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Some rough conditions for the first IMOCA training course

On Thursday, Jérémie Beyou, Vincent Riou and François Gabart completed the first solo autumn training course organised by the French training centre in Port-la-Forêt. The skippers of Maître Coq, PRB and Macif found what they were looking for: some rough conditions, a chance to check over the work carried out during the winter… and the enjoyment of sailing solo on their magnificent boats.

Vincent Riou 2012

The low-pressure areas which moved in from the Atlantic last week didn’t upset everyone. In any case, the skippers at the French ocean racing training centre in Brittany were looking for the sort of conditions they might expect in the Route du Rhum or the Vendée Globe for their solo training sessions. They certainly got what they wanted on Wednesday and Thursday sailing a 240-mile course from Port-La-Forêt to Ushant before going back down to Belle-Ile and then returning home: nasty cross seas, strong winds blowing between 25 and 30 knots, night-time sailing… Jérémie Beyou, Vincent Riou and François Gabart were able to coast along with speeds often in excess of 20 knots for these three Vendée Globe heroes. It was one manoeuvre after another with some close contact sailing in all points of sail and with all sorts of sail combinations. Obviously when two Vendée Globe winners and a triple winner of the Solitaire du Figaro get together, this type of exercice is bound to be highly instructive.

Christian Le Pape, director of the Training Centre, explains, “François, Vincent and Jérémie have a lot of experience. It all comes naturally to them and they are in charge of their boats. With them, we’re not in a trial phase or correcting mistakes, but examining the tiniest of details, trying to enhance performance sailing fast on long tacks in close contact with the others. In fact, occasionally we get one to slow own so that they are all back racing together again, if any of them get left behind.”

Sailing solo but with others on board

This was all done as if they were sailing solo, but in fact with two or three team members on board, who were not allowed to help the skipper, who took care of sailing the boat by himself. That meant that they could record various data, check the polars, compare the various configurations (ballast, stacking, keel angle etc). This all resulted in an exchange of ideas at sea and once back ashore, which is a key idea at the Centre. Making progress together to be even stronger sailing solo has laready proved to be a winning formula. The next course is scheduled for 9th to 11th September, probably with some other sailors taking part, including Marc Guillemot, and possibly Bernard Stamm.

Comments from Vincent Riou and Jérémie Beyou

Vincent Riou (PRB): "In prototype racing, you spend more time in the winter in the design office and in the yard than sailing. After that, you launch your boat, you fine tune her and once everything is working properly, only then can you start to sail again… This training course corresponds perfectly to this phase which is great: sailing, making improvements to how you race, optimising all elements when racing, looking at the adjustments, trim, performance and strategy. Its really enjoyable and useful. I’m really pleased, as the boat is just how I imagined herafter the winter refit, when we changed the geometry of the daggerboards and the ballast system to suit the requirements of the new rules. She is reaching the level of performance we were aiming for and training with sailors like François and Jérémie is a huge advantage. When you sail with the best, you immediately find out if you have got what it takes or whether changes are going to be necessary. I love all that and it means you won’t have any nasty surprises. We are reaching the same standard of performance, which makes it all the more interesting…”

Jérémie Beyou (Maître Coq): “We sailed off to pass through a front and it was certainly enough to get us soaked. At 115 degrees to the wind, the boat reached speeds of between 18 and 21 knots. Looking at Maître Coq, Macif and PRB we could see that the boats were all ready: there are no worries and we can really push them hard, which is exactly what we did. François and Vincent are very experienced and we are all around the same standard. I may need to work a bit on my physical training, as I have just been through the Solitaire du Figaro and I made a few little mistakes. Nothing serious, but minor details such as going up on the bow once too often or lagging a few seconds behind carrying out a manoeuvre. This type of course allows you to straighten things out. In any case, it’s great to begin the solo training phase like this. We took advantage of the opportunity to collect some data, work on the polars, fine tune the autopilot settings, etc. We really enjoyed ourselves and made a lot of progress by sailing alongside each other. We can certainly look forward to a fantastic battle in the Route du Rhum.”

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