Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Marc Guillemot punches the air as he crosses the finishing line in Les Sables d'Olonne. Image copyright Olivier Blanchet/DPPI/Vendée Globe.
Relieved, delighted and pleasingly animated, happy to talk the media and public through his epic Vendee Globe, Marc Guillemot explains his race in all its facets.
“The last week was very stressful and crossing the line was a great relief and the stress of the race all came out at that point. There was the sporting element which interested me. The adventure wasn’t really my thing. A lot happened. Firstly a tactical mistake in the Canaries after a good start in the Bay of Biscay. I had problems with my pilots.
“Off the Kerguelens I hit a sea mammal and went from 20 knots to zero and it took me a while to get over that. I had never been so scared on a boat.
“Then the race was on again with Vincent and Armel at the West Australia Gate.
"Denis Horeau called me to inform me about Yann Eliès.
"That was a very emotional moment as I knew he was injured but couldn’t do anything. I felt powerless to do anything. I’d been through a similar experience and imagine the pain he was facing.
Safran speeds towards the finishing line on Sunday night/early Monday morning. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.
“I filmed and talked to Yann and the rescue team. The rescue was going so well and I felt strange filming it and just started to laugh. Even though I didn’t have any physical contact, this will remain a memory of the race. Yann left and I chatted to the Australians, who threw me a packet. I didn’t touch the red wine –you can check! In any case I’ll be sharing it with Yann. They thought I was crazy and took a photo of me. As I hoisted the gennaker I saw the Australian boat 10 metres away taking pictures and I couldn’t bear away. Another weird moment!
“Then there were the islands. The Canaries where I was stuck, then Gough Island where I saw an explorer and we chatted in English on the VHF.
“I decided to stop at Auckland Island for a pit stop. I had prepared it and it was a great place, although not very warm. I was in a sheltered bay and there were things moving on the beach- 3 explorers and 150 sea elephants. A funny encounter, even if climbing the mast wasn’t so much fun. They couldn’t make out what was going on. I didn’t manage to do what I wanted. I thought I’d have a quiet night, but the sea elephants were very noisy.
"In the Pacific I was racing with Sam and the leaders, Jean Pierre, Mich, Bilou… I passed the Horn but didn’t manage to see it. The mast track came off again in the Pacific ina different place so I put in to the Falklands. There were the famous cruise boats that Bilou saw. They put in to the Falklands for supplies. Sailing up the coast of Brazil I came across the fishermen with their long lines, which stretched out for a couple of miles. Suddenly I saw them screaming at me. Fortunately they were limited to 5 or 6 knots. I suddenly realised that I was towing the markers, but fortunately they broke free at that point so they stopped chasing me.
"Close to the coast, there was a lot of stress with the oil rigs.
"The Equator and Doldrums were more or less in same place. Then there was the upwind sailing in the trade winds, which is the worst part in terms of comfort and fun.
"After the collision (with the sea mammal) I contacted Guillaume Verdier about the keel shuddering but was reassured. Then by the North Atlantic it had got much worse. The seas were heavy after the storm passed through. They advised me about how to lash the keel in place. I thought I’d succeeded, but at that moment the keel head slid down. In a way it was something I hoped would happen, because a keel swinging around is a source of stress. So losing the keel was a great relief.
Marc Guillemot enters the harbour with Jean Le Cam, Kito de Pavant and Roland Jourdain on board Safran. Image copyright Jean Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendée Globe.
"Samantha was just ahead and I played around with the ballast and sails trying to find the way to sail safely. I think I was close to th edge several times. I slept with the sheet in my hand paying attention to the heel of the boat. The problem is you don’t get much sleep like that. I wouldn’t like to go through that again.
"I had the right quantity of food with me, as I only started on the freeze dried food yesterday. Christine sorted things out for me like creams for my hands.
"Everyday I sent my route in to designers and my team based around a certain percentage of the boat’s polars. Sailing upwind I had no idea. In the end sometimes I was above and sometimes below my estimates. When I saw head winds I was afraid it would be very difficult. This morning the routing said I would arrive at 3 so there was a lot of uncertainty, but hoping it was possible. The glimmer of hope was what kept me going. Yann told me to play it like a Figaro leg. He was right, but I’m exhausted. It was very close. Late this afternoon I had doubts until the final tack towards Yeu.
"I was wondering whether Pindar had lost her keel as she was only doing the same speed as me. It was a challenge fighting it out with Brian.
"It was very strange seeing the motorboats surround me and I couldn’t see the line very easily. You go from a quiet world of being alone to noise and people, although I like seeing my friends.
"I’m happier with the design choices at the finish than at the start! There were a lot of complementary ideas that came together and this evening finishing I really enjoyed sailing her. She’s a great boat!
Marc Guillemot with other Vendée skippers, Kito de Pavant, Yann Elies, Jean Le Cam, Roland Jourdain and Samantha Davies. Image copyright Jean Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendée Globe.
"The UFO detector was on in most of the south. I didn’t detect any growlers, perhaps because I avoided places where growlers could be found. The scientists would have liked to see it tested where you find growlers. More seriously, I think it’s an interesting device."