Maxime, what did your friends and family wish for you at the start of 2020?
Maxime Sorel: My friends and family wished me all the best out at sea and hoped I would make the most of the exceptional year ahead, while enjoying my time out on the water. They want me to revel in my first round the world voyage, which will be my most incredible sailing experience.
What would you like to do personally?
M. S.: Complete the Vendée Globe, above all. For all of us, sailors and technical assistants, completing the round the world voyage is a goal in itself, as we know just how hard it is. It is exceptional, as there are so many obstacles along the way. As someone who is competitive, I would like to make it to the podium of the Imocas without foils. I don’t think we should really set up such sub-rankings, but we all know what it would mean to get to that virtual podium, and that is what counts.
We’re getting closer now to the start of the Vendée Globe with fewer than ten months to go. Does that mean you have shifted gears now in your project?
M. S.: 2019 was a year of trials as we only just entered the IMOCA class, and I think we were a bit underweight in terms of driving force. We reorganised the way things are done internally in terms of the technical aspects, communication and logistics. That involves a lot of people, but it was necessary and we took on people who have already experienced the round the world adventure. We tightened things up too with a fifteen month long timetable with deadlines that we have to hit. It is going to be important to run through everything before the start.
What’s happening in the next few months?
M. S.: We will be relaunching VandB - Mayenne in the second week of March or maybe a bit earlier, so we will have a month and a half to prepare for The Transat CIC (start in Brest on 10th May). The idea is to set off for Charleston in Vendée Globe mode. In other words, with all the gear we will take on board in Les Sables d’Olonne in early November, except for the huge quantity of food. I want to be able to check out things like stacking, the use of the engine, how to manage the fuel tanks… It won’t be ideal for a transatlantic race, but we see it as a way to get ready for the Vendée Globe.
Will the boat see any changes made to her before the start from Les Sables?
M. S.: We have identified a problem with stacking, which is a real handicap, as that takes a lot of energy and affects our performance. We are currently thinking about the possible solutions with the boat’s designers (VPLP-Verdier in 2007, editor’s note) and my team to try to find a better way of making it easier. While we are not thinking about covering the coach roof in completely because I like to feel the wind and enjoy getting wet, we will be trying to limit the influx of water on the deck.
What targets have you set yourself in terms of your own personal preparation?
M. S.: By design December was pretty chilled. It is a bit of a tradition with me, although I was going at my sport pretty hard with my sports coach. I work hard at the sport because I enjoy it. I work with a nutritionist, I watch the fat, I don’t really partake of my sponsors products (laughs, they are chain of wine bars) VandB - and will abstain for the three months before departure. I have not even eaten a square of chocolate during the holidays! My sports program will work on gaining mass and strength in the legs. You lose a lot racing solo so I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like on a round the world. Prepping to prevent injuries is also an important part of the work of the year. For all this I’m preparing as triathlete with a lot of cross training.
Did you feel like you really comprehend what awaits you this year?
M. S. This will be my first Vendée Globe, and no one around me has ever followed the whole of a round the work race, though they have been close. Nobody really knows what three months at sea will be like. Even when you think: "Imagine I am leaving today, and then work forwards to three months in my head", it is not easy to come to terms with. And if someone called me crazy! (he's laughs). I do not come from a very sailing, nautical world, so it is not easy for everyone to get hold of.
And you, do you realize?
M S.: It struck me hard that this is the year I am leaving. Many things intrigue me, even scare me a little, but it that is a healthy, positive concern. That mainly concerns what it will be like in the deep south. I want to go there because it's such a totally unique place on this planet. There is some trepidation, some concerns but just enough to temper the risk management and sail safe.
You presumably have a solid knowledge and understanding of the Vendée Globe and what it means to people, but do you feel that you are participating in the history of race now?
M S.: I already know quite a bit, yes. But I don't need to feed on what others have said, because I know very well what I want my story to be. I do not need to look at the past to see and know what I have to do. On the other hand, I do need to strengthen my weather skills and routing in these areas that I do not know. I’ll have plenty of tutorials and seminars with the experts so that when I start I will be as serene as possible.
Take your turn to send your message to the 33 other competitors ...
MS: I hope they all have a very good year, and fully experience the preparation and the the two Transats which happen before the start in Les Sables, to have the best, fullest experience on their Vendée Globe ideally all going just a bit slower than me! "