Guillaume Verdier in partnership with VPLP form a remarkable team which altered the course of IMOCA Open 60 design, taking it in a new direction with their design of Safran for Marc Guillemot for the last race. They pushed the values of significantly reducing weight and drag, making the boat easier and more efficient to drive which was somewhat different to the prevailing notion that all-out power and speed was everything. In this Vendée Globe it is VPLP-Verdier boats, Macif and Banque Populaire, which smashed the race record when they took first and second places.
So how do you feel as a team having the first two Vendée Globe placings under your belt?
It is great. I have been waiting for a long time for this. This is my fourth Vendée Globe finish and the second race we (VPLP-Verdier) have had boats in, and the first time we have won so it is great. I am disappointed for Jean-Pierre, not because it is not three boats in the top three, but it would be a perfect finish otherwise.
You know the two skippers well and have worked with them, what are they like within their teams?
One common point is that they both really relate strongly to their teams that prepare the boats. They work within their teams and that is an important point. The leading teams are those which are really well structured. In a team like Banque Populaire there are people like Kevin Escoffier and Pierre Emanuel Herisse They are very strong technical teams but they are sailors, they are engineers, they are the perfect interface between the design office and the sailor. On Macif, Michel Desjoyeaux is so experienced and Antoine Gautier, all are good on structures and composites, they have very strong structure and both boats are in an environment where they have lots of competitions, like Lorient and Port La Fôret are two groups where the dynamic of a big group of sailors and preparateurs who all talk together, everything is shared and we are part of that group. It is a very big shared experience.
And do you think the boats are better prepared this time?
I would say that the boats are better prepared than the last Vendée Globe, they have moved their experience along.
Expand a little on the skippers as individuals ?
François has more the approach of an engineer. He is really into the undertsanding of every little detail, the architecture, methodology. They are both very complete in understanding, a bit like Michel. Armel is someone who stresses a lot the human side, he if very good at giving feedback and sharing the experience. He is also a very sweet guy. Both are parents and in fact they have many more common points than differences. But François is more of an engineer.
Before the start there were a few suggestiosn that your boats were too lightly built and might not last the course, did that affect you in any way ?
I dont’t mind what people say about the boats and I didn’t mind at the time. It did not affect my confidence at all. We know that the Transat Jacques Vabre with six boats in it we did the least possible reinforcement in places for the reliability of the boats and that is the reason why from the last TJV to now, we spent eight months to increase that redundancy and share that amongst the teams and I know there has been nothing significant on this race in terms of breakages with Macif or Banque Populaire. And Jean Pierre Dick’s only problem has been his keel which of course is a major problem.
There is, however, the supposition that because the boats have not had big 50-60kts storms in the south, they have somehow not been tested as much ?
The speeds have made this a very tough test for the boats’ integrity. It is crazy jumping waves at these speeds, I think people don’t realise how violent that is, these kind of conditions are very very nasty for the boat, the fact that these boats have been going so fast massively increases the pressure on the boats. Remember that energy is the square of speed. The boats were sailing last time at 13.5kts average and this time at 15, so that is very fast and the dynamic pressures increase significantly. Our big frustration (at VPLP-Verdier) is the keel of Jean-Pierre. The keel of Safran and Jean Pierre they say we should build something which is capable of being inspected inside by X-ray. But we had discussions with Jean-Pierre. It is the original keel which has done 2.7 times around the world. We talked a lot, but he knew it was a trade off. He had already won the Barcelona World Race.
And how does the speeed compared to what you predicted ?
We thought 78 days so they were faster than that, we are surprised at what they managed, that a lot of the time they were ahead of the polar speeds