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The Vendée Globe through the eyes of Class40 skippers: Favourites and best pick before taking off...


Among the 33 skippers taking the start of the 2020 Vendée Globe, 18 of them have come through or been heavily involved in Class40! It just goes to show the strength and depth of this popular and ever-growing class! Throughout this 9th edition of the Vendée Globe, five Class40 skippers – Louis Duc, Aurélien Ducroz, Axel Tréhin, Ian Lipinski and Morgane Ursault-Poupon will be on hand to share with us at The Race Around their expert analysis.

Within this first introductory post, four of have provide their thoughts and feeling about their favourites in the final few hours before the big start.

Morgane Ursault-Poupon: “It is a cautious compromise between speed, strategy and preservation. To finish first, you must first finish so finding a balance to ensure the boat and equipment makes it home is crucial.”


The three ‘foilers’ I’d like to see on the podium are Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) who fought so well during the last edition in 2016 against eventual winner Armel Le Cléac’h. Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur), takes the start line for the third time, she deserves a podium and finally Kenin Escoffier (PRB), who although has an older generation boat with retrofitted foils is an excellent sailor. These last two boats are a guarantee of tried and tested, particularly in comparison to newer boats like L’occitance en Provence or Corum skippered by Armel Tripon and Nicolas Troussel. These newest foilers will have to adapt to this extreme race with minimal experience onboard. It will be their largest challenge.

While I don’t like the term ‘underdog’ there are many I’d like to see have a good race! I’m thinking particularly of Manuel Cousin (Groupe Sétin) who sold me the Class40 I currently race on. I sailed with him on La Mie Câline and I find him a courageous and tough man. He’s one of the skippers with a smaller budget, smaller team. I really hope they make it to the finish. Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) has a very powerful boat, one in which she’s really managed to master in the last few months. On the other hand Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire) has limited experience in the IMOCA but she’s backed by an unbelievable team and I hope she balances risk taking with caution.”


Louis Duc: "Samantha Davies (Initiatives Cœur) may have her chances"

“I don’t usually like to give a winning order to races, especially the Vendée Globe because damage plays its part and I wish that on no one. We now have 4/5 skippers who have great boats, ready to take on the start of this race. I’m thinking of Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), Charlie Dalin (Apivia), Armel Tripon (L'Occitane en Provence) and Thomas Ruyant (Linked Out) whom I’m a little closer to and therefore I inevitably want to see him do amazing things. Beyond that and in a race such as this, Samantha Davies has more than a good chance.”


Aurélien Ducroz: "Thomas Ruyant radiates such energy"

“While the favourites have new boats, we don’t yet have all the information. Nicolas Troussel (Corum) and Sébastien Simon (Arkea-Paprec) are two boats that we’ve not seen much of. Jérémie Beyou (Charal) has an incredible machine and Alex Thomson remains, as usual, the big unknown. That said he remains my favourite, he’s got some incredible experience, his approach is a little crazy but, it’s good. It’s what I like about him. I also want to plug Thomas Ruyant, he has great experience and like Jérémie or Charlie (Dalin) he knows how to win! I can’t explain it, he’s got such energy, he’s so happy on the water and I’m excited to see what he can do.

Among the ‘outsiders’, I can see Armel Tripon performing well. He has a boat that looks much easier to manoeuvre, it’s fast, very fast and he too leaves with great enthusiasm. His design is unlike any others in the fleet, perhaps he gambled, it’d be nice if it paid off. Those at the front of the fleet should also be wary of Sam Davies. Much like Armel and Thomas, her enthusiasm will carry her. On such a long race there is no doubt that this can make all the difference.

Of those with more traditional set ups I wish all the success in the world to Maxime Sorel (V and B - Mayenne). He’s done everything right since stepping up from Class40 to IMOCA. He runs his project very cleanly, he’s competitive and he’s surrounded by good people. You can never forget Jean Le Cam, we know he’ll perform, he has the experience and the touch to have a perfect race, but I want to believe in Max. A good performance will also mark a great result for a boat that’s suffered in the past having retired with both Kito de Pavant and Thomas Ruyant at the helm in 2012 and 2016 respectively.”


Axel Tréhin: “Hugo Boss, Arkea-Paprec and L’Occitane en Provence have the foils I believe in.” 

“From a purely technical point of view my Top3 foilers are Hugo Boss, Arkea-Paprec and l’Occitane en Provence. They have the foil design that I believe in. We can see that there are projects that have huge experience, perhaps the best preparation and are maybe the most obvious winners. I’m thinking in particular of Apivia and Charal who have sailed a lot of miles without major issues. We also have Kevin Escoffier (PRB) who is technically very good, he’s Mr Fix-it. His boat is of an older generation but it’s a fantastic platform.

As for those with daggerboards, Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) has worked hard on improving his already fast boat. Maxime Sorel and Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire) are surely others in with a chance of winning this race within a race.”



Main Image: © François Van Malleghem

Picture 1: © Pierre Bouras / TR Racing

Picture 2: © Maxime Horlaville / Apivia

Picture 3: © Alex Thomson Racing

Picture 4: © Initiatives Coeur / Yann Riou

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