Benjamin Dutreux, the French solo racer whose home town now is Les Sables d’Olonne, confirmed on Tuesday this week that his team have purchased the IMOCA 11th Hour Racing. Built originally as Alex Thomson’s HUGO BOSS for the 2016-17 race on which the boat finished runner up, Dutreux is now setting out on an ambitious racing programme looking to peak on the solo round-the-world non-stop unassisted race, the 2024 Vendée Globe.
It was back on January 29, after 81 days and 19 hours at sea, that the skipper who grew up on the Ile de Yeu, just off the Vendée coast, Benjamin Dutreux finished ninth in his first Vendée Globe. His was a remarkable race at the helm of OMIA-Water Family, a straight daggerboard boat from 2007.
Now Dutreux is armed with a high-performance, well optimised potent IMOCA which of course also proved the fastest IMOCA of its time, leading the last Route du Rhum all the way to Guadeloupe, before the boat passed into the ownership of the 11th HOUR RACING Team who have raced the last Transat Jacques Vabre and the recent The Ocean Race Europe while primarily using the IMOCA as a training and development platform for their new IMOCA which has The Ocean Race as its principal target.
VG: Usually there is a break, some down time between each Vendée Globe. But it seems not this time, already everyone is going hard at it. New boats are being built others are changing hands. In short, how did the 11th Hour purchase happen?
Benjamin Dutreux: “The story went pretty quickly. We didn't want to go and build a boat because basically you waste a year of sailing time on the build and I didn't have enough experience to go for a new boat either. We wanted a boat that would allow us to sail fast and get sailing quickly. But these boats are selling like hot cakes. So I went to the bank. It was one of the last boats left. This 60 footer suits me because it has sailed a lot and is reliable. Compared to IMOCAs of this generation, it has already integrated the latest developments. We don't need to do any development, it will save us time. This boat, for me, is an opportunity to take a step forward "
You own your boats… how is it working out financially? "I sold my old 60 footer to Guirec Soudée. And in so doing and with the last race I gained credibility with my bank as the Vendée Globe because the project went well. So they trust me for a new loan. It's always a risk doing the job we do, but it was even more so a risk for me two years ago than it is now (because the boats are in demand on the open market)
So you are going to look for partners? “We keep a good number of our partners from 2020 but the budget is increasing a fair bit and OMIA will not be able to remain the main sponsor. We are already working hard at and have been since I got home. We are in discussions but for the moment, there is nothing signed. The boat is more expensive, the programme is bigger and that requires a larger team. In the last campaign, there were five of us. Here we will go to twelve. I think we'll start recruiting next year. "
Where will you be based? "In Les Sables d'Olonne. This is my home port. We have a boatyard with my brother in Port Bourgenay. This is where we work on the boat ".
You take charge of your new boat during the return delivery of the Transat Jacques Vabre, then what is the programme? “We will got to the team’s yard for a full final check and we will finalize the transaction with the Americans. The idea is to prepare for The Ocean Race 2022 (crewed round-the-world tour with stopovers) ".
After your victorious experience on The Ocean Race Europe with Team Germany, who would be your ideal crew for The Ocean Race? “There would be a technically strong crew on board. But also sailors who know this type of foil boat. The idea is to collect as many keys as possible so that you can be competitive on your own afterwards. What I would like is to have a successful crew that can help me develop the boat and of course, people with whom I get along well, that is important. I would really like to have a slightly international team. People who bring a different culture to open minds, to have an outside perspective, other visions of things. "
We imagine you are happy. Do you still have some energy left four months after your arrival?
“I'm a little tired but really not too bad! I will be able to go on vacation soon (he goes on a cruise with friends, editor's note) and rest so that I can attack again fully with Damien Seguin on the rest of the program * "
* Dutreux is entered on the Transat Jacques Vabre as co-skipper for Damien Seguin on Groupe Apicil with whom he will compete in the Fastnet Race, the Défi Azimut then the Transat Jacques Vabre.