This Sunday at 1.35 pm, Lalou Roucayrol and Alex Pella set off on the Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre in sporty conditions immediately in the swing of this transatlantic race heading for Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.
Overnight Monday, the Arkema pair will have to negotiate an active front. This heralds a few tricky hours, but that will be the price to pay before the promise of gliding naturally southward.
Among the six Multi 50 fleet, the Arkema Franco-Spanish pair clearly will have a strong card to play in conditions that the boat relishes. The two men will also be able to count on the expert advice of their onshore router, Karine Fauconnier. A short while before taking the great leap, Lalou, Alex and Karine shared their last thoughts and feelings with us…
Lalou, Alex, as you’re about to start on this Transat Jacques Vabre race, are you as well prepared as you’d like to be?
Lalou Roucayrol: “Clearly we haven’t sailed as many miles together as our competitors in a Multi 50 boat. We don’t have as much practice sailing together, but the two of us combined have a lot of experience indeed. That’s our strong point, we know our job!”
Alex Pella: “In terms of sailing, we would have liked more. We haven’t really been able to find steady conditions during our preparation, but I feel confident and appreciated as part of this team; I managed to adapt very quickly. Everything on the boat is in tip-top shape, the team is structured well, this makes things easier, and as I set off on this Transat Jacques Vabre, I feel confident.”
The human aspect is key when sailing as a pair. Are you still getting on well together?
Lalou: “Yes we are. We’ve now been together every day for the past three weeks and everything’s working out well. We always have things to talk about apart from sailing, we have a good time together. Alex will serve the team, it’s great.”
Alex: “Things are clear between us: in this project, Lalou is the leader because he knows his boat much better than I do. I joined the team to help out and put my experience to use. Inevitably there will be times in the race when we are stressed and tired, but that’s part of the game.”
Conditions in the first few days look actually favorable: you both like a breeze and the Multi 50 Arkema reaches its full potential in those conditions…
Lalou: “Yes, overall Arkema is a boat made for breezy conditions. It’s going to go fast from the start, it won’t be comfortable, and we don’t expect we’ll be sleeping much for the first three of four days. These are typical conditions for races taking place in November like the Transat Jacques Vabre or the Route du Rhum. We’ll make do! In any case, we’re expecting a fast race.”
What are your feelings in particular as you’re about to set off on a 4,350 mile race heading for Salvador de Bahia? Are you stressed? Excited? Impatient?
Alex: “I feel calm and collected. The boat has been good and ready for days now, so I’m not stressed. We’re raring to go!”
Lalou: “This is my ninth Transat Jacques Vabre race, so I know what to expect. But it’s always a commitment; it’s not easy to pull yourself away from the appeal of the land, your family, comfort… The transition is abrupt because there’re many demands before the start. But after about 24 hours, we’ll be in full sailing mode, we’ll make the most of the thrilling periods when we glide across the ocean!”
Is winning your stated goal?
Lalou: “We’re professionals. The two of us are a good team, and our team on land is super, with Karine Fauconnier and Eric Mas helping us on the weather front. We’ve the right boat and the right skills to aim for a great result.”
Karine Fauconnier, in charge of routing from land: “With Lalou and Alex, we are a winning threesome”
“The weather forecast at the start is good for our boat with a 20-25 knot north-westerly breeze that will soon switch to the North. Arkema will then sail reaching (crosswinds), it’s going to be sporty. Then things will slow down as they sail through a calm zone. Later on they’ll have to negotiate an active front overnight Monday. The sea will be rough and all over the place; we’ll have to work out where to position ourselves in order to remain safe but also efficient at the same time. There will be 12 tricky hours, after that it should all be great!
I have now dealt with the disappointment of not being able to sail with Lalou after I got injured. Routing is not a consolation prize, I love looking after this side of things. We form a winning trio. For two weeks I’m going to live at the pace of the Transat, I will sleep in 2 hour stints so I can advise the best routes that will take them to victory!”
by Marie-Astrid Parendeau