He does not have his boat yet but he is working on it. The new Imoca will be called Apivia Mutuelle, after the insurance company which is signed as his sponsor until 2022. At the moment, the new Imoca is but a design on paper – or more correctly in a computer as well - but Charlie Dalin has a very firm idea of what it should look like. He is always armed with a notepad to record his thoughts and any small details that come to mind. And so this naval architect who is 34 years old today (he was born on May 10) is always refining and logging his ideas.
The offshore honours he has accumulated are many: winner of the Transat AG2R 2012, four consecutive podium positions between 2014 to 2017 on the Solitaire du Figaro and a third place on the Transat Jacques-Vabre 2015 with Yann Elies, his only Imoca race so far. They mark him out as strong contender but the Vendée Globe still represents a big step up.
Dalin has chosen to work with Guillaume Verdier, who of course played an instrumental role in the design team which won the last America's Cup with Team New Zealand. And the boat will be built by CDK Technologies and the Imoca Apivia Mutuelle is managed by François Gabart's company, Mer Concept.
Charlie Dalin was originally due to be on Armel Le Cléac'h's multihull crew on the first edition of Nice Ultimed last week - before the trimaran capsized en route to the Mediterranean. The native of Le Havre is preparing for this year’s Solitaire URGO - Le Figaro as he awaits his new boat Apivia which should be completed in June 2019.
A new Imoca 60-footer, that is a big leap forward for you?
Charlie Dalin: Yes, that’s true. But it's a logical step. I maybe appear not to have completed all the usual stages and the change up in size and dimensions are all still there - bigger boats, longer races and with a bigger team, but I am quite convinced: I am ready.
When did this idea of getting into the Imoca class start?
Ch. D.: It feels like forever. When I sailed with Yann (Eliès) on the Transat Jacques-Vabre, it really solidified my desire to complete the Vendée Globe. These are hard boats, it's very physical. I like to sail with intelligence, exploit the conditions smartly and do it faster than competitors. The challenge attracts me and the boat makes me feel so good, even in more manageable conditions. These are such magical boats…
You chose Guillaume Verdier as an architect. What sealed that choice?
Ch. D.: I saw other architects and really there was no wrong choice. It's just a question of philosophy. I liked his way of seeing things. And the feeling is good. The way he sees or imagines things really chimes with me. I can speak with Guillaume and time just goes in! We are so on the same page.
Whether it is Armel Le Cléac'h, François Gabart, or even Sébastien Simon who does well, it seems they are all engineers or naval architects. Do you have to be an engineer or designer to win the Vendée Globe?
Ch. D.: In Southampton, England, where I studied naval architecture, we are taught a lot of skills but, above all we are taught to think to reason and to organize. When I started out I did not want to throw myself headlong just into offshore racing as a career. The paths are too uncertain. I wanted to have an alternative solution, a qualification which is in the area that I like so much. So it's true, I get a better understanding of the boat. I'm comfortable with new technologies and routing systems that are complex. It is important to understand these new technologies to know the limits, the weaknesses. I also worked on Ericsson with Juan Kouyoumdjian for the Volvo Ocean Race 2008 and I feel comfortable with most aspects of an Imoca.
The build part of your Imoca won’t be too much of a revelation when you get going?
Ch. D.: I'm thinking about it day and night right all the time... (laughs). This is an exciting time. When we start the story with Apivia Mutuelle we will have decided everything about how the boat will be. We are designing to build the boat that will take us all the way to 2022. The range of possibilities is enormous. These Imoca’s have many different parameters and options to to be taken into account. I always have a notebook in my pocket, I always have ideas that I scribble down so I don’t forget them… (laughs)
You are from Le Havre originally but have traveled a lot. What have you taken from these trips to different countries?
Ch. D.: Thailand, Stockholm where I worked for the Volvo Ocean Race, Australia, England where I studied… I had my home on my back then! These were great times that allowed me to discover new cultures, some Anglo-Saxon and so you have to take the best of both philosophies to balance things out.
What will be the role of François Gabart and his company Mer Concept be on your project?
Ch. D.: François has extensive experience in going around the world solo: he is the fastest man around the world (42 days 16 hours and 40 minutes on his trimaran Macif in 2017) and he also won the Vendée Globe (2012-2013). He knows the south well and his experience will really help me. The objective is that there is crossover between the Macif trimaran project and Imoca Apivia so that both projects help everyone to raise their game, their levels. They will not be separated, indeed quite the opposite! With François we were in the same arena for a long time without having raced together. But I think we have the same way of approaching offshore racing and the risk taking which it requires.
You have just reached the age of 34…
Ch. D.: That’s a good age to compete in the Vendée Globe! I recently looked at the average age of the winners of the Vendée Globe, and within a year, I am of the ‘optimum’ age. I am in the right age range. That’s a sign! I have a good team, a good partner, a good architect, everything is in place to ensure it goes well.