliver the message about global warming and the changes that are needed.
I have been dreaming of this for more than 20 years – it was a childhood dream and it’s very beautiful to fulfil it. You do it by finding friends and making a team – the whole voyage you go through to achieve it is amazing. It’s not a small thing to finish the Vendée Globe – during these 80 days I realised it’s more difficult than I expected.
When we were searching for Kevin I felt helpless. Of course I wanted to help as much as possible, but I couldn’t do much – the night was dark with four metres of swell. You look left and right searching, but you’re always worried that you are not looking in the right direction. I worried we would not find him. I worried about how he was – was he ok? Wet? Cold?
I met him here earlier today – it was a very special moment.
Jean Le Cam did a great thing in the search. He realised he got so tired he had to sleep, and was much more effective afterwards.
I always navigate on the basis I don’t want to break anything, so it was always easy to hold back. But then you have to balance that with where you want to finish. I think it’s logical – to look at your boat, your mast and sails, and think of how much risk you are taking to get each extra mile ahead.
When the boat surfs in a way you had not planned it’s not good. You have to adjust the angle of the foil for the speed you expect, but if you accelerate too much there is more load on the foil, on the boat and on the rig.
Yesterday I was sailing at 32 knots at times, but it was smoother conditions with the foils set up for a steady speed, so there were no worries about overloading the boat.
I am not a solitary person, so I missed having people you could see and talk to – that was hard. The Vendee Globe is a human adventure, not a race to please yourself.
One thing that helped me day by day was to call with old friends that I have not seen for a long time. The people you don’t call in your daily routine stress. During the race I called many of them and had many good, deep conversations with old friends. "