Last night, the great and the good of the world of Open 60 sailing were hanging out around the Port d’Olona, at the boutique fishing port, in the Vendee region of France. In true British style, team Gamesa and I rocked up at the party ten minutes after the invitations set time of 7pm, only to discover in true French style, they were still loading on the glasses! Of course, an invitation stating the party starts at 7pm means you don’t arrive until 9pm at the earliest – bien sur!
© Clare Macnaughton
So we ambled over to the bar ‘The Bounty’ for a few cheeky ‘Despies’, which is slang for Desparado – a beer with tequila – the beer of choice, synonymous with the Vendée Globe, to get the party started. Hanging out in The Bounty were Vendée Globe skippers, Arnaud Boisseres of Akena Verandas, and also, Armel Le Cléac'h, skipper of Banque Populaire. It would seem there is a new vogue in sunglasses amongst some of the skippers, and despite the dark, wet, inclement evening Armel was sporting on his head some sunglasses with thick, white rims, more akin to the style of La Croisette of Parisian ski resort, Courcheval 1850 in the 80’s. Sam Davies has been seen promenading the pontoons in a similar style.© unknown
At a more suitable time we mosied on over to the schooner, Etoile de France, to find the party bursting at the gunwhales. The glowing Bernard Stamm was in great spirits, and his sponsor, Cheminées Poujoulat were fantastic hosts, with wine, beer, oysters, cheeses, hams, breads and pickles, followed by a fabulous selection of delicious sweet patisserie petit-fours for the hungry crowd to savour.
The race skippers came out in force, including sailing legend, and double Vendée Globe winner, Michel Desjoyeaux. I managed to grab a few words with him. He was talking to a member of Team Acciona. He said ‘this man asked me to build a boat for him so he could win the Vendée Globe but I have said I can’t build you a boat only you can build a boat for you.’ He was so cerebral it was like talking to Yoda. He explained to me that the relationship between the skipper and the boat is the most important relationship. A skipper must know his boat. He said he never sails his boats at 100% and so maybe that is the secret. Knowing when to push but not too hard and knowing when to hold back so the boat stays intact. We both agreed that Vendée Globe is impossible to predict because it’s both a combination of skill and luck. Who knows what the course with throw at the skippers over the next few months? Indeed, even the most experienced seafarer cannot predict the weather.© Clare Macnaughton
As the evening continued Vendée Globe skipper, Sam Davies made a appearance, Mike Golding was there, Kito de Pavant popped up as well and I resisted the urge to ask him questions about his favourite cheese and how much Laughing Cow cheese he will be taking onboard. The party continued well into the night and of course, the advantage of pleasing the sailing community is that they are never deterred by the rain, and so, despite the drizzle, a great night was had by all. Thank you Cheminées Poujoulat - you certainly know how to throw a party.