The return of Jean Le Cam into the channel in the small hours of the morning was one of the high moments of this race so far. He was given the warmest welcome from the Les Sablais people who turned out at 0230hrs in the morning to see and listen to the words of King Jean
You say this race was hard?
I have experienced a lot of difficult things in my life but this time I think it was really unbearable but you learn that you can still stand unbearable things. It is incredible how human beings can manage to do things when you tell yourself it is impossible and he fact I am here today it really a miracle. It is just incredible. First there is the ranking, this terrible ranking, because there is a point where you really don’t care any more about the ranking you just want to finish. And in addition, the day before yesterday I was eighth, then I was sixth and now I am fourth. I have not really been lucky in life but on this occasion I can say that I have had a lot of luck. I have pushed it. I really went to the maximum
What you experienced on this Vendée Globe was it harder than your capsize?
Yes. Oh yes. Because on your capsize, you capsize, you are on a boat, you capsize and 18 hours later Vincent comes to get you. That is it. It is only 19 hours. It is not one month and a half, every day, every hour. When Kevin disembarked for the Nivoise there was a big front and I went to the bow and inside the hull, the boat was delaminating. The hull moved about 5cms and you are afraid that you are going to sink. So I repaired it the first time, the bulkheads, I cut out the ballast and had carbon everywhere and not enough resin of course. And half a tube of c-com and I think it worked but then it broke up again. So I went up north with a lot of sea and people who know what this is like when it broke, again. So I had to stop and repair, another time, and waited for It to dry. And since then, every day, you can’t slam and bang, you cannot hit. Every hour you are telling yourself that you don’t want to go on, to keep going. And to push it too much. Even the day before yesterday I told myself, I can’t anymore. You open the hatches and you see what is happening every time it is hits on the waves. It is terrible. I was not using the ballast anymore as I had cut it. I had put all the load in the front of the boat and the sails were up there, so the boat would slam less and finally I managed to finish. Hubert (the name he calls his boat) brought me back home. And finally Hubert brought me back home. The damage is at the bow on the starboard side, 1.4m by 700mm but it can spread. You have to inject the resin to stop it spreading.
Will you start again? Was this one one too many? Will you be back?
I don’t know. You always ask this question and right now. I have just arrived and you ask me. If it was tomorrow it would be ‘no’. It is something you don’t know. But can you imagine that I just finished five or six hours ago and you ask me. I am here, I am happy to be here and for the rest, I don’t know. My life continues and it will change, there are other things. I have been on this for such a long time.
Did you enjoy this race?
Enjoyment? I was stressed from the morning to the evening knowing, wondering if I would finish. And so I am going to be honest there was not much pleasure.
You said that fourth position is the position of ‘the jerk’, do you still think that?
Yes, I had many fourths on La Solitaire. So of course second you did not win, fourth you are not on the podium, but I thought I was eighth and so fourth, it is OK. And things have evolved and so here I am I am fourth, the position of the ‘the jerk’ I replaced the position of the potential jerk who could have been fourth and took his place, so it is to show how generous I am.
What pushed you, because you told us you twice thought about retiring. What pushed you to continue to keep going?
Because I saw the first repair was working. So it held up. And after when it broke in the middle of the Pacific the only thing then is to do is to round Cape Horn and there I had 40-45kts of wind so I did not want to approach land and so I rounded 100 miles off. And then there were conditions which were ideal. In that moment there was pleasure and I had dream conditions. I had been dreaming about it for three weeks. And I ended up getting north. And then you are saying to yourself ;’If I have to finish in a liferaft I prefer to be in warm weather. Every day you look at the water temperature and you say ‘finally at least in the liferaft I won’t be cold. And then it goes on and it continues. It is better to be in the liferaft in the tradewinds than at 50 degrees south.
You say that you did not enjoy this. A lot of skippers say this edition was difficult. You are in your fifth Vendée Globe, what makes you want to take the start every time?
I was speaking that all things are relative in reality. For example when you are in the south and you are cold and then you have all these problems but then you have flat seas. And it is the dreams. It is the extremes. It is about things which are unreachable in daily life. You need to know what is bad to know what is good. You need to know unhappiness to know what is love. These are questions I truly ask myself because it was real for me. It is the extremes. That is a bit part of the Vendée Globe, you spend moments like one day is different from the next. And then when you start accumulating difficulties it becomes hell. And later on when you get out of it it is true happiness. Two days ago it was quite difficult, a week ago it was horrible, but today it is incredible. This finish line, whatever the weather, rain or snow, you don’t care. You cross the line and wait for four hours and you have this, everyone present communicating these feelings of what you have made them feel. It is incredible in dimensions which are completely uncommon. Here in the channel at two or three in the morning these people are out, can you imagine? People are here and you feel their depth, their soul, their beauty, their sincerity that you cannot have in other contexts and that is why it is an extreme pleasure. And these moments when you are able to do these things the satisfaction is unlimited. It is black or white, it is extremes. You have to know hate to know love.
What would you like to pass on to a youngster for the next Vendée Globe with a boat like yours?
I believe that between Benjamin Dutreux, Damien Seguin and me, we gave young people confidence that the Vendée Globe is still accessible. Today this race is becoming financially inaccessible. There are boats at 6-7 million euros, so you wonder if you need to have a multinational sponsor to be able to participate and not be left out on the sidelines. I hope that this edition of the Vendée Globe will allow the organizers to look at the future from another perspective. It is important and essential that the Vendée Globe be accessible to SMEs and young people.
Who are the sailors that you discovered on this Vendée Globe?
Well there is already Benjamin Dutreux. And then obviously there is Damien (Seguin). With Benjamin, we sailed together for days and days. He’s great is Benjamin. The boat he as is one of the best hulls from Farr. It is a great boat. And then I think he’s good at options, at speed . With what he has, he’s doing really well. He knows how to go quickly to the right place, he is intelligent in his strategy. My goal was to get in front of Benjamin when I saw that Damien was unattainable at the end. And for all that here we are, we are the old asshole, the disabled guy and the young guy (laughs)
The response from Damien, present in the room.
This Vendée Globe was exceptional and I am here today because it is thanks to you Jean. I could thank you every day, but it could never make up for everything you gave me. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought about you. I just want to say THANK YOU. When I had this Vendée Globe dream, I dreamed of foiling boats, and you were able to make me look at the essentials. There are some that have millions and are sitting at home tonight. We’re at the finish line and that’s great.
What is your opinion on Louis Burton?
He completely lets go. He was not shy. He was in the red zone all the time and he had incredible speed. He stopped in Macquarie, took off again at full throttle and was leading the way in the North Atlantic. He animated the Vendée Globe in an extraordinary way. His race had character.
I am very happy. He had a great race. At the end in the South he was really at home, the others did not come close. Afterwards he had his problems, but in the end he won the Vendée Globe. It’s a great story, it’s worth it.