The 29 year old who made a big impression in the Mini class but has no serious IMOCA experience to date will be backed by Banque Populaire, mentored by Armel Le Cléac’h and race the former MACIF, the 2012 Vendée Globe-winning IMOCA which has just won the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe as SMA.
Something of a late starter to ocean racing she has already proven her potential when she finished second in the Mini Transat in 2017.
Clarisse, you finished second in the Mini Transat in 2017 in the Series division, but there is a long way to go before you will be competitive on an IMOCA60?
"Yes, there is such a lot of work. I have a lot to learn. I do not have so much offshore experience, but in the history of the Vendée Globe there are others who did not have much more experience than me and who still got round and did well. So I feel like I am lucky to be able to rely on a team which has such a huge level of experience. Learning the sailing part of it alone will be a full time, full on programme right up until I start. And so I am fortunate that I have so few other issues to deal with, I can maximise my sailing time.”
But you did not know a lot before you started out in the Mini?
“ I had never raced offshore and never been solo. I just had a little experience of crewed sailing and racing and that was relatively recent. But in the Mini class, there are quite a lot of people who work full time whereas I worked as a freelance, I made my own schedule, and I was able to train as and when I wanted to. When I started I was a disaster and it was out of the question for me to race at this level. So I took the bull by the horns, I trained a lot. With my partner Tanguy Le Turquais, a racer and my coach Tanguy Leglatin, I was already in good company and well supported. And bit by bit I made progress all the time.”
You want to race the Vendée Globe aboard the ex-SMA, in itself a great boat with a good record. It is hard to imagine you going out and racing with no sporting objective, no target, but just to get around?
“ Well it is true I don’t have pretentions that I will make a great performance and get a good result, but I am not going out there just to tick off the miles and complete the circle. I did not ask for a boat of this level but it fits the project well, it is not a foiler and so that is one technical dimension I don’t have to worry so much about. And it has been successively skippered by two great sailors in François Gabart and Paul Meilhat so we all know what the boat is capable of. The performance side is very well documented and so my goal is to be as close as possible to that, to be as near as I can be to 100% of the potential of this magnificent boat. I'm not going on this race just to look good.”
What’s your personal perception of the Vendée Globe?
“ I suppose it is a little bit removed, kind of disconnected when you consider where I am about to be . Until now I have been just regular fan, a spectator. For example, I did not follow the race as a member of a team. And it is from that viewpoint that I have wanted to do the race for a long number of years, it has been a dream for a long time. But really the impetus, the drive to actually try and do it has only been in place for a few months. Racing around the planet earth fascinates me, most of all that the boat is the means of transport which will take me around the world. That fascination has been with me since the MiniTransat when I really discovered the incredible freedom to be able to go from one place to another, alone. Factor in the learning and the competition and the whole idea becomes very important to me.”