Many of the Vendée Globe candidates have competed in at least one leg of The Ocean Race. Aboard these IMOCA boats, which they are so used to manoeuvring single-handed, they talk about their experience as team-mates. What links them together, in a spirit of brotherhood, even if they will be rivals in twenty months time, during the next Vendée Globe.
Kevin Escoffier (Holcim-PRB) with Sam Goodchild (For the Planet), Paul Meilhat (Biotherm) with Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) and Damien Seguin (Groupe APICIL), Justine Mettraux (crew on 11th Hour Racing Team), Benjamin Dutreux (Guyot Environnement - Team Europe), Boris Hermann (Team Malizia)... There is a Vendée Globe feel in The Ocean Race, this round the world race with stopovers, which is being contested for the first time in IMOCA. Since the start in Alicante last January, three legs have already taken place. The fleet - made up of five boats - left Itajai in Brazil on Sunday to head to Newport for the fourth leg.
"no one calculated anything"
This desire to sail the miles without counting the miles, to face the oceans, including the dreaded southern seas, is what has motivated a number of IMOCA skippers to take part in stages. And this, even if the team-mates of the moment will soon be competitors in other races, including the one that represents the major objective that links them all: the Vendée Globe in less than twenty months. "When Paul asked me to accompany him on the southern leg, I didn't really think about what would happen next," confided Sam Davies. I just wanted to give it my all, to do everything I could to fulfil my mission as a crew member and contribute to the success of the boat. Damien Seguin agrees: "No one was on the fence, no one calculated anything. These boats are so complex that we had to share everything. These boats are so complex that we had to be in a total sharing mood."
© Julien Champolion / PolaRYSE / HOLCIM - PRB
Sam Goodchild has had what he calls his "baptism of fire in IMOCA" on Holcim-PRB. I couldn't have wished for a better preparation before the launch of my boat," explains the British sailor."Of course, it allows you to acquire a lot for the future, but I wasn't fighting for the future but to do everything I could to help Kevin. For me, it's a question of respect for him and the trust he places in me." Personally, I knew that Sam was going to be extremely motivated to join me and that mattered when I asked him to join me. The skipper of Holcim-PRB added: "When you're on the water, when you're fighting to be the fastest, you're not thinking about future competition. We only think about the present, about how best we can get along."
Sharing is part of our culture
This bond that unites them goes beyond the context of this crewed race. Sam Davies says: "In the end, we are more often together than against each other. We regularly train with other skippers. We know that we learn a lot more from each other. It allows everyone to progress and increase the overall level." Paul Meilhat also recalls "the habit of sailing together in double-handed events like the Transat Jacques Vabre". "Sharing and exchanging ideas on a permanent basis is part of our culture", says the skipper of Biotherm, which leads Damien Seguin to add: "it's linked to the history of our sport".
For Kevin Escoffier, this state of mind is one of the reasons that explains the attraction of the discipline: "When you spend 35 days at sea, when you have to face so many difficulties to overcome, it is the human adventure that predominates. The taste for effort, for surpassing oneself, is what brings us together and is important to us. Their paths now differ, between those who will continue The Ocean Race with new crew members, and those who have found their team and their project back in Brittany. Sam Davies has relaunched Initiatives-Coeur, Sam Goodchild has done the same with For the Planet, while Damien Seguin's boat Groupe APICIL is still being refitted (including a new bow). An adventure is coming to an end for them, but the examples of solidarity that unite them are as many as ever. The proof? Sam Davies is taking Damien Seguin on board for the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race which will start on Sunday 7th May in Brest.