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Jean Le Cam: The 2020 Vendée Globe is a pivotal event

Mise à l'eau du bateau de Jean Le Cam
© Kris Askoll

In Port-la-Forêt, Hubert,  the monohull, which was given this nickname in honour of the late Hubert Desjoyeaux, Michel’s big brother, is waiting patiently out of the water. She will soon enter the yard replacing Groupe Apicil,  Damien Seguin’s boat. For Jean Le Cam, the timetable is becoming clearer…

 

Vendée Globe: with your registration validated, we can expect to see Jean Le Cam at the start of the next Vendée Globe?

Jean Le Cam: I hope to be able to let myself in for that. We still need to win over a few partners to be entirely certain of being there at the start. But we’re really going for that. However, we’ll be doing things rather differently from in 2016. It was fascinating to set up the crowd-funding project and extremely enriching on a human level… But it was exhausting.

 

VG: how are you going to manage to get the required funding in that case?

JLC: We started out with the idea of bringing together four partners each investing the same amount in the Yes We Cam project. That is going to be the name of the boat. After that, everyone will be able to communicate as they wish around that name. The advantage of that way of doing things is that no one loses out. Each partner will contribute 280,000 euros a year, which is equivalent to a Figaro budget. Having said that, if one big sponsor wants to invest the whole amount, I’d find it hard to refuse.

 

VG: You have previously stated that of all your Vendée Globes, the 2016-2017 race was your favourite…

JLC: Simply because it is not merely the result that counts. In that particular case, it was a whole community that was involved with my project with hundreds of people taking part in the adventure. It was of course very encouraging for me to see that I was sharing this endeavour with all these people who believed in the idea. In the end, I completed the race in week less than the previous edition. So I was over the moon…

 

VG: Is it important for you to convey your emotions to others?

JLC: Yes, because otherwise our projects would be meaningless. Since I started racing, I have always wanted to share the experience with those following me and show everyone what we are going through. Because the Vendée Globe is such an exceptional event with such a large audience, it enabled me to get to know the general public. It worked well, because I have never sought to cheat. People recognise what real experiences are like. The only message I wished to convey was that the Vendée Globe is not just a race. Each day is an adventure. 

 

VG: Then, there the famous Jean Le Cam videos…

JLC: That’s my thing. I love all that. Pictures (I prefer comic books to novels), a bit of technology, a mixture of spontaneity and hard work for the clip. Yes, I really love doing that and got the bug.

 

VG: Can Hubert be improved for the next Vendée Globe?

JLC: There is always room for improvement. We’ll try to make the most of the rules and save 200 kilos. The lighter a boat, the easier she is to sail. We have also attempted to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels: in addition to the hydro-generators, I’ll also have solar panels. If everything works out, I shouldn’t need to use the engine. I will have to remember to start it up now and again. I have only one goal in mind. I want to be the first boat with straight daggerboards to finish. The difference with the foilers has become so big that we are bound to have two races in the event. During the Transat Jacques Vabre, the most advanced foilers were almost six knots faster than us. We can’t keep up with that.

 

VG: How do you feel about all the new projects?

JLC: It is great that there are four teams of designers involved. That way, we’ll get a real comparison. That will change things from the years when the whole fleet followed the same trends. There were the VPLP-Verdier years, the Bruce Farr years, the Finot years... This time, there are huge differences. I like Samuel Manuard and Armel Tripon’s project. It was daring and therefore interesting. Congratulations to the sponsor who was brave enough to go down that highly original track. Having said that, I am a bit scared that the Vendée Globe is becoming a contest between designers – the shape of the foils, the quest for power… I don’t know how much input there is from the skippers. At the finish of the Transat Jacques Vabre, several of them wondered how they would cope sailing the boat alone. In twelve months, you can’t turn everything around. There have been changes that seem logical to me. The fact that the sailors want to protect themselves is quite natural, particularly as the boats are faster and faster. Already our boats are not that comfortable…

 

VG: what about the future?

JLC: The changes are mind-blowing. Everything happens so fast and they have gone so far. In 2016, foils were used on average for 15% of the time. They could be raised if required. Now, the appendages have become so huge. That means there is an increased risk of hitting a UFO. Our straight daggerboards don’t offer anywhere near the same surface area. A foil down in the water is like raking through the sea. I think that in 2020, lessons will be learnt. We are setting off into the unknown here having moved up a level. Let’s not forget that the more we innovate, the more risks we take. The 2016 Vendée Globe was exceptional if you look at the number of competitors that made it to the finish. It is not going to be like that again. 

 

VG: So where does Jean Le Cam place himself?

JLC: I am just pleased to be sailing my boat. There is going to be a real contest between the IMOCA boats with straight daggerboards, which spices up the sporting challenge. There will be around fifteen of us with some good sailors like Damien Seguin, who is finishing his preparation with us. My schedule is simple right up to the Vendée Globe. I’m not planning on doing a transatlantic race. There is no point in risking breaking anything. We will however be doing some events with our partners including taking part in Brest 2020. Getting ancient and modern boats together is always enjoyable.

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