Sailing: Skipper Paul Meilhat sets off with four solo teammates for the Ocean Race


Bringing five solo sailors to form a crew may seem absurd. But this is what Paul Meilhat has decided to participate in the Ocean Race, a 32,000-mile crewed round-the-world trip with (seven) stops, the departure of which takes place in Alicante (Spain) at 2:00 p.m. “I didn’t have time to form a competitive crew capable of sailing an Imocaorders the sixth of the latest Route du Rhum from Biotherm. They needed sailors used to these demanding vessels. So I called experienced patterns. Those who were available and who, like me, had the same desire for adventure. »

Also read – Sailing: the navigator Dona Bertarelli on the bed of the oceans

To live this “a child’s dream” alongside her is Britain’s Samantha Davies, at the start of three Vendée Globes, double Paralympic champion Damien Seguin, youngster Amélie Grassi, France’s runner-up in solo sailing in 2018, and Anthony Marchand, second of the competition. Solitary of Figaro the same year “He already had to comply with his very tight schedule, as they all have personal projects and, like me, the Vendée Globe 2024 as a goal”continues the sailor from Ile-de-France, 41 years old.

“All Patterns”

However, for the first time in the history of the Ocean Race, derived from the former Whitbread, the Imoca, 60ft foil prototypes competing in the Vendée, line up on the same starting line as the VOR65, single design of 65 feet considered indestructible. Five of them were even present at the last Route du Rhum: Team Malizia of the German Boris Herrmann, 11th Hour Racing Team of the American Charles Enright, Holcim-PRB of Kevin Escoffier, Guyot Environnement of Benjamin Dutreux and therefore Biotherm.

They needed sailors used to these demanding vessels

All skippers had to adapt their boat, put it in the yard very quickly to modify the ergonomics and the living space in an enclosed cabin. Adding four crew members (three sailors and a journalist, one of whom must be a woman) in a monohull designed to sail single-handed was quite a challenge. From the build, Paul Meilhat had in mind to do the Ocean Race. The possibility of adding berths had been considered with the architects. From Guadeloupe, the ship was transported to Spain, then dismantled, dismantled and repaired after the various small problems encountered during the transatlantic. Four seats were placed outside and four inside.

An Imoca is super violent. We are never standing.

“An Imoca is super violent. We are sitting or lying on a stretcher. We are never standing. So every sailor must have his place. » The DNA of this race wants each crew member to have a specific role: skipper, helmsman, tactician, number 1 in charge of the headsails… Paul Meilhat preferred to leave everyone the freedom to act as if they were alone on board He says : “We are all bosses, all positions are interchangeable. »

Long coexistence

This week has been very busy with the final adjustments and the formation of an efficient team during the regattas in port in front of Alicante. “For a team that is not used to sailing together, we did very wellenjoy the browser. We were able to peak at 26 knots despite an overloaded boat. In this type of racing, everything is on board before the start. Biotherm weighs 1 ton more! The organizers are adding material of all kinds every day. »

Also read – Sailing: aboard Charles Caudrelier’s trimaran before the Route du Rhum

All that remains is to keep the pace and not push the monohull to 100%, which is what the crews of the VOR65s who will only participate in the European stages will surely do. The first will lead to Cape Verde, which will be more than a “pit stop” a real scale. Then it will be the long descent to the Cape of Good Hope, where the boats will be taken out of the water and inspected before embarking on the long crossing to Brazil.

This marathon will last a month with Cape Leeuwin and Cape d’Hornos in sight. “This is where Samantha Davies will be joining ussays Meilhat. With Damien Seguin, we will then be three sailors who have done the Vendée Globe. » Assisted by Anthony Marchand, second skipper and substitute for Yves Le Blévec in Ultim Actual. A long coexistence awaits these soloists as the final arrival is scheduled in Genoa (Italy) in six months.

Source : Le JDD

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