On Saturday 14th May, Bertrand de Broc’s IMOCA 60’, MACSF, a 2007 Finot-Conq design, was dismasted while racing across the English Channel from l’Aber Wrac’h to Plymouth and back (see the video below).
This has done nothing to his determination however, after all he has been through. He is currently preparing for his fourth Vendée Globe with the aim of improving on the time set in the 2012-2013 race by this very same boat (92 days) by a week. We met up with Bertrand shortly before his boat was dismasted.
Bertrand, in early April, you took the decision not to take part in The Transat nor in the New York/Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne)…
“Yes, even if that is rather unlike me, as I love setting off… But I’m already qualified for the Vendée Globe. It would be nice to set sail from New York, but we’d have to get there first. That requires a huge investment from sponsors. We weren’t completely ready technically, as we still had some details to sort out. We weighed up the pros and cons and after a lot of thought, we decided to prepare differently from the others, in particular by competing in 200-300 mile long races (Guyader Grand Prix, ArMen Race, the Transmanche Cross-Channel Race) which are not too far from my home port of Lorient. Sometimes it is better to race 300 miles than do a 1000 mile delivery trip. I can take some great sailors on board, like Marc Guillemot, Sébastien Audigane and Damien Guillou. They wouldn’t necessarily have come with me for a transatlantic delivery trip. I learn from being with them and get to see a lot in a short space of time. The boat has made a lot of progress and wouldn’t perform so well, if I had decided to take part in The Transat or the New York/Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne). I didn’t want to have to rush things. Four years ago, we got behind schedule with our preparation. I have some unpleasant memories of the final fortnight in Les Sables d’Olonne, where we had to do some little odd jobs at the last moment. This time, I want to avoid going through that stress. I know that time slips by very quickly for me and for all the others too.”
Don’t you feel that you will miss out on not coming up against other sailors with just a few months to go to the start of the Vendée Globe?
“No. For me, the battle will take place in the Vendée Globe and not before. We’re a small team of four people. We’re not in the same league as the bigger teams, which have ten times our budget. So we have to do something else. We took some pictures, for example of my son windsurfing alongside my IMOCA 60’. I don’t want to exaggerate, but that gave us more coverage than any race, except for the Vendée Globe. Alex Thomson has had millions of views jumping off his mast. Taking part in a transatlantic race never gets you that much coverage.”
Alongside Vincent Riou, Jean Le Cam and Alex Thomson, you are one of the four sailors registered for the Vendée Globe, who will be competing for the fourth time. But along with Louis Burton, you are also the skipper, who has had his boat for the longest time…
“I have indeed been sailing this boat since 2012, so I know her very well. Four years ago, I had only had 25 days on board her before the start of the Vendée Globe. This year, the situation is very different, as I shall be setting off having already sailed around the world, completed two Transat Jacques Vabre races and having carried out a delivery trip from the Caribbean. I have done a lot of training near Lorient. When I am at the helm, I go one knot faster than before. I feel at ease on her. Having said that, we mustn’t forget that the boat dates back to 2007 and in terms of sheer speed, she is limited. I can’t achieve average speeds of 27 knots, like the skippers on the latest generation IMOCAs are doing. I’m not aiming to win. If I were, I wouldn’t do the Vendée Globe. In her current set-up, MACSF allows me to do get some decent levels of performance.”
Such as improving on your 2012-2013 Vendée Globe time by a week (85 days instead of 92)…
“That is indeed our goal. As I said, I know the boat much better now and she performs much better than four years ago. I’m sure of that. We have gained in terms of speed, simply by improving the shape of the new sails. We haven’t done any major work on her, but plenty of little modifications, which work well with the sails, but also with the hull, rudders, the shape of the keel… In the last Vendée Globe, it felt like I was in delivery mode. I couldn’t push her, as I couldn’t move up the rankings and the main thing was finishing. It’s easy enough to gain a week, if the weather conditions fall into place. No one is safe from damage or sailing a poor stretch. Everyone knows that the Vendée Globe is not like other races.”
“I’ll behave like de Kersauson if necessary”
All the other skippers with boats from the 2008-2009 generation of Vendée Globe boats are looking forward to an interesting race within the race. Is that the case for you too?
“Yes. With Arnaud Boissières, we’ll be launching the 2007 Trophy in Les Sables d’Olonne, bringing together all the boats first launched in 2007. There are several of us about to compete on boats that will be tackling their third Vendée Globe, IMOCAs that have been there and done that. For example, my boat has completed three round the world voyages – two Vendée Globe races (with Armel le Cléac’h then me) and one Barcelona World Race (with Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane). The skippers setting off on boats designed for the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe are all preparing with more modest and reasonable budgets. We need to talk about these smaller projects too.”
Rather than merely the expensive foilers…
“I’m not against change. I love technical stuff and want to go faster out on the water. It will be great if a foiler wins the Vendée Globe. A few big teams are causing inflationary pressures to build, and we need to be aware of that. I don’t like the gap widening too much between boats. In car racing, in F1 for example, they have managed to get the cars progressing at the same rate and there’s not a lot of difference between them in terms of performance. The IMOCA hasn’t managed to bring everyone together like that and if we look at what’s been going on, it seems very surprising. Some will be setting off with foils, while others won’t have them. It’s a bit like in the Olympics, if they fitted foils on some 470s but not all of them. No one would accept that? But that is what has happened with the IMOCAs. I don’t like the way they keep on about the foils just to create some excitement. Before the Roland Garros French Open, they won’t come up with square rackets to get people talking about Nadal or Djokovic. That’s not the way things are done. People should come first, not the technology. There are so many stories about the people in the Vendée Globe. I just hope that journalists will simply keep on about the foils in Les Sables. I may be willing to talk about that once, but not twice! I’ll behave like de Kersauson, if necessary!”
by OB / Mer and Media