Class40s take on the Top10!

This week Emmanuel Versace talks to Aurélien Ducroz, Morgane Ursault-Poupon and Valentin Gautier about the unbelievable finish in the Vendée Globe and their thoughts on how the race developed!

Aurélien Ducroz: "We don't go to the South like on a Solitaire"

What an amazing 9th edition of to this Vendée Globe! Excitement right to the very end. The weather conditions have had a lot to do with it, but the story has been perfectly written. Now there is some controversy regarding the new foilers but if you look at the top 3, they’re all foiling boats. You can be for or against, but the foil remains, in my opinion, the future of the IMOCA Class. On the other hand, perhaps, they have relied too much on speed as opposed to comfort. I’m sure a happy medium will be found.

With regards to Yannick Bestaven’s victory, I’m somewhat bias. He was my co-skipper in the 2015 Transat Jacques Vabre. I’m so happy for him! From the start he put his money where his mouth is. He went alone in the South. He sailed calmly and faster than the others. His boat was reliable unlike the newer foilers. His mental strength was outstanding, particularly off Rio where his lead of 500 miles became 0! I’m so proud of him because he’s been true to himself and his boat, he’s sailed his race! I was able to speak with him on the Vendée Globe Live right after he passed Cape Horn. Right after his detour to assist with the rescue of Kevin (Escoffier) he told me he had been sailing “like a boar”. It reminded me of the TJV, perfect conditions and his skill just shone through.

I’ve really admired Thomas Ruyant, he had problems quite early into the race. He fought to the very end and did fantastically to cross the line in 4th position. Maxime Sorel had a fantastic race arriving in 10th. His mission was to bring the boat back to Les Sables, something it had not done before. It’s a beautiful story. Damien Seguin is another that needs to be mentioned. He has proved that once again he is a great sailor. 7th in the Vendée, winner of the Tour du France a la Voile, Paralympic medallist, Class40 Rockstar… the guy is exceptional.

Armel Tripon lost his changes on the second day but I’ve a lot of respect for his way of sailing. He really enjoyed this Vendée. I think that sailing on a boat like L’Occitanie en Provence, which is more comfortable and liveable, certainly contributed a lot to making it more peaceful in the heavy weather and in the Southern Ocean. Finishing 11th was below his targets but he proved that his boat was right. We don't go in Southern ocean like on a Solitaire du Figaro. You can't be always in the red zone. I think that's one of the big lessons of this edition. We’ve been led to believe that speed decided everything, but a trip around the world via the 3 capes remains a mega adventure above all.

Morgane Ursault-Poupon: "I’m sad for Sam Davies and Isabelle Joshke because they clearly had the ability to make the Top 10"

These first arrivals have really kept us going! The last two weeks has been full of suspense as the top of the fleet made their way to Les Sables d’Olonne! Between working out redress calculations, Boris’s crash… it showed the Vendée Globe is not over until it’s over! Anything can happen.

I’ll always remember the intensity of these arrivals, the disparity and the difference between the foilers and the boats equipped with daggerboards. Damien Seguin, Jean Le Cam and Benjamin Dutreux all impressed greatly. They proved their quality and outperformed our expectations!

Jean Le Cam has given new hope to small, more modest projects! Sailing is a sport that requires enormous energy to find a budget. Even with all his years of experience, Jean struggled with his! Anne, his wife, revealed that she woke up at night worrying about it, stressed that their campaign would never see the light of day. His team stuck together and believed in their ability until the end. Many focus purely on the performance of the boat, circumnavigating the globe in the fastest way possible, others, like Jean, see the Vendée Globe as an adventure in the truest sense of the word. Before the start, the Top 6 was contested by teams with larger budgets, Charal, Hugo Boss, L’Occitanie en Provence, Apivia, LinkedOUT and Initiatives Coeur. What we saw after 80 days was something totally different.

There are inevitably lessons to be drawn from this. As Jean said, you don’t need a F1 Car to compete in the Vendee Globe, you need a 4x4. The choices made by the architects and teams will be called into question, we’ve seen less radical, proven boats like Maîtr CoQ and Bureau Vallée 2 really push the latest generation foilers.

We have also seen that on a course like the Vendée Globe, experience, the ability to solve technical problems alone and the sailor’s adaptation greatly affect the end result. For Louis Burton it was an electrical blackout in the Azores, repairs to the masthead in Macquarie. For Jean and Maxime Sorel, it was living with a boat that was in danger of breaking down at any moment. Each has had its share of repairs and other problems that have had to be solved alone. This top 10 is representative of a wide range of quality sailors who have expressed themselves differently and who have also had to take advantage of the absence of big favourites like Charal and Hugo Boss. They’ve found a place for themselves.

I'm sad for Sam Davies and Isabelle Joshke because they clearly had the level and the ability to be there. Clarisse Crémer (editor's note: interview was done on Wednesday) is no longer very far and like Pip Hare, Miranda Merron and Alexia Barrier, have shown a lot of mental strength, especially because they sail on older and very hard boats to manoeuvre, more exposed to waves. They prove that they have a lot of talent.

Now that the leaders have arrived, it is very important not to forget those who are still at sea, even if it is common for all classes to do so! You can see that energy and commitment are dropping. There are no more Live shows, but we must continue to support them!

Valentin Gautier: "Not really to argue"

“The redress, which was granted to Jean Le Cam, Yannick Bestaven and Boris Herrman, resulted in a lot of interest in this arrival! Within 48 hours, everything was still possible. Yoann Richomme got very excited and sent projections every 3 hours, it was intense! On social media, the general public wondered a lot. Which is understandable because it may seem incomprehensible from the outside that he who crossed the line first is not the winner. For sailors accustomed to this world of offshore racing, there was not much to talk about. It often happens that redress change the podium in the end. Ultimately, the redress was absolutely right in the end even though they had a lot of weight on the overall result.

For Yannick Bestaven, his delay in rescuing Kevin Escoffier (PRB) caused him to miss a weather system in the South which could have potentially - seen as it bombed - allowed him to really make a break. Then, off Brazil, these 10 hours are very dear to him. In the end, it's just that he enjoys it. For Jean and Boris, the 16h and 10h bonus did not necessarily allow them to earn much more given their pace which was less sustained than that of Yannick. There wasn't much to argue with and that's fine.

Boris Herrmann’s mishap (collision with a fishing boat) a few hours from the finish is part of the race. It reminds me a little of Alex Thomson's during the last Route du Rhum in which ran aground on the coast of Guadeloupe. Overall, he sailed a great race, did a very clean course and he just missed the podium.

In this last report of this first Top 10, we find 4 IMOCAs with daggerboards. This is great news. In this edition, we have seen a lot of low budget projects that have managed to do great things.

We have also seen that the IMOCA60s take much longer than Class40 to make reliable. They are much more complex boats, so it takes almost two generations to find their maximum potential. For Class40s, even though they are very different systems, it doesn’t take a long time to optimize them. In one year, two other versions of our Mach40.4 have already been released, each one more optimised than the former. This is due to the fact, we have no canting keel, no foils, no daggerboards, less sail area and less complex electronics.

Our Class40,Banque du Léman, is a Manuard design much like Armel Tripon’s! It was a shame he has issues so early but this SCOW type of boat is certainly looking like something for the future.

The Vendée Globe does not finish after the first arrival, among those who are still underway, Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire) who, like me, competed in the Mini Transat in 2017. She’s had a fantastic race! Alan Roura (La Fabrique) clings to his group with La Mie Câline, Time for Oceans and DMG Mori. Sam Davies remains at sea following her retirement in Cape Town, she too is sailing well!


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