Date of birth: 27th January 1977
Place of birth: Munich (Germany)
Lives in: Lorient
Studies and career path:
I read literature, studying Arts for two years and then continuing with a master’s in Arts. I then got my official papers to be a skipper and trainer, which allowed me to become a professional skipper and sailing instructor.
Your first experience of sailing. Where? When? What were the circumstances?
It was on a lake in Austria where my grandmother lived. I was very young. I saw my little neighbour sailing an Optimist and couldn’t wait! My mother made me a boat out of cardboard and I got in. I dreamt a lot of sailing. Then, my neighbour took me out on their Optimist. It felt like I was in a dream. I then took up the hobby of sailing, but not as often as I would have liked. I don’t think I got over my desire to sail when I was young, and later it just seemed the right thing to do. During my studies, I went to the Glénan Islands off Concarneau to do some sailing courses. I fell in love with it immediately and then I was given the chance of going aboard as part of the crew during a delivery trip from La Rochelle to Brazil. That’s when I was really won over. When I did the delivery trip, I kept looking ahead and told myself I wanted to live and work with boats. I had got a taste of the freedom of the open seas and I loved it.
How/why did you develop the desire to race across the oceans?
It happened after meeting people in Lorient. Isa Magois and Valérie Tisseraud were preparing for the Mini Transat. Someone said to me: “Why don’t you do the Mini?” I obviously listened to them and set out to do that. I used up all my savings and bought a boat. My mother borrowed some money and supported me, even though she didn’t really understand anything about the world of sailing. I managed to find the 50,000 Euros required to buy a boat - a prototype that had belonged to Samantha (Davies). I didn’t know anything about it and bought my boat based on my subjective choices. I spent two years with my boat in my truck. I worked for three months in the French West Indies and then spent it all on my boat. I got stuck in and was so determined that things worked out and gradually I found some sponsors.
When and why did it become the focus of your life?
After four years of Mini racing with a brand new boat, and some keen sponsors, I spent eight years in the Figaro circuit and took part seven times in the Solitaire. There were some highs and lows, in particular in 2013 when I lost my sponsors. That was the low point. I found it hard, even if I remained passionate. I worked on myself, but I knew I wanted to continue. Thanks to Generali, I found myself with Alain (Gautier) in the Figaro circuit for two years and we worked as a team. At that point, I was fully focused on my Figaro, and stopped looking ahead all the time. I realised how lucky I was and wanted to enjoy every minute. Then in late 2015, Generali offered me the chance of competing in the Vendée Globe. I wasn’t expecting that, but did not hesitate for a moment.
What result or experience are you proudest of?
The first leg of the Mini Transat in 2007 which I won hands down. And in 2016, on a Class40 in the Transat. I was in the lead when I suffered some damage. I was proud of how I sailed, my strategic and tactical choices. And also about how I dealt with the damage and the disappointment. I did not give up and continued to push hard. To sum up, I am proud about how I got through some tough times.
Your main quality in life: I would say my determination and commitmentYour main weakness: I am demanding for others and myself.
If you were an animal…: A bird
What is your dream of happiness: Keeping things simple with a life close to nature.
An aphorism: “Time punishes those who don’t know how to spend it wisely.” We’re always in a rush. We have to manage our time wisely to be able to do things well.If you were not an ocean racer: I think that I would still have done something linked to the elements, such as mountaineering for example, for its wild and extreme side.
My 2020 Vendée Globe
Your ambitions in the Vendée Globe: My outright ambition is to complete this race and to be proud of the way I deal with everything. I know it won’t be easy. In terms of the race, I hope to finish in the top ten.
What would stop you from achieving that goal (apart from damage): Not being able to sail at my own pace. Wanting to follow the others and their pace and making mistakes. I will do my manoeuvres as I see fit to avoid making mistakes.
Your lethal weapon: Understanding myself. I know my pace. I know why I am here and am capable of letting things go to win from behind. I bounce back all the time.
What would make the Vendée Globe a success for you: If I manage to finish and end up in the top ten, that would be fine.
In three words what is the Vendée Globe: An opportunity to delve deep within myself to find hidden resources. A very scary, big adventure. One of the final opportunities to go where no one goes.
The Vendée Globe in pictures:
- I have some pictures in my mind of the Southern Ocean, which is both scary and attractive.
- Sailing down the Atlantic. I want to enjoy that. I think it should be pleasant sailing.
- Obviously the finish in the harbour entrance!
Which skipper inspires you? Ellen Mac Arthur for the way she developed her career like a shooting star in sailing and somehow, she managed to do something so very different and new. She had less experience, but amazed everyone. What I love is that she has never lost her humility nor her personal qualities. She is a wonderful person.You would not leave without…: A heater to dry my clothes. I always feel cold!
What are you campaigning for: We are defending the idea of equality between men and women in every area. Women succeed as well as men. Then, there is the question of health and sporting performance. During my preparation, there are physical and mental elements I work on to ensure I am in the best of shape. I must avoid getting injured, rest up and manage the lack of sleep: health is a key question linked to sporting and intellectual performance. The idea is to give it your all whether at work, in your daily life and in sports.