Very interesting interview by Armel Le Cleach, I took the proposed automatic google translate provided by "jonas a" of this Voiles et Voiliers interview and tweaked it for the few mistakes. You will learn that he has not had a single crash jibe so far...
Wednesday, December 21 afternoon, less than 1000 miles from Cape Horn, the Vendee Globe leader gave us a long interview despite difficult weather ... Banque Populaire VIII then sailed port tack downwind in a West North West wind very irregular between 25 and 35 knots and on a strong and crossed sea. Armel Le Cléac'h was preparing for a final jibe in the evening before plunging on the famous "hard cape". You will notice that Armel never says "I" but "We" as if he always spoke of his boat and of him at the same time ... The man is shrewd, modest, does not deliver easily at sea, but he does not evade the questions. If the link was almost perfect, if the sailor was once again of astonishing availability and lucidity, it was nevertheless perceived at the sound of his voice and the surrounding noise that life on board at that moment was frankly very painful ! There was a certain weariness. Armel does not say everything ... but one can read between the lines.
Voilesetvoiliers.com: First of all Armel, how are you?
Armel Le Cléac'h: It's alright, it's okay. It's a little sporty right now, but we do go. The wind is very irregular in strength and the sea is in all directions, and so it is not very simple ... but by this night it should be better. In the South, we live virtually permanently inside. It is like being inside a washing machine, in spinning mode... and after a few weeks, it is getting tiring.
Voilesetvoiliers.com: What about physically?
ALC: Look, it's fine. I do not have too many small cuts and scrapes and bruises apart from my hands that are a bit ruined and make me suffer, and that I try to soothe with cream regularly. I did not have too many physical problems until then despite some good falls in the boat. When the sea is rough, even on all fours you end up bumping right to left, but nothing serious. The hardest part is sleeping in the day when you have conditions like today, where it's hard. I will have to rest a bit to prepare my jibe in the evening. As it is planned from 30 to 35 knots, it will be necessary to be vigilant, to make a beautiful last maneuver before leaving on Cape Horn. Quickly turn left!
Voilesetvoiliers.com: Talking about the jibe, how long does it take, in 30 to 35 knots?
ALC: With or without shifting the gear from one side to the other? (Laughs)
Voilesetvoiliers.com: With ... between the moment you make the decision and the moment you are on the other tack?
ALC: Shifting all the gears, so that everything is clean, you need a good half hour from the time you begin to move the bags and when everything is tidy across the cabin. The jibe maneuver in itself is quite fast: about ten minutes. The jibe is finally quite easy, but then you still have all the sails on the deck to change side ...
Voilesetvoiliers.com: Do you realize that you've been away for 45 days?
ALC: Not really. What is clear is that the pace is fairly sustained. It is difficult to take stock of the past. In fact, the length of the days depends really on the weather conditions, capes to cross, gusts of wind ... Let's say that when the wind is less strong, it helps to better pace the time on board. I did not even know we were at 45 (laughs). You tell me! But good 45 days on these boats, it's not easy, and then 47 days to go from Les Sables D'Olonne to Cape Horn, it's pretty good. Nevertheless, the Vendée wears down the boats and the guys.
Voilesetvoiliers.com: Did the foil breaks of Alex Thomson and then Sébastien Josse prompted you to sail differently? Did you take the foils back into the big sea?
ALC: Yes, but not that much! Me since the start, I was rather conservative about the use of foils, as in the transatlantic races. The difficulty on a Vendée Globe is to find the time when you can sail with or without. And as you never know if you're 100% right or not ... I try to keep these tools for the right angle for the right configuration, when it does not push too much on the boat.For instance, right now, it is downwind VMG in strong wind and sea, and so there is no need to foils. But actually, what happens to others, it cools you down on the moment. You try to understand what happened. What is certain is that when you are a little ahead of your pursuers, you take less risk, you get less annoyed. You put a little more time to do your maneuver, you take another five minutes to release a reef. In short, you go more cool and you try to make it clean. It is a small luxury ...
Voilesetvoiliers.com: You give the impression since the departure of "sparing" your boat, unlike Alex who seems to loar her more?
ALC: Yeah, but we stil have problems on board! There are always tinkers, wear, chaffing, worries of waterproofing ... For now it holds up, but the road is long. I have already done two Vendée Globe and we know that there can be so many things happening. To date, I have not had too strong OFNI causing great damage, and I have had a bit of success unlike some.Keeping my fingers crossed.
Voilesetvoiliers.com: All the competitors say they have crashed jibe. You, have you?
ALC: Look, no! Again, I touch wood! For the moment I have not made a downwind crash jibe. Broaching into the wind, of course, I did, when we were a little on the attack in the descent of the Atlantic (more than 17.5 knots average, ed.)
Voilesetvoiliers.com: And you have not suffered major breakdowns?
ALC: I did. I had an auto pilot problem ... but related to another problem: my heating on board. When I put a little heating in the cabin, a night when it was bad weather outside with 20 knots of wind and rain this caused a drop in electrical voltage. My pilot was going crazy, and the boat was broaching. I did not understand.It lasted ten minutes, and I thought to myself that it would be a big hassle. I searched, and when I turned off the heater, it started to work again.
Voilesetvoiliers.com: Is it true that your bag of food for the passage of Cape Horn bearing the n ° 52, you planned this year to cross it after 52 days?
ALC: I think it's time we had been there four years (the record is 52 days Gabart 6:18 minutes ed), and so we decided to stay on the same figures with Sébastien Duclos when the catering was done, because we had already been fast enough. There we are at how many days? 42? (45 in fact, note) I have not even counted (we give him the answer again when we talked a few minutes ago, ed.) Oh ok. Well, it's going to be around 47 days. It should be a little earlier than expected! We will not complain ... and so I have extra food to finish the Vendée. I can even feed my friends ... I do not know if I will have other worries, but not the lack of food contrary to eight years ago when I had arrived with nothing left to eat.
Voilesetvoiliers.com: All the observers are unanimous on your perfect trajectory. Looks like you've never mastered the weather so well and everything looks easy?
ALC: (laughs) No, it is not easy! (Laughs) They ask lots of questions. In terms of weather, I try to do my strategy without too much wondering what my opponents wil do, and I advance piece by piece. The weather models are almost always agreeing with each others, the routings are not always effective, but I always try to find a trajectory that seems to me the best. And then in the famous transition periods, when you have to stoke the boat up to pass these important phases, as a few days ago with this ridge under New Zealand, you sometimes have to be tricky. Same, when you have to push the boat to stay ahead of a front. Overall, I feel not too bad about it, even if I did some not so good stuff.
Voilesetvoiliers.com: How do you see the climb up the Atlantic where four years ago, François Gabart have slightly dropped you when you navigating virtually in sightof each other?
ALC: I know that the South Atlantic is a very very complicated part, weather wise. I suffered eight years ago and again four years ago. I'm starting to look at what is brewing for us. We will try not to do too many fuckups in this delicate part that lasts at least as far as Rio.
Voilesetvoiliers.com: Finally, you have time to follow a few news including the record of Thomas Coville?
ALC: Yes I follow what happens. They give me info. I had the times of Thomas. This is an amazing feat he is making! And we realize the speed of the boats, because he left the same day than we did (November 6) and he will arrive shortly after I crossed the Horn. This gives an idea of the differences with our IMOCA ... which however are not slow!