Sailing is a sport that groups together numerous craft. Prior to setting their sights on offshore racing and the IMOCA 60s, several sailors signed up for the upcoming Vendée Globe have come up through the ranks in Olympic sailing, on machines that are rather different to the 18.28-metre monohulls they currently campaign. Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Morgan Lagravière (Safran) have been part of the French Team, notably sailing on the very demanding 49er. Another sailor who trained for the Olympics is Sébastien Destremau (faceOcean), who completed his preparation on a Flying Dutchman with a view to competing in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Equally, a certain François Gabart, reigning Vendée Globe record holder, also formed part of the French Olympic Sailing Team. Quite a school all in all.
© Lloyd ImagesDespite being a dinghy sailor in his youth, Armel Le Cléac’h never actually trained for the Olympics as the lure of the open ocean quickly took precedent. However, he has a huge amount of admiration for this competition and the athletes who compete in it. “I take part in major offshore races, I’ve completed two round the worlds and I’ve sailed on some incredible boats, but the Olympic Games are still up there”, he says. “It’s the realisation of a sporting dream, a world-class event where all the different disciplines and nations are represented. Like the Vendée Globe, being in a position to participate in the Olympic Games is a victory in itself!” Given that his sponsor Banque Populaire is partner to the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF), the French Sailing Federation (FFV) and its athletes, Armel had a golden opportunity to head over to Rio to follow the racing up close. Naturally, he didn’t need any convincing to take on the role of special correspondent.
“I’m forecasting four to five medals”
During the Olympic Games, Armel Le Cléac’h will keep a blog to share his thoughts on the sailing competitions that begin on Monday 8 August in Rio’s Guanabara Bay, at the foot of the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain. The French contingent will comprise 15 sailors split into 10 disciplines: Nacra 17 (mixed), 470 (men/women), Laser Standard (men), Laser Radial (women), Finn (men), 49er (men/women) and windsurfing RS:X (men/women). It’s worth noting that France’s sailors have managed to qualify for every one of the series competing in © Christophe Launay / FFVoileRio, a performance that few nations can pride themselves on. “For this Olympiad, we have a fantastic French Sailing Team. It has incredible potential”, Armel explains. “I think we can set our sights on at least four or five medals. Naturally, I hope all the French athletes will win one, but I know it’ll be very complicated.”
Following on from this studious escapade in Rio, Armel Le Cléac’h will hook back up with his IMOCA 60’ Banque Populaire VIII which, after a final refit, is due to be relaunched in mid-August. At that point, the skipper will only have eyes for the Vendée Globe, his personal Olympic Games, and his one goal: the gold medal.
Olivier Bourbon / M&M