© Vincent Curutchet / DPPI
VENDEE GLOBE – GET TO KNOW THE SAILORS – With the Vendee Globe ready to start on Nov 10th the sailors are getting ready and excited to start racing. Vendee Globe sailor, Jean Le Cam, is known for his funny comments and one look at his eyes will tell you the French sailor is always excited to be at sea. He has been for decades. And he is now about to start his third Vendée Globe, a race he finished at the second place in 2004. Le Cam tells us about his motivation before the start as well as his opinion on the evolution of the Open 60’ class.
Jean Le Cam, what is your main motivation to be at the start of this Vendée Globe?
I competed in sixteen Solitaire du Figaro races and only two Vendée Globe. Poulidor (editor’s note : A French cycling star from the 1960’s and 1970’s) competed in so many Tour de France races, even though he may not be such a good example as he tended to finish second all the time… The bottom line is I still have a lot of possibilities ahead. And I’m back here because this is such a beautiful race.
Do you think the fact you’ve never sailed in a race on this yacht will be an issue?
We chose not to sail so we could focus on preparing the boat because we were aware we were quite late. We optimised what little time we had left and we spent it preparing the boat and qualifying her. We didn’t have time to compare our situation to others’ and frankly, sigle days of training do not mean a lot when it comes to the Vendée Globe.
You’ll be at the start with a boat that is not from the latest generation (Loïck Peyron’s former Gitana Eighty) but with a lot of renovation and improvements involved. How do you think she will compare to more recent yachts?
There will be differences in terms of performance but not huge ones, I think, especially now that we have optimized her. That will make the confrontation exciting! As far as weight is concerned, we’re quite close to the recent boats. Synerciel may be a little more basic, she has proved she is reliable throughout the many miles she has covered, including a round-the-world race, the Barcelona World Race. That’s all I can say, we’ll see what happens next…
« I know my boat like the back of my hand »
When talking about your partner SynerCiel, France’s leading network of small and medium-sized artisans, you say you feel like an artisan too…
We are a small team and we’re all artisans, we need to multitask and be skilled in many different fields. That’s not a problem for me, quite the opposite, it helps us stay focused on our own things, specially the technical ones. I’m exchanging a lot with the other team members so we’re all at the same level, we all do a little bit of everything. I have to be there every day and as a consequence, I know my boat like the back of my hand.
You’re also concerned about the preservation of the environment…
Yes, we’ve worked hard on our hydrogenerator, which allows me to use very little fossil fuel. I’m only taking 150 litres with me.
You usually name the different parts of your yacht, like « Big Lulu » for the mail sail and « Léon » for the autopilot… Is that going to be the same on SynerCiel?
No, because the names I give them depends on my mood and I pick the names completely randomly. But once parts have been given a name, they keep it forever.
Have some SynerCiel parts been given a name yet?
Yes, just one. Tonio the small gennaker, Samiard Bruno Garcia and myself calle dit that during the last Barcelona World Race. And since this gennaker is very similar, I’m calling it Tonio too.
« We need to reduce the impact of money on performances »
What do you think the Open 60’ Class will evolve in the future?
To me, we’re in a key period. Clearly. I think the class should be made more available to younger skippers, we need to reduce the impact of money on performances. That means developing projects that pay for themselves faster. Our boats are all very expensive so we need to have lower costs and a guarantee that investments will last longer in time, which means the boat must remain efficient longer. Hence a need for yacht standardisation, in my opinion, at least when it comes to the hull, the deck and the mast. The idea is to keep te current fleet the way it is and add a new yacht that would be as efficient and that would bring a smooth transition. Look at what is happening in the 6.50 class, for example. There’s been only one prototype built this year, which says a lot.
Your radio or video vacs have been among the highlists of the previous editions. They will be eagerly awaited this year. Are you feeling the pressure?
A sentence is a sentence. I’m glad people are interested in what I have to say but if they’re not, I don’t mind it.
As a hard-core competitor, what is your objective in this Vendée Globe?
The Vendée Globe is an adventure above all, the first goal is to finish. I’m very happy I’m at the start and I can compete in that race. And then you have to wait until the end to see how things really worked out.
INTERVIEW BY Christophe FAVREAU