Vendee Globe - What is Safran's skipper taking on his journey?

Marc Guillemot (FRA) / Safran, - an his leasure case - iPod for music and books
The Vendée Globe isn’t just a race around the world and an adventure in a hostile environment. It is also an extremely unusual experience: living completely alone for at least eighty days, away from everything. What would you pack in your suitcase for such a long period of being alone? Marc Guillemot has chosen novels and music. Lots of music.

Marc Guillemot is not superstitious. So, don’t expect the skipper of Safran to take with him any lucky charm, mascot, talisman or amulet. He won’t be taking aboard any family photos either. Nor films or video games. On the 60-foot boat setting off from les Sables d'Olonne on Saturday, there won’t be much to entertain, so what there is, will be all the more precious. It boils down to two things: reading and music.

Marc is taking two iPod players and an iPad containing hundreds of tracks. What style does he go for? It is very eclectic. 'I’ve really got all sorts from classical to French singers to rock.' To make his selection, Marc benefited from some playlists drawn up by two expert music lovers: his partner Christine Vannier and his friend Bernard Lenoir, who used to present a cult music programme called ‘C’est Lenoir’ on the French radio station, France Inter. The latter tells us more, 'Marc is interested in everything and is very open. He doesn’t have any prejudices in terms of his musical taste. And that’s a quality that is rare.'

Marc explains his wide-ranging tastes, 'Sometimes I feel like listening to the Doors, the Beatles or John Lennon, but at other times, I tend to go for Archive, Asa, PJ Harvey, Yann Tiersen or even Charles Aznavour… and there’s also a lot of classical music,' with a clear preference for talented virtuosi, like the Serbian violinist Nemanja Radulovic. 'He is exceptional and has come up with a new version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by adding a fifth one.' Another fine musician that Marc particularly enjoys is the pianist David Bismuth. 'I was lucky enough to meet him and we got on well. He performs Mozart incredibly well.'

When exactly will Marc listen to this music to 'clear his mind' as he puts it? ' There aren’t any hard and fast rules, and it may be in calm conditions or indeed in the Southern Ocean. I do it whenever I want, simply when the feeling takes me. During the last Vendée Globe, two days before losing my keel, I had a truly magical moment. The weather was good, I was well placed and everything was going well… so I turned the volume up to listen to a piece by the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and it was fantastic. I was over the moon.'

Unlike music which cannot be listened to in a storm (as the noise on board the boat is simply too loud) literature is compatible with stormy weather. 'I can remember reading John Fante in 40-knot winds,' said the skipper of Safran. 'Just as with the music, I have very varied tastes.' In Marc’s library, we can find among other works Claudie Hunzinger’s La Survivance, Daniel Pennac’s Journal d'un corps, Jonas Jonasson’s The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,, as well as Carole Fives’s Que nos vies aient l'air d'un film parfait and Catherine Mavrikakis’s Les derniers jours de Smokey Nelson. No tales of seafarers. There would be no point, as the sea is everywhere, outside, below him and around him. For three months, he will be alone with it.

Vendee Globe website