Of course in France, winning in 1998 is not just a national treasure for the country where the Vendée Globe originated but for top level elite sports people it is a reminder of how team spirit, talent, drive endeavour, and the hunger to win can prevail, amounting to much more than the sum of its parts.
Four of the French skippers who expect to be at the start of the Vendée Globe 2020, Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest - Arts & Fenêtres) and Paul Meilhat (SMA now but looking for future sponsors) are big footy fans and looking beyond the upcoming match between France and Argentina.
Their world is round
Jérémie Beyou is a happy man. First up his team Dongfeng won the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday. And his new IMOCA 60-footer Charal is due to be launched mid-August and so he is on a tight, tight schedule to be ready for the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe in early November. But he has time to follow the French team and the World Cup.
© EAG En Avant Guingamp"I looked at the calendar and marked off the matches I could not miss. And my second son is a big fan who is always talking about it and keeps me up to date by the second, and with my cousin who I talk football with all the time. In the car I listen to RMC football when I am going places, to meetings and so on. And I am on the Smartphone!
It is the different football styles that I like and you want an original, exciting team like Mexico to do well (beating Germany 1-0 in the first round). It's the magic of the World! Then you see the big names struggle but finally reach their target, like Argentina who will play France. And for me Spain should go to the final and my surprise package are Belgium.
As for France, I would see them at least to the semis. We are a team that has the most choice in attack, we can surprise any opponent. But that is a blessing and a curse because it is difficult to find the right combination. If I could give team talk I’d say : "Believe in yourself, in your potential, never give up! "
On board his Bureau Vallée 2, the boat which was winner of the last Vendée Globe in the hands of Armel Le Cléac'h, Louis Burton sails the training miles. It's "day and night" different to his previous boat which dated back to 2008 and did not have foils. After his seventh place on the last Transat Jacques Vabre with his partner Servane Escoffier, the 33-year-old sailor sails solo now on his new IMOCA , but while trying to watch the most matches of the World Cup.
© Stéphane Maillard"Football is a sport I love! I think like 95% of French people, the World Cup is a competition that is close to our heart. It reminds us of the success of 1998. I was 13 years old and it remains a magical memory. The euphoria that seized the country is just unforgettable. Twenty years later I am surrounded by technical and communication people of our team who are just as passionate as me. When I'm at sea I try to watch the matches on the Ipad on board, to follow what is happening in Russia. And all my calls and appointments are interspersed with regular updates!
Everyone wants to believe in this team of France. I am an eternal optimist and a sweet dreamer and I would hope for a France-Belgium in the final with a close match which goes to penalties.
If I could do a team talk it would be: "Give the best of yourself, keep the team spirit and if you stay positive, it will take you all the way! Do not forget: you make all the kids in this country dream and all them will be proud of you, even if you lose! "
Everybody’s a fan these days
Third with Eric Péron in the first leg of the Globe Series in Monaco, Fabrice Amedeo was still at sea when the French team were playing their final match against Denmark before they enter the knock-out stage on Saturday. Aboard his new Newrest - Art & Fenêtres with foils, he really believes in them, as he does every four years.
© Jean-Marie Liot“I’m not a football fan, but like many others, I get sucked in when there is a big match, in particular with the World Cup. Football isn’t my passion, but it’s not often, you find the whole country behind the team and you can be proud of being French. That’s important and thrills me. I have a lot of memories of 1998 and 2006, some happy, others less so when thinking of the final.
When the World Cup was about to start, I thought we would see Germany-Brazil in the final, but now it’s wide open! Everything is to play for between Portugal, Spain, Brazil, of course, and France. We have a young team, who are all really up for it. All the players enjoy themselves and get on well together. They all come from big clubs and I’m a sucker for a good story. Didier Deschamps is a great manager and I am optimistic. That’s why I would say to them: “You’re a fine example for our youngsters and for all sorts of people who like to dream. You really need to go for it and believe you can go all the way.”
A sport for everyone
Aboard his IMOCA, Paul Meilhat has been getting one good result after another since he was forced to stop suddenly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in the last Vendée Globe. Second in the Transat Jacques Vabre, first in the 2018 Bermuda 1000 Race, winner of the 2018 Monaco Globe Series… nothing seems to stop the skipper who will remain the SMA skipper until the end of the Route du Rhum. At the end of 2018, the insurance company is bringing to an end its involvement in sailing, but Paul Meilhat remains upbeat and is continuing to search out potential partners.
Concerning the football World Cup, he is envious in particular of the celebratory elements. “I used to follow it closely when I was young, but not so much today. You can’t get away from the World Cup. What I like about it in particular is the incredible atmosphere that grabs you. In 1998, I was lucky to be able to go to the French national stadium for a match between two of the teams in the final sixteen, Denmark-Nigeria. It was incredible to see the enthusiasm of the public. It was the sort of atmosphere you find in the Olympics.
Football remains a sport for everyone and brings people together. You can get some exercise, have fun and you can play with anyone. It’s the only genuine popular sport in the sense that it is for everyone and is a noble game, the only one played in every country.
You can see lots of little flags everywhere you go. It’s not like that with the Volvo Ocean Race or the America’s Cup! It is the people’s sport and it is that aspect I like. It brings together people who otherwise would not talk to each other. Paradoxically, the sport that is the cheapest in the world to play generates a huge income at the top. It’s no longer a sport. Football is a universal culture. So as we approach the final sixteen knock-out stage, I’d like to tell the French team to go out there and enjoy themselves."