While weather routing from ashore is strictly forbidden during the Vendée Globe, it is nevertheless advisable to have prepared it beforehand. They can take aboard some documents, the aim of which is to enable them to make the right choices at the right moment, based on the weather patterns that the sailors encounter along the way. Jean-Yves Bernot’s road book is the Bible for the eight candidates for the Vendée Globe training at the Finistère offshore racing centre in Port La Forêt: Vincent Riou, Armel Le Cléac’h, Jérémie Beyou, Yann Eliès, Jean-Pierre Dick, Paul Meilhat, Morgan Lagravière and Sébastien Josse were all present in the classroom at the centre. A fine selection of serious contenders for a place on the podium.
Two precious DVDs
What exactly is there in this road book? First of all, we should point out that it is no longer in its paper format. We’re looking here at two DVDs that the sailors will be able to consult when they want on their computer. They gather together the fruit of twenty years of Jean-Yves Bernot’s experiences “as a router, but also as a sailor himself,” explained the author.
All of the major geographical areas are presented in these two DVDs, where there are texts and pictures, some of which are animated: weather charts, wind files, satellite images, etc. “Today, youngsters aren’t happy with just text and they prefer a comic book style,” joked Bernot, “It’s very interactive and intuitive.” The road book thus presents the various weather patterns that can develop in the North Atlantic, in the Doldrums, in the South Atlantic. Then, we enter the Indian Ocean, the main part and the bit under Australia and to the south of New Zealand, the Pacific Ocean, the approaches to Cape Horn, the climb back up the South Atlantic along the coast of Brazil and finally the return to the North Atlantic. Typical situations, analysis of normal patterns, weather history and even the choice of source for weather data according to the geographical area they are sailing in are all detailed in these two DVDs. “It’s fascinating, as after a session with Jean-Yves, you really feel you are more intelligent,” smiled Christian Le Pape, head of the Centre. He too virtually sailed from les Sables d’Olonne to Brazil on Tuesday studying most of the situations that can develop in the North Atlantic.
Help in strategic decision making
Jean-Yves Bernot summed up his way of working. “When sailing you invest in miles hoping to save time. Sometimes, that can be relatively easy and anyone, who knows how to use the software can do that. But at times, it can be much more complicated… remembering that the level of the sailors has progressed in this area. In the last Vendée Globe for example, Armel (le Cléac’h) and François (Gabart) hardly made any mistakes in terms of their strategy.” It is in such complicated cases that Bernot’s road book comes in handy, offering a real tool in decision making. “It’s the same as in any sport: you have to know when to go on the attack, when to defend and judge the risks associated with this or that strategic option. Over time, this way of doing things has become part of our brand and the brand for French sailors in general. Depending on the areas and situations, it’s also a matter of determining, if the strategy can be used for the long term, mid-term or short term. Everything is down to strategy as this is the real added value. For each geographical area, we study the most important weather patterns, but also the unusual ones that may arise, and more importantly, we look at what we can do when faced with these situations.”
All of this has been adapted to the progress made in terms of navigational software and weather forecasting. The models are becoming increasingly accurate and detailed, meaning that you have to adapt all the time if you want to stand out. During the afternoon, the eight Vendée Globe candidates had already moved on to the St Helena high… for now merely on their screens, but shortly something they will have to deal with in the Vendée Globe that they all hope to win one day.
Bruno Ménard / Mer & Media Agency