Course au large

Interview: Armel le Cleac’h

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What is the timing for the boat?

The boat will be delivered to Multiplast in Vannes, Brittany, to start the repairs (this interview took place early May). This is a first difficulty overcome, as it wasn't easy to find a freighter quickly that was able to load a trimaran like ours. We’ve come out of it quite well. Since the capsize, we have set up a crisis center in Lorient, with Ronan Lucas, to find the yards which can help us. It has been complicated, as they are all now mostly fully booked. But we have felt good solidarity around us to find solutions, the most problematic for us being the mast, which influences the re-launch of the boat. Lorima is going to redo our mast completely. We were able to recover a few parts, and the mechanical systems. The rig has also been ordered. We will have to have a mainsail made. We recovered the gennaker. For the moment, we don’t have an exact date, but we are aiming to re-launch at the very beginning of September, which will leave us 7 or 8 weeks to be at the start of the Rhum. The only remaining unknown is the condition of the platform. We checked it visually and by tapping in Casablanca. We know that there are places which have been damaged, but they are quite isolated, and places where the parts of the mast hit the boat. Everything will have to be checked, as the boat was towed upside down for 130 miles, even though the conditions were quite good, but we won’t be taking any risks. We have imagined every possible case, even the worst ones, but given the timing we have, everything can be done.


Do you think you will have a winning boat for the Route du Rhum?
We’re doing everything to that end. It’s now going to be more complicated, but all is not lost. We have already sailed aboard it a lot, with two Atlantic crossings, 3 days as a ‘false singlehander’, lots of training at Lorient. We have covered more than 10,000 miles aboard. That’s already a good thing. I will just have the qualification to do. If I could wave a magic wand and put the boat back in the water, I would return immediately. It’s a real frustration, no longer having the boat. We have had a good dynamic right from the start. We were keeping to our plan. This is part of the ups and downs of our job. We know that there can be difficult moments, dismasting, technical breakages. Here it’s a capsize. It’s not the easiest problem to solve. At the same time, we have recovered the boat, we are going to be at the start of the Rhum, we're going to prepare differently. We won’t be the favorite, but we’ll do everything we can. We will be working for that.


The capsize doesn’t raise questions about the boat or safety?
We felt safe on the boat. We had sailed for 48 hours in 35 knots of wind and never felt in danger. We had a system to release the mainsail. We hadn’t yet fitted the systems for the headsail sheets. It’s more a feeling of being responsible than being guilty. We didn’t make any mistake that we know of. It was a gust of wind. I have now understood what happened. I'm not going to go back over it. We’ll come out of this stronger. It certainly hurts, but it’s true that we had perhaps forgotten that these boats can capsize. For me, it will serve for the future, by telling myself that this could happen at any moment.

Sailing aboard these boats equipped with foils is another world. During our return trip across the Atlantic, there were some fabulous moments. We had space, unlike sailing off Lorient, where we very quickly have to anticipate the next maneuver. Nothing is lost today. We have worked with Franck Cammas on the boat’s performance. It’s good to have his external, slightly critical opinion, and he is good at that. This has allowed us to save time. While awaiting the re-launch of the boat, I’m going to do lots of physical preparation. I’ve got 4 months to train.

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