From Miranda Merron’s Campagne de France project to that of Jérémie Beyou’s Charal or Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss, there is a world of difference. One’s budget is but a small fraction of the others. Some big teams might spend more on their communication at sea than would run a very small low budget programme. The ambitions are usually directly correlated to financial means, but the one thing that is common to all of the 33 registered skippers is the desire to complete the solo round-the-world, non-stop and without assistance race.
How are these teams organized? Who does what? How do they manage themselves during the final countdown to the start on November 8?
In the shadows are the specialists, the men and women without whom nothing would be possible, they might include hydraulics specialists, engineers, composite professionals, electronics wizards – often highly talented sailors or young enthusiasts trained to a high level to do the job. For the biggest teams that might be between 10 and 15 people for the biggest budgets, and just two for the smallest.
Such is the case for the IMOCA programme of Campagne de France for which the couple Miranda Merron and Halvard Mabire have sacrificed their time, social and family life for months and months on end.
"It's the dream of a lifetime, we've been working tirelessly for months for the Vendée Globe. There are so many things to think about and to do! It's still time to leave, Halvard is tired," said the British sailor, based in Normandy, with a smile during the Azimut Challenge last September. There are no teams of preparateurs for the Campagne de France couple, just the occasional support of two pros who only intervene in cases of emergency and some young "sailors" from Barneville-Carteret, who come to help out on the final stretch before the start in Les Sables d'Olonne. It is a bit of an ‘old school’ make do and mend project, pared to the minimum of technological excess, but Merron is ready on the start line with a boat she knows perfectly and had sailed many thousands of miles. Their may seem like a bit of a gamble but it is also true to their personal philosophy of the Merron/Mabire couple, sea, boats and adventure!
Organizational flow charts... or not!
"A Vendée Globe is like managing a small business. At Initiatives-Cœur, there are ten of us, there are schedules to respect, skills to develop, deliverables, logistics, accounting, a thousand things to prepare for and around the boat" explains David Sineau, Team Manager of Sam Davies' project. Depending on the size of the team, the organization chart drives the programme and is precise. The more people there are, the more roles need to be perfectly defined. At Charal it is Vincent Beyou who runs the project (controlling of the budget, requirements, employee skills and relations with partners). Here there is also a technical director (in their design office) and a boat captain (in charge of the boat).
There is none of that in Jean Le Cam's team! "When it's time to sandpaper something, everyone sands. We don't have the budget of the big teams, but I'm not complaining. I like working on the boat, it's also my pleasure. There are six of us in all, and I spend twelve hours a day at the yard every day", says Le Cam, an experienced boatbuilder.
As for Maître-Coq (YB Sailing), Yannick Bestaven chose a team of eight people with advanced sailing skills. A sports director, Jean-Marie Dauris, a veteran of the Olympic Games and the America's Cup, a specialist in deck fittings in the shape of Ronan Le Goff, who has sailed the Jules Verne, among other races, Figaro sailors as préparateurs. They are a fully professional team, almost a family, with whom the skipper works and communicates every day.
Confidence in your team: a guarantee of a serene Vendée Globe.
Apivia is one of the large programmes with a big team, needed to optimally run a project on a latest generation foiler. Skipper Charlie Dalin admits: "I ate, I lived on and slept on my boat even before it was launched, it's been like being married to the boat..." Elise Bakhoum, in charge of the rigging confirms it: "Charlie is here all the time and involved in everything and he knows exactly what he wants. We are a team of eight employees, not counting Charlie and the comms team. Our job is to anticipate what may happen while sailing, to imagine what it could be like at sea. "
Bakhoum is one of these specialists trained on the job by the passion of the profession, fully invested and trusted within a team of hand picked top professionals. "Each one has his or her own field, but the roles and responsibilities are all intertwined. It's exciting," she continues.
Anne Le Cam, Jean's partner and Yes We Cam's logistics and communication manager, points to a factor that is essential to the success of a project: "A Vendée Globe is high technology, from the preparation to the little details, of course it is. But it is ultimately about the human side, it is about people putting their whole hearts and minds into their roles, and with these men and women on the team it means that the skipper leaves serene and confident.”