Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) has continued to build her strength and her experience in the IMOCA class. Here in Les Sables d’Olonne she is now ready to take on the Vendée Globe with a burning desire to experience much more than just the competitive side of the solo race round the world
How do you feel, in the heart of this start village, which you must have been to as a sailing fan and follower and now you are here as one of the main actors, a star of the show?
I am getting a bit excited as the start gets close, a little bit intimidated by the event, by the magnitude of this thing that is now around the corner. But now is the right time to go. As a visitor I was impressed by the village. Now on the other side of the rope makes me want to just keep a bit of distance from it all. I try not to look out at it all too much: I have to stay in my zone, in my concentration bubble. It's nice that there is all this enthusiasm for this great race, sure, sure but I have to stay focused on myself.© Jean Louis Carli / AFP / DPPI / Vendée Globe
After a complicated start to your programme with two retirements first on the Route du Rhum and then the Transat Jacques Vabre, you got back on track with your third place in the 48 hours Azimut?
I don't want to put extra pressure on myself: I've been doing that since my first race in the Mini. I especially need to reduce the pressure. After my two retirals I felt the need to rebuild my confidence. This summer, despite a broken boom in the Vendée - Arctic - Les Sables d'Olonne, I managed to finish; and this 3rd place in the 48 hours Azimut proved to me that I could finish a race, and finish it well – even if it was really a stroke of luck since the wind picked me up at the right time. But added to my winter training, all this gives me a load of confidence. And that allows me to be pragmatic and remain firm and focussed when it is tough. Things can turn out good or bad. That’s ok: if I had wanted to have only the good times, I would have chosen another profession.
This is much more than sport….
Of course, I don’t see myself doing something which is just competition. It is part of the game, but that's not all. I'm going to give it my everything. I'm going to give everything to the competition, but my world doesn't end there. I am not going to try to beat everyone at all costs. I want this to be beautiful. We can compete and make it still be something beautiful, let it touch me deep inside me. I'm going to experience incredible things, that I'm going to find resources deep inside me that I didn't know I had, to face situation that I will find fascinating, and beautiful. I remember the situations where I was scared, where I prepared my life raft, but it taught me so much about myself! Ocean racing is about more than competition: there is risk, the need to preserve the boat and the value that is placed on it. Win but risk destroying my boat? No ! For me sailing goes much further than the majority of sports.
When did you find yourself having to prepare your life raft?
It was in 2016, during the English Transat; my boat took on water, hull cracked. I was going towards New York on starboard tack, upwind, and the hull was cracked on the port side, I had to go on port tack, which made me head towards an area with icebergs. I entered that ice zone at night, and I was not able to leave until the next morning. I couldn't see anything in the night, the boat would not go less than 5 knots, and I was in a place where no cargo ships were passing because we were in iceberg country. I was in a no man’s land. I still see myself saying to myself: "There you are, there is no way out, you can't do anything more but do not stress any more about it". I prepared my survival canister, my TPS suit, and the raft. I would never have imagined it this way: I thought I was going to be a bag of nerves but I went to sleep, feeling a bit confident: I was ready.
What would you change on your boat if you had a magic wand?
(Laughs) I would take some weight off and add structure so that it is even lighter than it is today and has better acceleration capacity in medium weather.
You take a lot of emergency equipment, spares?
I have had so many problems that I know what to have. In 2016, I learned to patch up a cracked hull - to make it waterproof, I have a big drill and a small one. We worked on the spare in a very meticulous way with the team. Everything is vacuum packed, counted, described, listed, the right drivers, the right screws ... I have a spare generator, a solar panel, a watermaker, a spare pilot arm, a lot of material to make laminate repairs, enough stuff to repair the sails with lots of fabrics, and I saw that with all the specialists. Our guy in charge of the hydraulics briefed me: I know how to fix everything. Everything has been prepared with proper processes.
It seems that you suffer the cold… What's your plan?
“5 super thick cashmere sweaters, by L / overs, around fifteen hats and neck warmers, I don't know how many fleeces, tops and bottoms, jackets, heated gloves, ski gloves, a heated jacket; two hot water bottles, a heater. I am fully sorted ”.