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Morgan Lagravière aiming to buy Safran to take part in the 2020 Vendée Globe

No one will have forgotten his emotional departure from the Vendée Globe pontoon or the great start to his race down the Atlantic. Morgan Lagravière was then unfortunately forced to retire shortly after passing the Cape of Good Hope, when in fourth place. A huge blow for the 29-year old Frenchman, who later learnt that Safran had decided to withdraw from sponsoring sailing in June 2017. After giving it a lot of thought, Morgan now has a clear outlook. He wants to set up his own project to return in 2020, ideally aboard the foiler on which he first attempted to compete in the Vendée Globe. He spoke to us openly about his plans telling us about his joy and tears…

Channel ambiance with Morgan Lagraviere (FRA), skipper Safran, start of the Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on November 6th, 2016 - Photo Olivier Blanchet / DPPI / Vendee Globe

Ambiance chenal avec Morgan Lagraviere (FRA), skipper Safran, d

Morgan, how did you cope with retiring from the Vendée Globe on 27th November after eighteen days of racing?

“I overcame it going through several phases. Until the damage occurred, I was on the up with the impression I was learning and making progress each day. In spite of everything, I went through a good stretch of the Vendée Globe with some decent performance levels. Unfortunately, it ended much earlier than planned due to some bad luck. There’s not much you can do about losing your steering after a collision. 

Then, a different phase began, which was much more painful. I had to deal with retiring, at a moment when I was well placed. It wasn’t easy to overcome that. But now I am able to stand back and think of what happened. You learn through your failures and when you ask yourself questions, you are able to make progress. This phase was very constructive for the future. 

I am making the most of the positive elements and in particular the incredible human adventure with Safran and Roland Jourdain and his team. With Bilou I’d like to continue this story together. We are thinking about the next lot of races in the IMOCA circuit and the 2020 Vendée Globe. We now need to convince some new partners to get a project up and running as soon as possible.”

Safran has announced they will be withdrawing from sailing sponsorships at the end of June... Was this news a surprise for you?

“Not really, as in my contract, it was clear that it could all finish in June 2017. It was there in black and white. But in a partnership, you always want to believe that things are looking bright and will continue. I tend to see the glass as half full and I believed that sponsoring sailing might well continue with Safran. It hit me hard, when the news was announced.”

“There is the race that the skippers talk about and the one that they really experience”

How do you feel after these years with Safran?

“I acquired a lot of experience and matured. I feel I am better equipped for future races. I’m only 29, which is still very young in the world of ocean racing and the IMOCA class. We had a lot of difficulties during the adjustment phase with a lot of technical problems. It was a very particular situation, as we were the first to launch an IMOCA with foils. The concept added power and additional strains to the structure… In the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre, the boat underwent huge structural strains and stresses. Other things held us up and delayed us from getting good results. It was very late on that we fitted the second version of the foils, just a few weeks before the start of the Vendée Globe. But the gains in terms of performance were significant and we found ourselves up there with the other foilers.”

© Olivier Blanchet / DPPIIn spite of the difficulties during the preparation, we felt you were happy with your IMOCA during the Vendée Globe. Was that the case?  

“Yes at the start of the Vendée Globe, I really felt that my boat was in good shape and had everything going for her – a huge joy! When I retired I was in fourth place, not far behind Sébastien Josse and ahead of Paul Meilhat, Jérémie Beyou, Yann Eliès and Jean-Pierre Dick… It was a dream scenario for a rookie like me.”

Looking beyond the competition, did you find in the Vendée Globe the human dimension you were hoping for?

“Yes indeed! Thanks to this race, I discovered Adventure with a big A. Before that, I was a racer really, not a long distance sailor. I can now look very differently at the Vendée Globe. I have some great memories of my first attempt. There were also some more difficult moments. A few technical problems really made me suffer. In the Doldrums, taking advantage of lighter winds, I climbed the mast four times to deal with a halyard problem. It was a bit traumatising mentally and physically draining, but what an experience.”

We could see that you were very open with your emotions and about what you felt in the race and how extreme the Vendée Globe is…

“Yes. Maybe I was a little too open in my interviews after the race… That meant that some saw me in a bad light. I paid a heavy price for my honesty and the criticisms affected me and disappointed me. It didn’t help me deal with what happened to me when I retired.

Since the start of the project with Safran, I have never hid what we go through on these boats. We all suffer in the Vendée Globe, but we each have different ways of talking about it (or not). There is the race that the skippers talk about and the one that they actually experience… You suffer a lot in the Vendée Globe. It is this suffering that makes the race so exceptional and impresses the public. It means you can really enjoy the easier moments and take full advantage of life when you get back ashore.”

“Ideally for 2020, we’d buy Safran”

© Mark Lloyd / DPPIYou goal now is to launch a campaign for the 2020 Vendée Globe with new partners. Ideally, you would like to buy Safran?

“Exactly. The boat is for sale (at a price of 3.1 million euros). When you look at the boats that are available, you can see there aren’t many and very few good performers. Safran is a boat on which I feel good and I know her by heart. I have a lot of affinities with this IMOCA.”

The boat wasn’t always kind to you…

“That’s true, but we would like to think that the damage suffered in the past won’t be repeated. When you suffer with a boat and you overcome the problems, you grow stronger with her. Sometimes I got mad at her and wanted to get away from her. I told her: “We’re never going to make it, you and me.” But we persevered, as I knew that together we could achieve a lot and now the boat is in great shape.”

What has led you to want to return in 2020?

“These projects give you so much and I want to experience that again. It’s magical. When you take part in this race, you go through some exceptional moments. The Vendée Globe is not just two and a half months at sea. There are all the years of preparation and the adventure you share with others. You have to really want to take part in the Vendée Globe, as it requires several years of sacrifices. After taking part for the first time, I needed to stand back and get into a normal life to know whether I really wanted to go through it again. The answer now is yes.”

Where are you in your search for partners?

“With Roland (Jourdain) and his team, we are following up quite a few ideas. It is now well underway and we are very bust in our quest. It looks like things will work out well. We have the skills, a structure, a boat, a skipper... I’m feeling confident.”

Interview with Olivier Bourbon / M&M

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