After one month of intensive training at the Grande Motte Training Centre, Domaine du Mont d'Arbois returned to its home port of Trinité-sur-Mer at the start of March. The vessel already boasts a fine track record, as last year, she won the Solo Med and the Transat AG 2R with Kito de Pavant at the helm.
Even if “the sensations on board a Figaro are nothing like those experienced on a 60' multihull”, the skipper is totally happy with this change in career direction. Supported by the boat's owner, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, he is benefiting from the full technical and logistical support of the Gitana Team, which has been run by Loïck Peyron since April 2006 and amounts to “a considerable plus point” in the management of a project of this type. In 2007, Thierry will be assisted by Hugo de Pavant, Kito's son, who will take care of the technical preparation of his boat throughout the season.
And his objectives ? “In terms of targets, I've no choice but to show a degree of humility in view of the quality and experience of my opponents. It's my first Figaro race, so I think it would be an excellent performance to finish in the first half!”
On the course. “I'm happy to be starting the season off with a transatlantic, especially one between Brittany and the Antilles … It's a sporting surface I'm familiar with, even if I haven't yet fully mastered the boat! There are no set race marks, so it really is tactics and strategy that will be the main assets.”
On 3 weeks of solo sailing. “Yes, I know it's long! It's not comparable with Lionel's 7 days in the Rhum, it's another pace altogether. On a Figaro, it's less about risk management; you get shaken about but you're calmer on board, especially solo, as the boat's much more tolerant than a multihull, which is unforgiving of the slightest deviation from the route! I'm certainly going to have my work cut out as it's my first crossing in a Figaro. Consequently, I won't have time to get bored, as I'll be discovering things all the time. Mind you, I'll definitely be very happy to finish!”
On Domaine du Mont d'Arbois . “The Figaro really is a great boat. What's more, the fact that it's a monotype allows me to concentrate on the tactical and strategic side, which I didn't necessarily work on that much on multihulls because, in a crew, there's always a specific person for that role. It's the skill of the skipper that makes the difference, as all the boats are identical. It's a fascinating discipline, and I'll initially be satisfied if I can successfully complete a few rapid manoeuvres without any mishaps…”
On the first 24 hours of the race . “The forecasts point to a calm day. It looks as though we'll have a gentle introduction courtesy of a fairly weak north to north-easterly wind of around 8 to 12 knots. There's an area of low pressure to the west of Portugal which will generate a weak to moderate north-easterly flow in the Gulf of Gascony. The tendency would be to head for the south of the Azores (5 to 6 days), in contrast to the orthodromic route which passes more to the North and seems more complicated at the moment. It's an ideal start for me, downwind but with a gentle breeze, as it should give me time to get settled in! In fact, I was dreading a start running before a strong wind, as it would have been harder for me to leave the helm under such conditions!”