In this second post of the ‘Vendée Globe as seen by Class40’, Ian Lipinski (Crédit Mutuel, 158), winner of the Transat Jacques-Vabre 2019, looks at the psychological pressure the 33 competitors must have felt at the start. He speaks of the disappointments felt by Jérémie Beyou, forced to return to Les Sables d’Olonne to repair damage and speaks of his admiration for King Jean Le Cam, the oldest competitor in the race who led the fleet this morning with his non foiling ‘Yes We Cam’.
The psychology of the Vendée Globe:
It’s one hell of a ride to go on this race, for rookies and veterans alike. The emotion at the start was obvious to see, we know what the 33 sailors are about to embark upon. I’ve tried to put myself in their shoes, the pressure is huge, the struggle not to panic about the length of the race or the weather ahead. Some try to focus on what needs to be done now so as not to overthink the magnitude of what is happening. This, the psychological side of the Vendée Globe cannot be underestimated, it’s so much more important than in other races.
“A cruel blow for Jérémie Beyou” (Charal):
The decision to return to Les Sables d’Olonne is not a hard one to make, it’s one Jérémie knows is the right thing to do. There is no choice at this time. Once that decision is made however, digesting it must be horrible. We’re all aware that ocean racing is cruel, races are taken from in front of your eyes, sometimes even hours after a start. What is crueller is that Charal is perhaps the most well-prepared boat, the first of this new generation of foilers. She is mature in terms of reliability, the one who has sailed the most, who has done the most races. We know that Jérémie is not the only boat with damage and surely will not be the last. The mental game is even harder for someone like Beyou, a competitor at heart and a favourite for the race, a re-start with little hope of taking home a win will be a tough pill to swallow.
The front, King Jean and the incoming tropical depression:
In the first front encountered by the fleet off Portugal, there were several possibilities but for me, I think I would have taken the Western option. Every time I’ve taken off for a transatlantic race, whenever there has been a front, I was one of those who went all out to get there, it’s the best performing route.
I followed the path of Nicolas Troussel (Corum) who started heading west, then changed his mind and returned to a more southerly course. In the end he didn’t loose that much ground. He kept his boat fresh. You say to yourself “Come on, I’m not necessarily going to reap the highest rewards in terms of boat speed or distance to finish but you have to think long term”. I found his decision wise, yet these are not easy decisions to make.
The route taken by Vendée Globe veteran and offshore racing legend Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) is incredible all the same. While his lead might not last long it has been cool to see him lead the way. We saw him leaving Les Sables d’Olonne and wondered whether he was in race mode or not. Others went for it but Jean was not in race mode, he was in Vendée Globe mode. In the end, it’s worked for him, his route was fantastic, he has the experience. He’s the oldest in the fleet but he remains in total control. This morning I watched a video taken by Benjamin Dutreux (Omia – Water Family) that showed Jean under spinnaker, over taking him. Jean’s mastery is something else and it shows that with a boat older than others and perhaps less physically able you can still do great things. It’s still beautiful!
With the depression to come, they will have to either move closer to it or move further way. The closer they pass, the more distance on the racecourse they will cover but the windier it will be and harsher the sea conditions. Everything must be understood. The decision will be taken once they pass the ridge and decide how long to hold their course.
Photo: Jean-Marie Loit