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How Jean-Yves Bernot helps the skippers work on their weather strategy

Stage météo avec Jean-Yves Bernot (2)

Vincent Riou, Armel Le Cléac’h, Yann Eliès, Jérémie Beyou, Jean-Pierre Dick, Morgan Lagravière, Paul Meilhat… Yes, even the top ocean racing experts have been taking this weather course and listening to the wise advice from Jean-Yves Bernot. “I’m not talking to innocent newcomers, but to strategy and weather experts, experienced sailors, who have already taken tough decisions in a tricky environment, where they are already stressed and tired,” explained the router. “We’re not drawing up what the weather in the Atlantic is really like, as they have already worked on that hundreds of times. The idea is to get to grips with the basics of the major phenomena and to find out how to react in such and such a condition.” The course organised this week in Port-la-Forêt was dedicated to the Transat Jacques Vabre and the BtoB, but with the next Vendée Globe in mind too. “With just a year to go to the Vendée Globe, these two events can be seen as a dress rehearsal. For example, the start of the course for the Transat Jacques Vabre and the Vendée Globe are similar until the Equator and even a bit further down. So the difficulties are very similar too. My role is to identify these difficulties and explain to the sailors the importance of spotting them and preparing for them as they look ahead to sailing around the world.”

“A good sailor is someone, who makes tiny mistakes and huge gains”

Jean-Yves Bernot© Jean-Marie Liot / DPPIWe can see that decision-making is a very precise business requiring training. “You have to work on strategy as well as your physical condition,” confirmed Bernot. “When sailing solo, the intellectual processes are bound to be depleted. The stronger your foundations, the more training you have done, the easier it is to take decisions, which come automatically and quickly. Complicated situations need to be dealt with by reflex actions. It is experience and preparation that makes all the difference for the racers. The Vendée Globe is a race where people are eliminated: the person, who makes the fewest mistakes, ends up winning. So any tiny mistakes must not lead to others. However, when you achieve a gain, it has to be a big one. In fact, a good sailor is someone, who makes tiny mistakes and huge gains. And who manages to maintain that over the long term.” Apart from understanding the major weather patterns, the sailors need to know how to use routing software and obtain the weather data efficiently. Once again, these sailors know what they are doing in this area and Jean-Yves Bernot’s contribution is to update their knowledge. “I remind them where they can find reliable sources, which are regularly updated and easy to get hold of,” added the weather expert. At sea, they have to do this admin work quickly to find enough time to deal with all the info and then draw up a strategy.”

We are able to allow rookies to win

Although rivals out on the water, the sailors attending the weather training course played the game and had no hesitation in talking things through and sharing their respective experiences to save time and make progress together. In January 2016, courses aimed more specifically at the Vendée Globe will be taking place one after the other. “Given that routing is not allowed in the Vendée Globe, we have to work through a large number of situations before the start. Then, when these situations occur, the sailors are able to recognise them and apply the right strategy,” explained Jean-Yves Bernot. Studying the course for the Vendée Globe will be a reminder for some sailors. For others, it will be something new. But these rookies discovering the Southern Ocean are still in with a chance. “The time when you had to have sailed several times in the Southern Ocean to win the Vendée Globe is over now,” confirmed Bernot. “Today, we have the info and tools to allow rookies to win. François Gabart certainly proved that to everyone remarkably well in the last race. It takes a lot of talent to be able to adapt to situations you have never experienced, but talent is one thing these sailors are not lacking.”

Olivier Bourbon / Mer & Media Agency

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