Time passes. Sometimes it feels like it is a headlong rush and sometimes, when you are waiting for an answer for example, it passes too slow. In the case of Thomas Ruyant it feels like a bit of both. Since he landed in New Zealand last 21st December with his IMOCA 60 all but broken in half, half way through his Vendée Globe, Ruyant has been effectively pursuing his return in 2020. He says his story with the famous solo race is not over, not by far. He was almost done with the Indian Ocean when his boat was so damaged, set to enter the Pacific Ocean in eighth place in the race.
And, really, since he landed in New Zealand he has never ever been idle. Sailing as much as possible – "it’s my job" – with his left hand, with his right hand he has been shaking on deals, telling his story, networking and talking budgets to get going with his 2020 project. All the time he has been going forwards.
Victory as the sun went down
In terms of sailing, everything is going fine for him. In the autumn of 2017, he finished fourth in the Transat Jacques Vabre with Boris Herrmann aboard Malizia II. In the spring, with his long-term friend, Adrien Hardy, he won the Transat AG2R-La Mondiale after an epic battle and a route that was chosen with skill, courage and determination. This was an important victory after the Transat 6.50 in 2009 and the Route du Rhum in Class40 in 2010 and which consolidates his position in the world of ocean racing. A sought after crewman, who performs well, he should be seen as one of the skippers capable of winning the Vendée Globe… if he manages to find a boat to match his talent.
He remains modest. “I am flattered to have been called up by great sailors like Boris and Adrien, who is a leading player in the Figaro circuit and who would be a strong challenger if he raced in the IMOCA class.” This win in a double-handed transatlantic race is of course excellent news, when they are out there looking for money. “A win like this means I really have a strong argument when talking to the contacts I have made, of course, but it is also something important in itself. The finish in Saint-Barth on a bank holiday, when people were enjoying an aperitif in some fantastic sunlight, was quite simply fantastic.”
In the spring, Thomas was in Monaco for the Monaco Globe Series, the first leg in the newly created programme leading up to 2020 with some famous races and opportunities for skippers to clock up the miles to qualify for the Vendée Globe. “The Imoca Globe Series is a good thing and takes us in the right direction,” he said. “It makes the programme more professional and will help make the circuit more international too. It’s no bad thing that the qualification rules have been made tighter. Sailing around the world is not something that should be taken lightly.”
Back with the Souffle du Nord
In Monaco, Thomas Ruyant worked as co-skipper for Joan Mulloy, a young Irish sailor at the heart of the Kilcullen Team Ireland project supported by Enda O’Coineen and run by Marcus Hutchison. The Irish Connection came to do battle in the Mediterranean and thought it would be a good idea (and indeed it was) to call upon the services of the boat’s former skipper for this first attempt. Enda O’Coineen in fact acquired the former Souffle du Nord, sailed her home from New Zealand in the spring in order to complete his round the world voyage in two halves after it all came to an end for him in 2016. “It was quite moving to be back with my boat,” explained Thomas Ruyant. “It was a nice touch, and felt a bit like I had made it back with the boat, as she hasn’t changed and still sails just as well.”
Marcus Hutchinson, who for a long time worked with Paul Meilhat, may join the team that Thomas would like to set up, if he manages to find the budget for the next Vendée Globe. Just like Laurent Bourguès, technical director for Souffle du Nord in the past. To achieve that he needs things to work out with his contacts. The sailor from Dunkirk tells us how things are going.
“The Souffle du nord project was made up of 180 firms and of course, I remained in contact with many of them, but my project won’t necessarily be associated with the North of France. I really want to build a new boat. There are so many ideas to explore, so many new features to develop that the design stage is in itself an extremely interesting phase to share with others. I want to get a boat that is capable of getting a good result. That is my first intention. I haven’t thought about a plan B yet (buying an existing boat), as I really want my initial plans to work out. Of course, I am in discussions with designers and yards and moving forward in my adventure at the same time, in order to be ready to get things going as soon as possible after signing on partners. I am well advanced with some contacts and hope that they will be able to commit in the coming weeks and months. However, I must not let things drag on too much. Apart from the design, you really need to spend many hours sailing these boats… And the clock is ticking.”