VG : Anything there which will give you a significant improvements in performance?
MM : No just little things basically. We dont have the budget to do anything big really, we just have a list of improvements, things we would have liked to have done that are beyond our reach. I'm not talking about foils I'm talking about lopping a metre off the rig and things like that. But really we are checking everything, maintaining everything, replacing all the running rigging, luckily the standing rigging was done last year, the keels also done. We are just basically making sure that the boat is super reliable. Even if we put a lor more money into the boat it wouldn’t turn her into a winning boat. That's not the aim of this campaign, the aim is more of an adventure one given our budget. We are on a Class 40 budget. The aim is to have a good race and get around.
VG : How did this Vendee Globe come about for you, did you ask Campagne de France or did they suggest it to you?
MM : Much to our surprise it came via the sponsors. We have been sponsored by Campagne de France since 2011. There were two things. Firstly I did really want to do a solo around the world race and secondly, we wanted to do something that would really benefit them as well to thank them for their years of loyalty. I had initially suggested having a crack at the 40ft Class 40 round the world. We had the perfect Class 40 for that. But Halvard said ' that’s great but if you’re go in our class 40 you’d probably beat the record. But no one would be any the wiser. So particularly for our sponsors it actually wouldn’t bring them very much. So that is how and why we ended up here. Also timing wise our sponsorship is through to do the end of the Vendee Globe and that probably would be it. Also we reckon it's time for us to move onto other projects. Timing wise the Vendee Globe was there and we reckoned that we could do it with our means, which to be honest we are struggling to do, but we can, and that’s how we've ended up here.
VG : Is the Vendée Globe a race you always wanted to do?
MM : I've wanted to do the Vendee Globe since about 15-18 years ago. I got quite close to getting a boat and having a budget (in 2004) and then that project fell through. After that I never really thought about it again because each edition of the Vendee Globe costs go up so much and in those days I wanted a competitive boat. Then this is just at the beginning of last year we talked about it and decided that we can do it this way. My ambitions are different now, I have no aspiration to win the Vendee Globe, it’s beyond my ambitions to do that - I think - and it’s certainly beyond our financial means as it’s become so expensive. Actually being able to compete in the origianal spirit of the Vendee Globe is possible and I'm delighted to be doing that.
VG : Does your preparation now feel any different to the preparation before the start of any of the other many big ocean races you have done? Is the fact that this time it's for the Vendee Globe always on your mind?
MM : No not at all the only difference is that at the start, as it was at the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre it’ll be the first time we will race and pretty much know we cant get a decent result. But at the start of the TJV being honest, we were concerned that we were going to find tedious but actually we had a great time because we pushed the boat as hard as we could, given what we had. Our sails were a bit beyond it and the autopilot was not particularly reliable. But we sailed a good team race. I think we sailed the shortest, neatest course of the entire fleet. And we put a few boats behind us and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. So I do think it will be quite good fun even if you know you can’t do very well. You can give the best performance you can with what you’ve got.
What do you have to improve on, anything specific?
MM :You never set out without learning something But we will have some new sails, hopefully the auto pilot issues will have been sorted so performance will be a bit better. But I think I've still got loads to learn. A couple of back to back Transatlantic raced coming up I’d love it all to be at my fingertips by the time I get back from the New York Vendee
VG : Is there anything you will work harder on specifically in these Transatlantics in terms of preparing yourself?
MM : You need to think about things a bit earlier and try not to get into any sticky situations. In terms of personal management there's always things to learn about strategy and how you run the boat and how hard it should be pushed as that comes down to the autopilot again. Also, we will have new sails but we don’t know the range yet of those sails. In terms of personal management of my big shortcomings is eating properly, I worked really hard on that one last year and I improved that one a lot. It’s all just a little tougher. In the Class 40s if you get into trouble you can generally get out of it. It is a lot harder in an IMOCA 60. I am also going to the gym during the week because for the refit we are at V1D2 in Caen.I'm now a member of the rowing club so I use their facilities. A couple days a week I train with Jorg and Tiphaine Riechers and the rest of the time I just do the same program but on my own just working out.
VG : The race with the other women, what is the relationship like between you and all the other girls, is it all very friendly solidarity or is there a clear rivalry?
MM : Well Sam (Davies ) and I are good friends. We have known each other for 20 years (since sailing Royal & Sun Alliance two thirds of the way round the world in 2008) so it’s really nice to be in the same fleet again. I don’t know Clarisse (Cremer, Banque Populaire) at all, but I’ve heard she’s lovely. But I suppose basically there are three rich teams and three not so rich teams.
VG : It promises to be a great race for all the women who are set to line up, some races within the race as there will be all the way through the fleet?
MM : I hope so and I hope that all six of us make it. The other day I was having lunch with my old boss who was with JWT when I worked in advertising. She is very senior in the business. And I told here that this time there are six girls race and she went “what is that all?!” And I said 'Well actually that’s quite good. Last time there were none.' So in terms of that (the outside world) we’ve got quite some way to go.
VG : You have been based in France so long now, is there a part of you become more French or are you still 100% British?
MM : I'm very much definitely British. But our sponsors are French and we are very attached to France, particularly Normandy. Their interests are in France not in the UK but I do think it would be really nice for them to get coverage in the UK.
VG : And in terms of how you approach your sailing are you much more French or do you retain some Anglo Saxon attributes?
MM : I think the way I sail is pretty French because I’ve sailed more French people than non-French people in the last 10-12 years. I was in Class 40 for 12 years, some with Peter Harding but the rest with Halvard has been with the French. I find the French, when you are talking about short hand racing, are very good.
VG : But maybe the Anglo Saxon mindset is more even, less up and down?
MM : I don't know about anyone else but I've become very even tempered with age! And Halvard is so lovely to sail with and is much more fun at sea than on land and he has pretty much always sailed with women. I do really think it is nothing to do with French or English, with my earliest solo races I found that I was very up and down emotionally. In my later one from 2014 onwards I’ve discovered that actually it does nothing, I really quite enjoy it and stay on a much more even keel psychologically.
VG : Do you wish this had happened for you years ago?
MM : Why look back and regret things because you can’t change things. I had such a fabulous time in Class 40 and I wouldn’t change that for the world. And this is a nice way to come to the end. Well I think I'm coming to the end of my career anyway. I'm now 50 so it’s a nice way to finish.
VG : How do you see this race shape up compared for previous editions you have watched?
MM : I think this time round that there's going to be such an enormous gap between the lead boat and boats like mine. There will be more than an ocean of difference at the finish I think. Hopefully there will be plenty of different races within the race.