“As a race the Vendée Globe makes me a bit dizzy. Not just the thought of sailing in the Southern Ocean but all of that time alone, on my own, it is a big step from what I have done already. I don’t think I could control my emotions on the day of setting off, that is me talking, who has never spent more than two weeks straight at sea solo,” says Ian Lipinksi, twice winner now of the Mini Transat.
And in fact Lipinksi knows a little bit about solo racing having twice won the Mini Transat, in the Series class in 2015 and then two years later in the Proto fleet, in fact the only race which is – like the Vendée Globe -unassisted. Do it yourself, and only yourself could be the motto of the Mini which has uncovered talents like Ellen MacArthur, Sam Davies and more recently Thomas Ruyant and Alan Roura. And yet Lipinski thinks it is inevitable one day he will want to do it.
“ That would be because it's the ultimate race, the big one that every sailor dreams of doing. And maybe in fact one Mini day without any contact with the outside is the equivalent of a week in IMOCA, where you can still, at least, be in contact with your family most days. And it would allow be to know what I prefer, crossing the Atlantic at 10kts with your ass level with the water on 6.5m boat most of the time, or charging at more than 20kts on the Pacific on an IMOCA.”
And again, believe
Xavier Macaire started with the Mini circuit but moved up to the Figaro as he sought more performance and a more intense one design challenge. He is a regular on the podium now and some would say is on the brink of winning La Solitaire, and he too believes the question is rearing its head.
“ Of course here I am still missing a significant victory on the Figaro circuit but do I feel the need to change up in size and scale and speed. Starting a Vendée Globe project seems the most logical for me, I like the technological dimension, the complexity of the preparations, all this attracts me as much as to taste a great adventure such as you don’t get on the Figaro circuit. "
Two years from the start of the next Vendée Globe, Macaire harbours hopes of being on the start in November 2020, even if time is fast running out.
"The qualification rules are not helpful. A project started late with a second-hand boat may just find itself on the starting line. But that does not mean decision-making is easier for potential partners.” Macaire has set the month of September as his deadline after which he wants to postpone his ambitions for 2024.
Others like Yoann Richomme or Nicolas Troussel have already put their dreams on ice. The main thing is to race and to keep building experience and a track record. And for them the Class40 and a podium on the Route du Rhum is a logical target, a stepping stone for the future. And for either, who knows if a win could be the catalyst for a possible partner?
Troussel knows how much luck, or simply being right place right time, can help the evolution of a career. Troussel made his start in sailing alongside his friend Armel le Cléac'h and had a matching track record on the Figaro circuit, including two wins on La Solitaire. But he has just not had the breaks Armel got, even so Troussel is not giving up on his dream. "I’m still looking partners for 2020. For now, I have a sponsor that allows me to campaign for the Route du Rhum in Class40. But you do have to be realistic and at the end of 2018, if nothing has been decided, it is increasingly complicated. The qualification rules will favor long-term projects. "
A Swiss sense of pragmatism
So it is also roughly the same for Justine Mettraux. The Swiss sailor is still seeking another sponsor to complement TeamWork, her loyal sponsor that has been following her for six years. Mettreaux made a name for herself on the Mini circuit (second in the 2013 Mini Transat) before going on to compete in the Figaro and competing on the Volvo Ocean Race with Sam Davies and now winning on Dongfeng with Charles Caudrelier.
Mettraux remarks: "In the end, this obsession with the Vendée Globe has been good for my sports projects more than anything. I did not want to commit myself fully to the Volvo because I thought it would compromise too much my search for sponsors. So, I leave it a little frustrated right now because at the moment I have not found the money to follow the dream."
Pragmatic and looking forwards she says: "Even if the Vendée Globe remains my dream I won’t let it dominate my thinking. There are plenty of exciting ways to race offshore and I prefer to be more involved in just one project than running several at a time.”