© Vincent Curutchet / DPPIJean-Pierre, can you tell us about your background?
I was born in Nice in 1965. I am 47 years old. I wasn’t necessarily meant to become a professional sailor. I first studied veterinary science then I did an MBA from the HEC business school in Paris. I worked for five years in a pharmaceutical and veterinary company. Meanwhile, I was also involved in sailing, as it is my passion. My first great international regatta was the Admiral’s Cup in 1987. From then on, I raced almost every year. I didn’t start offshore racing before 2002, when I decided to go for the Vendée Globe. My first Vendée was in 2004.
What were your first steps in the sailing world like?
I did a lot of regattas and I did pretty well. I won the Spi Ouest France race several times (editor’s note: 89, 92, 95, 2001 and 2002) and competed in the World Championship. I was the J24 European vice-champion and won the 2001 Tour de France à la voile. That sparked my desire to go further with my former sponsors and I managed to convince them to launch a Vendée Globe project with me. I’ve dreamed about it as it represents freedom, adventure and sport. The Vendée Globe is a great moment with nature. Thanks to this, it has become my job since 2002.
How did you enjoy the first two Vendée Globe?
There were both great moments; even if the second one has ended in a frustrating way with my giving up. The first one was a very difficult race, especially the first fifteen days because I was really tired. I took confidence from my work even though I broke many things. I finished sixth and it was a great adventure. During the 2008 edition, I had a nice first part, but then I broke one of my rudder after a collision. I tried to repair it but I had to abandon. At that point I was very frustrated and I really wanted to go for the 2012 edition.
Do you have any fears for this Vendée Globe?
Yes, I fear not doing it properly, that I make some mistakes, that I have to abandon... It’s quite a strong fear. I have even more pressure now I said it would be my last Vendée Globe. Then there is the race. The beginning will be difficult. Then there is the Indian Ocean, maybe the Pacific and of course the Cape Horn.
“I took confidence from my work even though I broke many things.”
© V.Curutchet/Dark Frame/ Virbac-Paprec Sailing TeamWhat is your best memory from the sea?
When I was 10, I did my first offshore cruise with my dad. We were going to Corsica. I woke up in the morning in Calvi and my passion for sea was born. I had a powerful brainwave that day! My passion remains the same. I’ve lived wonderful things during my races, despite all the difficulties, the cold...Every time it’s a pleasure to be back.
As you studied to be a vet, did you enjoy your meetings with the seas wildlife?
Yes, I even have my favourite animals. The most exceptional is the whale. The blue whale, the humpback whale, the killer whale. They are majestic, powerful. When you meet them it’s very intense.
Did you especially work on your sleep patterns with some specialists?
Yes. I’ve been working with them for ten years and they helped to understand the whole process.
“The lonesome skipper, like Tabarly, has changed”
How are you going to stay in contact with your family?
Generally I make one phone call a day, even one every two days. Sometimes we spend a whole day without any contact.
© Vincent Curutchet / DPPIIs it something important for you?
The lonesome skipper, like Tabarly, has changed a little bit. Even if some skippers are like that (laugh).
So it’s going to be your last Vendée Globe…
Yes probably. I cannot say it’s my last word, so I’ll see. You need a big motivation to go on a race like that. There is no use to come if you are not motivated!