Vendée Globe - Intense preparation for Safran Sailing Team

Onboard Open 60 Safran With Marc Guillemot (Fra), Skipper And Yann Elies (Fra), Co-Skipper - Vendée Globe 2012
© Jean-Marie Liot
Vendée Globe 2012-2013, an around the world race for single handed sailors, starts in seven months from Les Sables d’Olonne. Marc Guillemot has just revealed a particularly intense preparation schedule for the period between now and July, alternating crewed races and long periods of solo sailing. In the next four months, Safran will be covering more than 6000 miles, the equivalent of two transatlantic races.

With the cancellation of the Europa Race, Marc Guillemot was forced to change his preparation programme. It is something of an understatement to say that the skipper of Safran is not going to be taking it easy. In the coming days, following on from the Spi Ouest-France Intermarché, which he won this weekend, Marc will be setting off on 500 miles of what will essentially be solo sailing, as he will only be accompanied by Pierre Bourcier. The latter will not be taking part in manoeuvres or sailing the boat, but will be on board to check over the most recent adjustments to the instruments and autopilot. After that, Marc will be sailing a thousand miles solo. Then it will be time for the Guyader Grand Prix with a crew, which takes place in Douarnenez from 28th April to 6th May. On 17th May, the start of the ArMen Race will take place and just after that, from late May, the crew of Safran will be on stand-by to try to improve on their own record around Great Britain and Ireland. In June, Marc Guillemot will set off again to sail more than 2000 alone, going from La Trinité (Brittany) - Azores- the Fastnet Rock - La Trinité, which involves seven or eight days at sea. In July, another single-handed trip of around a thousand miles is planned before the boat is taken out of the water in late July for a final short period in the yard before the start. In all, this comes to more than 6000 miles (more than 11,000 km) for Safran. The equivalent of two transatlantic races or if you prefer, a quarter of the round the world distance.

Marc Guillemot: 'I need to do a lot of sailing'

Marc, how did you set up this training and race programme for the Vendée Globe?
'As soon as the Europa Race was cancelled, we had to act quickly and come up with the most intelligent way of preparing, the one that suits me best. I am one of those people, who believe that a transatlantic crossing in the spring is missing from the IMOCA programme. In any case, I need to do a lot of sailing to be able to feel confident at the start of the Vendée Globe in seven months from now. That is why I drew up this programme including 6000 miles of solo sailing between April and July. In fact, I’m not counting the miles, but rather the number of days spent at sea, alone on board. When I’m on the boat, I take it as seriously as I can to reach the boat’s polars (predicted theoretical speed depending on the angle and strength of the wind) because sailing thousands of miles at slow speed with three reefs in the mainsail would be a complete waste of time. That’s what I am like, and there’s no secret about it. You have to sail again and again to perform well, to be at harmony with the boat and the elements. For me, in any case, it’s something that is essential.'

Was it part of your strategy to switch between solo and crewed sailing?
'Yes, this mixture makes it interesting. Particularly as when sailing with a crew, you really push the boat hard. That gives us a greater chance of identifying any little details that need to be sorted out, but also enables us to make adjustments and make sure that everything comes naturally. These are things that are extremely useful afterwards: I can remember them, when I’m sailing solo. The Douarnenez Grand Prix, the ArMen Race and the Round Britain and Ireland record also contribute to that. So without the Europa Race, we shall nevertheless be doing some crewed sailing and in race conditions. In Douarnenez the programme has been extended in fact: we shall be sailing for a whole week instead of just a weekend, as was initially planned. For the Round Britain and Ireland record, we know we can improve on our record time and we shall certainly go for it, if the weather is with us.'

You must surely draw up your crew according to individual abilities and what they can contribute?
'Of course, but above all, we are looking at lads, who are talented, can easily adapt and with whom I enjoy sailing… and that’s a very important aspect. In fact there is just one change from the crew we had last year: Yann Eliès has other projects and so Pascal Bidégorry is joining us. He is someone, who is very attentive to trimming, tactics, navigation… he is excellent at getting the most out a boat. César Dohy is the boat’s sail maker, which is very useful too, as is Sébastien Audigane – a very good helmsman, but someone, who can take up any role on board. Loïc Lingois and Alex Marmorat know Safran perfectly and the modifications that have been made. I should stress that the Vendée Globe is a solo race, but is the result of a genuine team effort. They will be alongside me on 10th November in Les Sables d’Olonne and it is also thanks to them that I shall be able to set off around the world.'

This schedule which will be demanding for the whole team is due to begin on 12th April.

Safran Sailing Team website