Indeed, contrary to the Olympic Games, where the athletes are in the company of fellow athletes in the Olympic village, in the Vendée Globe, the spectators can approach the boat and the skippers every day. Chatting with them, getting autographs or a selfie and cheering on their favourite adventurer, is all part of the magic of this race and it is deeply rooted in their hearts. Each sailor reacts differently to these requests for their time. There are some who feed off this mingling with the crowds and those who try to strike a balance so as not to get caught up in it. Indeed, the skippers also have official briefings, reviews with their shore team, media demands, time with their partners and, of course, time with family, for which they are all keen to be available for. “It’s rather as if you’re coming up to a very important exam, which you’ve spent years preparing for and there are loads of people with you in the class,” explains Sébastien Josse, for whom this is not his first race start nor his first Vendée Globe, and who knows how to handle the situation. “We’re touched by the support from the public and all those in our entourage, but one also needs to understand the athletes’ need for calm prior to such an event.”
With time and perseverance one accomplishes one’s goals
Together with the members of Gitana Team, with whom he has been preparing the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild for months, Sébastien is also sharing the final exchanges. The days go by quickly in the run-up to Sunday 6 November, where the crew hoist the sails one last time with Sébastien before setting off. “This week, we’re going through the inventory again together. We’re also going through every system and remembering what’s said, one last time. After that, it will be over to me,” he continues. “I’m naturally moving around in this bubble, which involves concentration that builds with every new piece of information about the forecast for the start and the first days of racing. I’m going over my strategy and I need time for that. As with all the skippers, there is a considerable demand on our time in this final week so I wait for the end of the day to distance myself from the hustle and bustle of the pontoons and focus on my race. The race has coloured my sleep for several weeks already.”
And what are your thoughts on the big day?
The negotiation of the canal by the sailors and their boats, spurred on by hundreds of thousands of people dockside is an iconic image from the Vendée Globe. This wave of emotion deeply marks the sailors, who are carried along on their voyage by this jubilation. “The morning of the start, before going down to the boat, I’m already fully focused. At that point you mustn’t forget anything. After so much preparation and effort from the whole team, you have to be irreproachable. We’re not there to lounge about and we really can’t afford to make any mistakes,” says the skipper. “My personal and private life only concerns myself and my nearest and dearest. We say all that needs to be said beforehand. Then, we’re into the canal, and though the public is there, we can’t let yourself get overwhelmed as fifteen minutes later, we’re at sea, with hundreds of boats around us. Myself and the team are tasked with ensuring everything runs smoothly. It’s D-Day for us and we have to be on our game.”
For the public in Les Sables d’Olonne, you can find Sébastien Josse today at 16:30pm in the Gitana, entering into the legend exhibition for an autograph signing session for the book 140 years in the wake of the Rothschild family (La Martinière publications), on sale in bookshops and online from 20 October.
And tomorrow, Tuesday 1 November, at 14:00 GMT, Sébastien is invited onto the set of TV Vendée on the Conseil Général de la Vendée (Vendée county council) stand.
Sébastien Josse will be available to the press on Friday 4 November, from 09:00 to 10:00 GMT, for a Q&A session some 48 hours prior to the start in the Gitana, entering into the legend exhibition (at the top of the gangway leading to the main pontoon).