The boats keep on evolving and this is particularly so in the Imoca class. What are the main technical evolutions?“The technical evolutions are massive, whether they are from my first Vendée Globe till today or from the last edition to that which I'm currently preparing for. I'm obviously thinking about the equipment, which has enabled architects and skippers to plunge into the depths of power. My desire to get back to the helm of a monohull owes a lot to this ‘technological revolution'. It's always exciting to evolve with time and to participate in that. However, more so than on a technical level, in general it's the standard of preparation of both the boats and the men which have been transformed. In 1989, there were three of us preparing my boat whilst today, within the Gitana Team, there are around ten people who exercise all their savoir-faire and their experience so that Gitana Eighty is all set to go.”
How do you prepare physically for a single-handed circumnavigation of the globe lasting nearly 90 days?“The physical commitment has greatly evolved over the past few years and these new monohulls are a lot more demanding. For my part, I don't really do any physical preparation in view of the Vendée Globe. I believe a lot more in managing your ressources on the water: no needless movements and using the minimum of effort for the maximum effectiveness; that's more how I see things. And I think I've managed quite well with this philosophy for the time being.
I think that this notion of management is even more effective over a long period. Transatlantic crossings can prove to be a lot harder physically than a round the world. Indeed it is possible to manœuvre more often in a day on a transatlantic than during an entire week in a Vendée Globe. Once again though, Gitana Eighty was thought-up and designed with this in mind and the installation of the satellite as well as the big openings in the bulkheads ease the process of shifting movable ballast.”
The solitude of the single-handed sailor
How do you deal with solitude and being solitary?“Solitude is never a problem beforehand and it's always a relief afterwards. Solitude is not something I particularly seek, it's simply part and parcel of our sport with all the pros and cons that involves. On the other hand I love the notion of venturing into places which are virtually devoid of any civilisation.
As regards solo sailing, I've always liked that. When I expressed my desire not to race multihulls single-handed anymore a lot of people understood that to mean that I no longer wanted to sail single-handed at all. The chance that Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has given me to participate in the next Vendée Globe proves that quite the reverse is true.”
Living heeled over
Monohulls are boats which are heeled over to 20° for 90 % of the time: how do you adapt to what is such an unnatural position in normal everyday life?“The latest generation monohulls even have a tendency to heel more than their predecessors. I think it's important to anticipate the changes in the boat's trim and not fight against it; you have to use the energy in question and not struggle against it, because if you don't integrate this change, it can be a permanent source of fatigue. I also think that experience helps you to apprehend this parameter a lot better. The fitting out on the boat has also been designed to facilitate the task.”