Friday, 29 May 2009

VOR: Seb Josse on a possible French team for 2011-12

ABN AMRO TWO, at the start of leg 2 from Cape Town. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Volvo Ocean Race 2005-6.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

There's a smile stretched across Seb Josse's face. "It was great fun," he says. "I do miss it."

His memories of the ABN AMRO TWO campaign are vivid, like the first day out of Vigo when his largely rookie team led the fleet. And the 24-hour period in which they sailed 562.96 miles, a monohull world record that would not be broken until Ericsson 4 blazed through leg one in this race.

"We had a really great time," Josse adds. "I think everyone was so excited to be given the chance that there was a positive energy the whole campaign. We all lived together for two years and I do not think we fought once."

Seb Josse. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Volvo Ocean Race 2005-6.

For Josse, the skipper of the fourth-placed campaign, it was another line on a crammed CV. He has now skippered or raced in the Barcelona World race, the Vendee Globe twice, the Trophee Jules Verne and the Volvo Ocean Race, a collection of circumnavigation events believed to be unmatched in sailing.

It is the latter of those marathons that has led Josse to Galway today.

"I am interested in coming back," he says. "I am here to see what is going on with the race, all the big changes that are being talked about. I would like very much to come back and do the race again, but this is a very early stage and I am looking at the options. There are a few races I like and I am making decisions and seeing what is possible.

"I spoke with Knut (Frostad, the race CEO) yesterday about that and I think he has some really good ideas. They want to reduce the costs and I think that is essential at the moment. It is not easy to find money for campaigns so it is appealing to me that they are looking at ways to make it easier."

If Josse is to come back, there is one project that would have a particular appeal for him.

"I met yesterday with Si Fi (Simon Fisher from Telefonica Blue), Johnny Poortman and Nick Bice (both Delta Lloyd) and it was nice," he says.

"I would love to do it again with the same guys. We had a really good time and I think we would all like to sail together again.

"It would be an amazing story to try and rebuild this team and come back. But that is a long way away. First thing is try to get enough money. When you have the money you can start to contact people and think about who is in your team. Today I am not at this stage, but it would be nice to be back in this race."

That said, he never fully detached himself from it.

"I have been following the race when I have some time," he says. "It is a big fight, close racing. It is not so easy for the leader as last time when one boat was a long way ahead. I have enjoyed watching when I can."

ABN AMRO TWO. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Volvo Ocean Race 2005-6.

He almost got even closer to the action.

"There was a chance that I might have done the leg from Qingdao to Rio," he reveals. "It was a bit too soon to do the long leg after the Vendee Globe."

Now, his thoughts are tuned in fully to the future and the potential for French involvement in the next race. His homeland, a country with an enormous passion for offshore sailing, has been noticeable by its absence in recent races, with the current edition featuring no French port and just one sailor. However, legends including Michel Desjoyeaux and Roland Jourdain showed interest by attending the race village in Boston, while Josse is all but certain there will be a team in the next event.

ABN AMRO ONE - Making More Possible. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Volvo Ocean Race 2005-6.

"I think in the next edition there will be one team, but maybe if the budget comes down it might be possible to see two or three French teams," he says. "No one wanted to look before, because it was too expensive, like the America's Cup. We don't have the big sponsors like that. Now, with the cost limitation and this type of boat with a swing keel and daggerboards, which we know in France, the sponsors think it is possible to come and have a result.

"We have a lot of people who follow the sport and they understand it: at the prize giving in France after the Vendee Globe there was 100,000 people. For sure in a stopover in this race you can have the same.

"It is an appealing race to me. I enjoyed the last one a lot and one day it would be nice to come back."

Time will tell.

Volvo Ocean Race

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