Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) enjoyed a huge, warm welcome back to Les Sables d'Olonne today as she completed her round the world passage out of the race. Her bravery and sheer determination to bring her boat back to Les Sables d'Olone after retiring from the race in early January was acknowledged by a passionate welcome.
"I feel like I have been close to the worst and the best of the race. It was like looking in a magnifying glass and seeing a reflection of who and what I was in difficult situations seeing my reactions which I don't always like, but also seeing my ability. But really all the way through this project I was always looking at the future in a different way. From the start things didn't go as I hoped they would, it seemed like we were always reviewing things."
I had to constantly modify my hopes and expectations. Each time it was asking new questions of me. You know I just never expected to make such a bad start to the race for example. That was hard to take. But then I found in myself a real capacity to give my everything and to make good courses and to go fast, to be in the game again and that I was not really expecting to be able to do that.
I felt a kind of pressure during the radio and video calls when I said what I thought. I could see that maybe that sometimes did not correspond to the expectations of the outside world. Basically, when things were wrong, I wanted to be able to say so. But we are kind of seen as heroes and there is this a certain expectation to be so. That is how I felt. Mostly I tried to be myself. I was getting so many messages of support and encouragement but at the same time, I felt like people kind of wanted me to say I was okay all the time or to be able to bounce back straight away. But that's not always how things are. You just don't always bounce back right away.
The opinions of the other skippers and what they think of you are important, even if I wish they were not. Jean (Le Cam's) message on the day I gave up touched me a lot. I cried. My disappointment at giving up was so immense.
But in saying that I am quite demanding with myself. In the south I really cracked the whip and pushed myself hard. But at the same time I was like “give yourself a break and appreciate what you've done”! I also had messages reminding me to do so. I was like 'you're in the top 5, rejoice'!
The seascapes you encounters in the Southern Oceans are unique. The sea is wild, it's scary but at the same time it's made to just surf all day long. Surfing with our boats is a bit mad. Usually we sail for hours of upwind to surf for a few minutes. And there are whole long days of feeling the boat racing fast and hard. I really appreciated and enjoyed the nights in the Pacific Ocean. It was so beautiful! The nights were very short, there was an orange horizon and dream like moons. I felt like it was in a fairy tale when I watched the sea and the skies.
The welcome from the public
The fact that there were so many people in the channel was quite emotional it was a recognition and a measure of gratitude. I enjoyed it so much as a present to me. It's as if everyone was there to just remind me how far we've come. That is crazy.
MACSF is a sistership of PRB?
That weighed heavily on me. I realized that it had affected us all, completely. At one point I had to work hard with my feelings so as not to get caught up in the fear. At the start of the Southern Ocean, when I was speeding up and getting back into the game I was struggling in my head, one part of me was scared and one part of me telling myself that just because it happened to Kevin's boat (Escoffier) that it was going to happen to me. I had to distance myself from this fear. But sometimes I was scared, when the boat crashed into a big wave it was impossible not to think of Kevin, but I didn't want to ease off at that point because of this going on in my head. I didn't want to have to start again like it was on the descent of the Atlantic.
The second front off Portugal scared me. I was telling myself then that it was not possible for me to go back to Les Sables d´Olonne if anything happened. I had been through this too much, I was already too marked by my previous abandons. I chose to let the worst of that storm pass and after that I just tried to catch up with the others. I had started near the front and I was losing a little more ground every day. I also had some technical glitches affect me early on.
Once that first front had passed I really gave it my all, but at the beginning it didn't pay off. It started to pay off when I stopped looking for it. I wanted to just get round and I thought I would make it even if I was in the game or not. I was very focused on fixing my pushpit, that was essential for me to have it fixed before the Southern Ocean. And really once it was fixed it was like "hey, I'm back in the game"!
A tightly matched fleet
That was super exhilarating and exciting, Every 4 hours there you had new standings, there was a new verdict. But at the same time I found it hard, sometimes I found it very hard in the manoeuvres. I felt I couldn't always run them together. In the gybes I could see I was losing ground. I was frustrated and sometimes panicked because when I was going towards the ice zone I could lose 50 miles in a manoeuvre. It was incredibly intense.
For me this is in itself a victory, I feel like I have won. I have not won the Vendée Globe, but what I have won feels enormous.
Did you come back different?
I don’t know I think I will find out over the coming days, months, years. Today I don't know. I feel like I'm still me even if I maybe know myself better but there are things about me that have definitely changed. I feel like I have seen the real me.
And now ?
I want to enjoy my friends, my team, my partners. I just want to enjoy this sunny day, to feel and enjoy the stillness under my feet. Right now, nothing more."