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Bertrand de Broc: « When I commit to something, I do so very seriously »

A month after finishing his first Vendée Globe in three participations, Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM Projets) talks about what he will remember from the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe: Weather changes, penalties, financial context and the future of the IMOCA Class...

Arrivée de Bertrand DE BROC (VOTRE NOM AUTOUR DU MONDE) - 9ème

Bertrand de Broc, how did it feel to be back on dry land?

It’s all right, I’m back at work, getting the boat ready again. We’ve taken the sails and mast out and started working on a thorough check-up of the boat Monday, March 4 in Port-la-Forêt. I haven’t had much time for myself since the end of the race but now that everything is in place, it will be a little quieter.  We need to have the boat ready by the end of April so we can have a good season start until the Transat Jacques Vabre (Editor’s note: in November).

© Thierry Martinez / Sea and CoWhat will happen to the thousands of names you took with you around the world?

We haven’t decided yet, there are a lot of people who want to continue, and many companies, too. We’re currently discussing that topic with our major partners like EDM Projets, LORANS and Marzocco so we have a better idea of what to do in the future. We’ll decide in the next few weeks but we’ll also need to find a few major businesses to support us while we work on changes and improvements. That’s why we’re going to look for extra budgets so we can make the boat even more efficient and keep Votre Nom autour du Monde and the current system until the 2014 Route du Rhum.

Have you already had talks with new partners?

Yes, a few. We’re having talks with everybody, including the partners that are already involved. They all want to continue, but, for some of them, with more limited budgets, which is why we need a couple of bigger companies to join us and help us keep this project alive as long as we can, possibly until the 2016 Vendée Globe…

What kind of improvement do you have in mind?

First, we’d like to make the boat lighter and we’d like to change the mast, too, but that will only be possible if we get quite a lot of extra money. That would allow us to go with a lighter keel. I’d also like to change the helm system, which is among the advice we received from boat designers Jean-Marie Finot and Pascal Conq. I guess if we did all that, we’d be 500 kilograms lighter and therefore closer to the best three or four boats. The Transat Jacques Vabre is a double-handed race, which means you can push the boat a little harder. We believe this boat can do better than she already has, at least better than what she did in the Vendée.

What are you goals for the next few months and years? Podium finishes or records?

We’ll participate in a few local regatta races, such as the Grand Prix Guyader. Depending on our situation with the partners, we may go to the Mediterranean and compete in the Giraglia. And then I’d like to do the Fastnet again this year, and why not sailing around England before the Jacques Vabre? And then, who know… We first need to make the boat a better boat and find a good budget. We want things to be fine, we want people to be happy, just like during the Vendée Globe. Precise goals will come later, we haven’t really thought about that yet. I think we have a good boat and I’ll try to take advantage of that even more this year.

What did you think of the 2012-2013 edition of the Vendée Globe?

It was a little different, obviously, especially if you compare it with the 1996 edition, which I participated in. A lot of things have evolved, the boats, the organisation… The route is pretty much the only thing that has remained the same, even though we now have ice gates.

What have I learned? I’ve enjoyed sailing in that race and, in a way, I enjoyed working on the project, which started late, just as much, and possibly even more. I felt a lot of support. But the race is what it is, it wasn’t easy, as usual, we all know what to expect.

There’s been a positive evolution of the race, it’s a beautiful event in which some boats dominated, as usual. There’s always been gaps between the frontrunners and the others. I have the feeling there will be major changes in the next edition, with new people joining the race. We need to keep the adventure aspect of the race but in four years, there may be ten boats good enough to win the race. I left 24 hours after everybody else and I immediately realised it was going to be a Figaro-like race, even though I was already suspecting it would be the case even before the start. I tried to sail the boat as well as I could, especially after Cape Horn, where I was the second fastest skipper to the Equator and the fourth fastest to the finish. So there is definitely room for great performances but you need a very good start and then you need to be 100% all the time. And that will be truer and truer in the future.  

I still don’t understand the 12-hour penalty I received just before the finish, though. I’m glad it’s not coming from the organisation. I find it particularly inept, it’s very bad jugement. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to make it the headline of this interview, but that’s how I feel.

Have you discussed that with the international jury?

