06 February 2021 - 13:30 • 6015 views

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"This to me was a completely new, fabulous experience. I was asked what my worst memories were and really in the end, you only remember the good times. I'm super proud, super happy with what I've been through."

“But psychologically, it was still not easy. You prepare for what is like a lifetime and this time with Charal, with this team, with this boat I thought it should be my time, my chance. And from there you cannot just scrub that from your mind. You have to manage that in your head too, but it didn't take over and that didn't prevent me from pushing the boat forward. Positive thoughts finally took over. And in the end you are in the story and you just enjoy the moment. It's a long experience, you go through all the states of a usual Vendée Globe. And I'm in  much better state today than 80 days ago when I left.”

“ Coming back into the fleet was important, I still felt really isolated after the start. It’s nicer to have competitors, otherwise you’re out there chasing a record and not competing in the Vendée Globe. It was important to catch up, it gives extra motivation when you catch up with the same weather system. Catching up with a competitor happens, yes, but they too sail well. Let’s be clear if they are in the Vendée Globe and qualified for the Vendée Globe, it is because they know how to sail well. When I got to them their speed increased a bit, you could tell they were trying to resist!

In sport you can't win all the time, especially in sailing. It was Yannick who won brilliantly, but there will be more chances for me.

I had to do nine Solitaire du Figaros before winning it, I don't know how many Vendée Globes it will take. But that is my story, but there are other race wins that have come more easily. There is no rule. When you see the final podium today, without wanting to offend anyone, not many people would have bet on it. From my experience I have a hard giving up before I get there, so if it's going to take nine editions, maybe I'll be around for a while. I hope to be here for the next edition. When it was time to leave, I could have been  pissed off because that experience was not easy to manage. I went out with humility and discovered the pride of fighting small battles every day. It made me fall in love with this race even more. And with a little frustration of this ranking even more it just makes me want to come back next time.

In previous Vendée Globes, I hardly communicated with my opponents. When you are battling at the front there is a psychological battle. If you interact with your rivals you can show your weaknesses so you prefer to close your hatches. There, when you are behind, there is less pressure. I wanted to share, to see their way of seeing things, to understand what they were doing. My idol is Michael Jordan and he plays to win, otherwise he doesn't. There, I discovered that you could play, not to win but to complete your project, with your ideas, with your convictions, to satisfy yourself.  All these skippers are there for that. They have a varying level of preparation but they give everything. To me before it seemed improbable to do a race without having any chance of winning. Still, it's a great challenge, they are great sailors, all very deserving.

It’s no small thing to start and rally to the finish. I think about them a lot, some have to face difficult conditions and the more you advance in the season, the easier it is. I also think of all those who are at home like Nico (Troussel), Seb (Simon), Kevin (Escoffier), Alex (Thomson). I was lucky enough to start again and they didn't. Of course, the winners have to be congratulated, but I want to say a special word to those who abandoned and are at home.  

When you are ahead, your race and that of your competitors are linked. Each option is considered, depending on your weather and your tools, but you watch a lot what others are doing. Without pressure you don't sail like that. It allowed me to take more time on my boat, to try out different configurations, to take more time to eat, to sleep.  I have never had so many showers during the race as in this Vendée Globe! I even brushed my teeth often, You kind of forget all that in your head. You are much more focused on yourself and what you are going through. And you also do it less for how it looks from the outside, for how your performance looks because you don't really have much to prove. I didn't lose my competitive spirit but it was a breath of fresh air.

Charal is an extraordinary boat. We knew that before we left, but it's hard to go around the world like this to validate everything. We have seen that all the options work and are reliable. The structure, the foils and the instrumentation have not changed. With these large foils, the boat has to have a proper supporting engineered structure, we have to balance the weights, manage the loads, the autopilot ... There is a whole development programme that makes it work and with l'Occitane en Provence we were both fastest boats When you find the right angle, the right settings, it's magic! It was an opportunity to try things. For that, it was important to go around the world. They are crazy boats!

No regrets
My need to return and re-start was about a combination of circumstances, we hit something, we damaged the rudder. It was collateral damage that forced us to come back (not a lack or fault in our of preparation) We tried to get the boat in the water as soon as possible, in terms of preparation time, we couldn't do more. We have sailed a lot, but you can never do enough. They are also boats that require maintenance and the actual build times construction times cant be compressed much more. We have a research and development programme and that took time, we have a structured team for that. We will continue to develop the boat. We do everything to make it fast and reliable.  We must succeed in combining reliability and innovation. But anything can happen, it's sport, it's the Vendée Globe.

We will review and debrief. What I can say is that I really want to be at the start of the Vendée Globe 2024, but nothing is certain I will be there. That is my desire, not any kind of announcement. I want to be there and that itself is a good start. We review everything, on the evolution of this boat, on what the boats of the future might be. We are going to discuss the possible extension of the partnership, which for the moment goes until 2022. I try especially to concentrate on next year, on the Transat Jacques Vabre (with a real desire for revenge) and on the Route du Rhum.

Settings
In the deep south, I managed to find full control of Charal all the right settings. It's not simple. We cannot hide it, they are fast boats but complex to balance, to move quickly and for a long time. You have to be in the right conditions, succeed to be in front of the systems to have a correct sea. When you get this there are moments of fulfilment. When you look at fast averages, it's fabulous. I didn't have a lot of 24-hour spells to challenge for records but shorter stages yes that was really great. And then there were discussions with others as well and small victories, climbing the mast for example. I hate that ! The day I did it, I was really happy with myself. Each days has its own challenges and small daily victories.

Escoffier

I don't know how they handled it up front. We were worried for a few hours. And when you know he's safe, you run through things a bit for yourself, you go check the structure and everything on your boat. But he was OK and did well. We must consolidate and be there and support each other. Rescues we are the people who operate them. This solidarity is vital  it is part of the race. Re directing several boats and giving redress is obviously the right approach. I hope this is just a bad memory for Kevin.  He is a solid bloke and I am convinced that we will see him again in the Vendée Globe.

Steak, next? 
I've already had my steak, I won't overdo it ... But I wouldn't be against the idea of another one. Now I will share some time with my team my family, my dog (golden retriever), and chill out at home. The season will start again quickly, everything is ready to go back to the yard and we will go about it in due course. This recovery phase should not be neglected, because a race like this drains you. But once I have recovered I have only one desire: to find the next starting line. "