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Thomas Ruyant: “My way of doing things is rather unusual, but it works”

© Pierre Bouras

Advens for Security is finally in the water. She sailed for the first time off Lorient with a few days to go before the Azimut Challenge, but for Thomas Ruyant and his team, this first battle against the rest of the IMOCA fleet will be a matter of running in. Things will start to get serious with the Transat Jacques Vabre at the end of October.

VG: It was rather unusual to build a brand new boat without any real financial guarantees…
Thomas Ruyant: It’s unusual, but we weren’t starting out from nothing. I won over the confidence of a group of investors, who worked with me during the last Vendée Globe and wanted to help me bounce back after being forced to retire. As soon as I had the minimum funds necessary, I chose to build a new boat taking a gamble on finding potential partners who would be interested. What that really means today is that I can offer a turnkey project, knowing that I’m not taking too much of a risk: after the Vendée Globe, there is the Ocean Race and the IMOCA class is going to need boats that perform well. We are taking it step by syep, but so far everything has been going well. I have found a partner for the Transat Jacques Vabre and we have a year to complete our budget.

VG: This is the first time you have built a new boat, isn’t it?
TR: Yes, up until now whether in the Mini or Class40, I was never involved in the construction of the boat I sailed. So it was something new to me. But I had a lot going for me. I had already been in contact with Guillaume Verdier and felt I could trust him. We used the work he had started on when they were looking at a one-design 60-foot monohull for the Ocean Race. The equipment was already in place at Persico. I had found the designer and work could begin, so that was a good start.

VG: How do you get on with Guillaume Verdier?
TR: Guillaume is someone who is very creative and open, but he sticks to his guns. You have to work hard to win him over. Having said that, the designs for the Ocean Race 60-foot boat had taken a year’s work. So from his point of view, it was hard to imagine a better hull. Rather than starting out from scratch, we used this as a base. We made some minor adjustments. On the other hand, we did a lot of work on the deck layout and cockpit.

VG: Talking of the cockpit, at first glance, it looks relatively traditional…
TR: We were looking for something functional with two ideas in mind: we wanted to see what was going on in front of the boat, so we needed the right portholes, and we anted to avoid friction when carrying out manoeuvres. We didn’t want to go down the same road as Charlie Dalin or Alex Thomson with their cockpits that are more or less closed. I need to see the sea and to feel the elements. That’s why I go out there sailing. When I look at what Alex (Thomson) has done, it’s really great, but so extreme. Personally, I couldn’t get used to the idea of spending all my time inside the boat.

VG: At the same time, the new boats that are being launched have some very different features…
TR: That’s what makes it so fascinating. With the appearance of foils, the clocks were reset. Before, there was one type of boat that everyone worked around. Now designers are forced to move away from their comfort zone.
There is still one big unknown factor: the ability of the sailor to get the most out his boat. It is harder and harder to live in these boats. They need to be tested and we need to find ways to try to improve the conditions on board.

VG: The Azimut Challenge and the Transat Jacques Vabre are the next events…
TR: For us this is just the starting phase. Our main goal remains the Vendée Globe. We won’t be taking too many risks and pushing the boat too hard. I’m sailing with Antoine Koch who was with me for the construction work. Antoine is an excellent sailor, who has trained as a designer, so is a skilled technician. He has done a lot of multihull sailing and understands the problems of sailing at high speed.
After the Jacques Vabre, I shall do part of the return delivery trip alone, at least until the Cape Verde Islands. To be honest, I must admit that starting out with a double-handed race to get used to the boat, means you can gradually build up

VG: Having a new boat means you can feel more relaxed about making it to the start…
TR: You just need to qualify in the Transat Jacques Vabre to be certain of being at the start. We won’t have all that pressure of clocking up the miles, which is going to be a problem for so many competitors, including some big names. Indeed, all of the races leading up to the Vendée Globe will have exceptional line-ups. The fact that the race is so popular means things are moving in the right direction. Everyone is going to have to do a lot of sailing before 8th November 2020. That is the best way to be certain of things.

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