No, we didn’t want to, no need to dwell on that. But it’s a shame, a bitter memory. I think at one point, there’s need for some tact when dealing with people who have invested a part of their life in a project. I participated in my first Vendée Globe 20 years ago and I’ve never been treated that way by a jury. There’s obviously been tactlessness and lack of respect for being who get involved in the race. You just can’t treat people like that, I didn’t understand why they did it. I think there needs to be a committee between the organisation and the jury, I really do. This is a very special race, which just cannot be judged like an Olympic regatta. It doesn’t make any sense and it’s not good for the image of the race, which has actually been damaged. People still tell me about it, so I think a commission in addition to the jury would be a good idea. The IMOCA and the skippers should demand it, unless you want the race to be like the America’s Cup, where crews come with their lawyers and they’re the ones discussing everything.

When the race is over, I like to look back at what happened, where skippers stopped, the emails that were exchanged, etc. There have been obvious difference between the way the cases of different skippers were handled, you just can’t do anything with anyone. The jury has to be extremely careful because they’re judging people who have invested so much in the race. Imagine what would have happened if Bernard had been very mad at the guy who climbed on board, if he had pushed him out of the boat and in the water and the other guys had decided to get back at him after that? What do you do, then? Peter Blake got shot when he kicked a guy out of his boat, so what if the same thing had happened? Stamm would have been disqualified all right, disqualified from life! I thought it was bad judgment, period. I called the French Sailing Federation and told them this was no Olympic event. You need to be take into account things that happened before, which is why a committee should be appointed, it’s really necessary.

© Vincent Curutchet / DPPIWhat evolutions would you like to see in the 2016 Vendée Globe?

Well, I won’t be in that race, that’s for sure. But I’d love to work on a Vendée Globe project, it’s such a great race. But I’m not sure how, maybe in a project we’d start ourselves and in which we’d hire a skipper. What I know for sure is that I’ll keep sailing until the Route du Rhum.

I’d like to work in the race, in the organisation, because on several occasions, I had the feeling they were missing a skipper, even though Alain Gautier was there. But I have absolutely nothing against the organisation, they gave us a perfect welcome. But there is always room for improvement. I think it could be interesting to send the skippers a questionnaire, so we could all take the time we need to think about it for a couple of months. We can all benefit from working together and I wouldn’t mind being an outside consultant. But don’t get me wrong, when I commit to something, I do so very seriously, I won’t stop halfway through.

What are your views on one-design racing?

I’m not sure, it’s difficult to go for one-design boats saying it will be cheaper. Who will it be cheaper for? We currently buy boats for a reasonable price and we pay for them over five years. One-design boats are not expensive in themselves, but you have to pay for the designers’ studies, the sails, and in the end, you’ll always have teams willing to spend more money than others. Whatever the system, there will always be differences.

The thing is, I think it’s too late for the next Vendée Globe. In eight years, maybe… It could happen in 2020 but I don’t think 2016 is possible. Especially since there are still boats for sale on the market, boats that can be improved significantly. Look at Alex Thomson’s, she was 5 or 6 years old and finished third. With some more fuel on board, he could even have won the Vendée Globe. With some more upwind sailing until Madeira, things could have been very different for the new boats? When you look at the situation in Formula One, you know some just won’t win. So we’re lucky enough to be where we are, especially in the current context, many of us are happy they were able to buy second-hand monohulls…

If you could change anything to your 2012-2013 Vendée Globe, what would it be?

Definitely the ice gates! I’m not saying they are not an efficient way of keeping us safe, they definitely are. I’m talking about the extreme drama about them, especially in the media. At one point, it felt like that was the only interesting topic… If there is ice at 52°, what is the point in moving the gate to 48°? Sometimes, with the weather conditions, it can be very complicated, even though you do sleep better…

What I also missed is a spectacular transition to the Southern Ocean. I remember, back in 1996, I sailed through the Canarias gate and I knew the next time I’d see the land would be at Cape Horn. But this time we had Gough Island, New-Zeland, etc. When I rounded the Cape of Good Hope, I just couldn’t say to myself I’d sail straight to Cape Horn, which was disturbing, especially early in the race because I hadn’t necessarily thought about it and accepted it before the start. If I started the race again tomorrow, I’d approach it differently. This is a more technical and more segmented race so the adventurous aspect of it is not that important any more. But things will evolve, we have to deal with it. Maybe four years from now, with the changes in the ice situation, we won’t be allowed to round Cape Horn any more, then what will we do? Maybe we’ll sail through the Beagle Canal under engine with icebreakers opening the route for us. Sometimes, when I see some of the things that are happening, we’re not that far from it… I hadn’t used my polar gloves once in the race, I’ve never been cold, even at Cape Horn. I’ve said it a lot, it was warmer this year.


Interview by Romain Delaume

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