Unlucky in the last two Vendée Globe races, Kito de Pavant has launched another campaign to attempt to complete the race of his dreams. Before that, he will be making his return to IMOCA racing in the Transat Jacques Vabre, which starts in Le Havre on 25th October. Sailing with Yann Régniau, the skipper from the South of France will be aboard Bastide Otio, a VPLP-Verdier designed boat from 2010, aboard which Jean-Pierre Dick finished in fourth place in the last solo round the world race.
So, Kito, are you glad to be back racing an IMOCA?
Kito de Pavant: “Yes, I’m very pleased. After being forced to retire early on once again in the last Vendée Globe, I needed to take a step back. To be honest, I didn’t want to do a third Vendée Globe at any cost. This race hasn’t been kind to me and I still feel that. I felt like taking up some different challenges and I enjoyed changing boats.
Figaro, Multi50, Class40, the Tour de France sailing race on a Diam 24… All of these experiences were beneficial. After competing in the Route du Rhum on a Class40 (Third place), a great opportunity popped up, as my partners were convinced that the Vendée Globe would be interesting for them. I didn’t think I’d be doing it for a third time, but I was fooling myself. When things got going again, I quickly saw that I wanted to return to the race, which I so love. I feel really frustrated and need to get it out of my system.
This third Vendée Globe has to be the big one for me and I want to finish in les Sables d’Olonne in January 2017 with the feeling that the job has been well done. The project takes up a lot of time requiring a huge amount of work, but I love that. I shall be setting off on a boat that has already completed the voyage and should enable me to achieve my ambitions.”
Your boat is in fact Jean-Pierre Dick’s former Virbac-Paprec 3, the winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre and the 2011 Barcelona World Race, which came in fourth in the last Vendée Globe. She’s a great boat…
K.d.P.: “Bastide Otio is indeed a reliable and efficient boat, the third in the VPLP-Verdier series after Safran and Groupe Bel, my old IMOCA. So, she is part of a fine family. But when I picked her up in Lorient on 1st August, I realised that she wasn’t really in that good a condition. In the colours of Hugo Boss, the boat was dismasted in the last Barcelona World Race. We were involved in thinking about the construction of the new rig, which seems to be fine. For the rest of the work, there’s going to be a lot to do before the Transat Jacques Vabre.
The delivery trip from Lorient to Port-Camargue, the home port for my IMOCA, meant we added a lot of things o the list of jobs to do. We’re not ahead of schedule… but we are making headway. We shall set off on our delivery trip to Le Havre in early October. This trip will allow us to check over the work we have done and to get a list of last minute jobs to put things right just before the start of the Jacques Vabre. We are planning a major refit next winter. Bastide Otio has a lot of potential and we can make her a better performer to ensure we can have high ambitions for the Vendée Globe. But for the moment, I’m not getting too excited as the funding isn’t yet complete.”
“I regret a little not having Groupe Bel…”
You said that Bastide Otio is in some way a descendant from Groupe Bel, the boat aboard which you set out in the last two Vendée Globe races. Can you see any similarities between the two 60-foot boats?
K.d.P.: “Yes, in particular with the shape of the hull. The VPLP-Verdier designed boats are light, good all-rounders and fast in every point of sail. However, there is a big difference in terms of the steering. Groupe Bel reacted to the slightest touch and was a pleasure to helm, which isn’t the case with Bastide Otio. We’re going to have make changes to that next winter…”
Are you watching what is happening to your previous boat that is now Thomas Ruyant’s Le Souffle du Nord?
K.d.P.: “Of course. I’m pleased to see my old boat in the hands of Thomas Ruyant. He will be making changes to this excellent boat and should have a great Vendée Globe aboard her. I regret a little not having Groupe Bel, and would have liked to be able to keep her. She was perfect and well set up for me. But I’m going to get used to my new boat, which has other qualities. We’re still discovering her for the moment. We’re getting used to each other, if you like.”
With just a year to go to the Vendée Globe, the Transat Jacques Vabre will be a dress rehearsal. What are your goals with Yann Régniau at your side?
K.d.P.: “I haven’t given myself a goal in terms of the rankings, as my aim is to continue to get to grips with the boat and check over the changes we have made and plan those that need to be done later. This will be my eighth Transat Jacques Vabre in a row (Five times on an IMOCA, twice on a multihull, editor’s note). The line-up has never been so strong in terms of quality and quantity with around twenty IMOCAs lining up. The match between the new generation boats and the fine-tuned older boats should be fascinating. As in 2011, I shall set sail with Yann Régniau, a sail designer for North Sails France. Sails are part of the changes we plan before the next Vendée Globe, so that is why I am competing with one of the leading experts in the field.”
“My boat won’t have foils for the Vendée Globe.”
Your boat is based in Port-Camargue in the South of France. Don’t you ever feel a bit lonely down there in the Mediterranean?
K.d.P.: “Yes a bit! But it was like that in the days of Groupel Bel and this is a continuation of that. Fort the moment, a lot is happening in Brittany and we are the poor cousin down here. With my project, I hope to give a boost to the sport in the Mediterranean, offering a trampoline for youngsters, who want to race on a Figaro or even in the Vendée Globe. I’m in some ways the ambassador for the Mediterranean in the Vendée Globe.”
Don’t you feel like you’re losing out being cut off from what the others are up to?
K.d.P.: “It’s true, I don’t have any sparring partners. But my rivals can come down here whenever they want (laughs). In any case, we shall be meeting up shortly in the Jacques Vabre. We have other advantages down here in the Mediterranean, starting with the good conditions for sailing. Being based here means we have to sail extra miles. For example, it’s around 2 000 miles or ten days of sailing to get to Le Havre. These long delivery trips are very beneficial.”
At the end of the Transat Jacques Vabre, you’re going to have to choose whether you fit foils or not. How do you feel about that at the moment?
K.d.P.: “I’m not that keen. The big disadvantage with foils is that the boats are far from being good all rounders. In some points of sail, we can expect big gains (reaching in strong winds) but losses in others (upwind in light conditions). The new generation boats rely too heavily on getting certain conditions and their performance in the Transat Jacques Vabre will depend on what sort of weather they encounter. Having said that, this is just the start and foils are certainly a move in the right direction. But the teams and designers are likely to run out of time. In any case, this should allow the older boats to be in with a chance, which is great for us. My 60-foot boat won’t have foils for the next Vendée Globe. Maybe we will fit them afterwards, if the concept is seen to pay off…”