Louis Burton : "A mythical race"
Louis Burton, how did you manage to be at the start of the Vendée Globe at only 27?
To me, the 2010 Route du Rhum was a key moment, it changed everything. I had always wanted to compete in sports but what I had in mind was car racing. I did go-kart trials at the age of 12 and I was chosen to join a team and a raining structure in Toulouse. But my parents weren’t really happy about all that, they asked me to continue with my studies. Racing became a hobby and I was sailing a lot too. At the age of 18, I bought a yacht and started competing in regattas. In 2009, I bought a bigger one, one I could sail farther on and I started enjoying it so much. I decided to try to participate in the 2010 Route du Rhum.
What did your parents think about it all?
Unlike their reaction to car racing, it was too late for them to tell me what to do, I was over 18. I started doing things and then I told them about it. They both helped me a lot, they’re really behind me. Of course my mother is quite nervous about all this , and she doesn’t try to hide it, unlike my father, who is nervous too but doesn’t show it as much.
Where does your passion for sailing come from?
I think it comes from how attached I am to the sea and to sailing because of my father, but it also comes from my taste for adventure.
« I wanted to compete in the Vendée Globe when I was a kid »
What is a skipper’s daily life like?
You’d be surprised at how much multitasking is involved. You need to know how to do so many things. Depending on the period of the year, it can be quiet or very busy but you always have to be ready to deal with things that may look less important but still really matter. As an example, on the day of the Vendée Globe Press Conference (editor’s note: on September 6 in Paris), i had my first interviews with journalists from 8.30AM to 1.15PM, and then some more media operation. I took a cab to Orly Airport because I had a flight to Nice at 2.10PM for one of my partners’ operations there. I left at 6PM, drove to the Nice Airport and flew back to Paris because I was a guest of a TV show until midnight. That shows how busy it can be sometimes. My main partner is Bureau Vallée but I have other parters like Bic, Fellowes, or Exacompta Clairefontaine and I’m very close to them. Our relationship is time-consumig but it is so satisfying, personally and for the team. And don’t forget I also have to train pysically, sail and do technical work on the boat.
You’ve become a father recently, what is going to be the impact of the Vendée Globe on your family life?
That’s precisely why I’m trying to spend as much time as possible with my girlfriend and my son. Wherever I go, I try to go with them and when I’m in Paris, I try to see all my friends.
It must be great to share your passion with your girlfriend (editor’s note: Servane Escoffier)?
Yes, it’s amazing, especially since she is much more experienced than me so she helped me save a lot of time on many different things. And because she is very involved in the project, we share even more things.
Have you ever wanted to participate in the Vendée Globe?
As a kid, I wanted my father to do it (he laughs). As far as I’m concerned, my ambition to e part of the race started in December 2011!
What makes the Vendée Globe different from other races?
It’s a mythical race, everybody is aware of that, sailing around the world is something extraordinary. In an entire lifetime, you don’t have time to visit all the countries there are in the world and 95% of the world’s population never leaves their native continent. This is an adventure that appeals to 6-year-olds as well as older people because there is one skipper alone on his powerful boat for three months, facing incredibly tough and dangerous elements, huge storms. That’s part of the myth too.
« I was lucky enough to spend some time with Marc Guillemot »
Have you talked to other skippers, did you receive advice from them?
Skippers tend to keep a low profile but I was lucky enough to spend some time with Marc Guillemot. We had a technical talk about Bureau Vallée and we talked about me too, he shared his vision and his experience with me. He has a unique experience and vision he accepted to share with me. I definitely look up to him, even though he will be against me in this race. He sees me as the new kid on the block in the world of sailing, which probably needs some new blood so he has been very nice to me.
What is your goal?
Obviously I want to finish the race but it is everybody’s goal. Some are here to win but Bureau Vallée is not pressuring me with objectives, neither are my other sponsors. This race is like a rite of passage for my partners and for myself. I hope I can sail as well as possible, make the right choices and stay close to the rest of the fleet.
Are you already thinking about 2016?
Yes, we are. We don’t have a plan or a project yet because it’s in a long time and first, we need to complete this adventure and see what the outcome is. I hope it will be very positive for Bureau Vallée and for me.
What do you fear the most in this Vendée Globe?
Technical issues or something breaking that would force me to stop.
Three months alone at sea is a long time, how will you deal with loneliness?
If I’m competitive in terms of performance things should go well, I’ll be focused on my race. But if I’m behind, motivation will be harder to find and days will probably go very slowly.