At La Base, Lorient's expansive former submarine base which is home to many of France's leading ocean racing yachts, including 11 IMOCA 60s which are bound for this winter's Vendée Globe, the post lockdown activity is reaching fever pitch. The solo racers and their teams are trying to make up for lost time to catch up on valuable sea miles, testing and training.
The 11 monohulls based in Lorient - Charal, Corum L'Epargne, Banque Populaire X, Initiatives-Coeur, DMG Mori, LinkedOut, Prysmian Group, La Fabrique, MACSF, Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco and Newrest - Art & Fenêtres are fully primed and their technical teams and skippers are now looking to build in maximum reliability and search for any extra speed gains.
After these long weeks of isolated work at reduced levels of operation, in small carefully distanced teams, or in some cases with work completely stopped for weeks, the IMOCA fleet here has been back in action since May 5 (when the new Corum L’Epargne was launched). Sailing has resumed, complying with basic rules, no more than four on board any of the boats and masks are obligatory.
"Everyone is smiling, all the guys are highly motivated! "Says Alan Roura, skipper of La Fabrique, who launched a few days ago on May 28 after a long, very long winter project that lasted until recently because of the confinement requirements. So now the Swiss skipper is full of anticipation, ready to see what the newly optimized La Fabrique is like. "The idea is to sail as much as possible including weekends to make up for the days we lost. " Confides Roura who can't disguise his impatience and his enormous desire to get back into it.
The activity remains intense on the the pontoons of Lorient-La Base - or to be exact Kernevel exact in the case of the latest IMOCA Corum L’Epargne, which sets sail from, a short distance from the fleet. Under the warm Mediterranean like sunshine, the guys and girls arrive on bikes, scooters or skateboards down to the giant hangars where the boats are. Sails are hoisted, the technical shore crew climb to the mast and there is incessant activity from early morning until the evening. That was until the last few days when a warm E'ly wind has blown.
" We go out to sail as often as possible with four people no more, whereas we might usually take six or seven at this stage.", explains Thomas Ruyant, the skipper of LinkedOut, who is super confident in his Verdier design which has been structurally reinforced, ergonomically optimized and which next August will be fitted with new foils. "The idea is also to keep pushing hard to always progress. I will participate in the training at Port-La-Forêt mid-June. But most of all I would like to be able to train in strong winds. We are not really seeing that just now even if it is very pleasant! "Adds the skipper who comes from Dunkirk.
Back with the gang
This deconfinement has the air of a real reunion. Behind the masks the smiles are visible. Preparateurs and skippers bump their elbows as greetings. The next deadline in terms of preparation is the Vendée - Arctic - Les Sables d'Olonne which starts on July 4 is approaching fast and everyone has the same objective: to sail, to sail more and to finally get back into some proper racing competition to feel that they are back on track for the Vendée Globe.
"It's pretty awesome, the confinement brought us all closer together as a community. With this weekly meeting organized by the IMOCA class we got to know each other better, to better understand certain projects. The atmosphere on the pontoons of Lorient-La Base is excellent smiles Fabrice Amedeo ready to cast off on Newrest - Art & Fenêtres his IMOCA which has been optimsied in terms of weight reduction, distribution, balance and ergonomics which have been further improved in recent weeks.
Samantha Davies says: “We feel that everyone is so happy to be back at work with defined goals. It is a big motivation to have a real race in sight. Everyone is in a hurry to get back on the water. We are making up for the lost two months. "
Davies has finally spent 24 hours at sea on her Initiatives-Coeur. That is her first overnight on her IMOCA since the last Transat Jacques Vabre.