Cap Istanbul - How sweet the smell of victory is

Cap Istanbul Race Route
With forty-eight hours till the start of the 'European Capital of Culture – Cap Istanbul', the competitors are preparing for war. For some their goal is to finish honourably, to be able to look at their wake without shame, whilst for others the final objective will be victory… Will a trigger be enough to cause a big bang?

Victory is something which you get used to; something which in a certain sense is deserved. Of course you need talent, but that’s not all. To succeed, you need a lot of sweat, time and a wealth of experience. Added to that you also need to know how to chance your arm and count on a certain dose of confidence. In this way Nicolas Troussel, skipper of Financo, has become double winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and reigning French Champion. 'Confidence is paramount. You go further in your options, perhaps due the fact that having won relieves an obvious pressure. It’s been two years now that I’ve be able to win like that: once you’re aware of what you can do, things become simpler.'

So do you just need the trigger of everything falling into place for it all to change? In no way wishing to disprove this hypothesis, Isabelle Joschke, freshly graduated in the Figaro series after a brilliant career in the Mini-Transat circuit, is more circumspect: 'The first thing is work. On the Mini circuit, it took me four years to get to the highest level. In the Figaro, I’m discovering other requirements. I have to be patient, gather information from my mistakes, watch the top players and learn from all these things.' Nonetheless, the young sailor admits that the fact that she’s amassed her fair share of victories aboard her 6.50 m prototype has given her a certain winning culture. 'Following that, I know that the day that I’ve reached the level I want, I won’t be at all stressed about hunting down victory…'

As ocean racing is a sport with a slow maturation, in one way or another Gildas Morvan, current leader of the French Solo Championship and Jeanne Grégoire, author of a remarkable Solitaire du Figaro, are experimenting with it: 'With time, you learn to sail for yourself, says the latter, without letting yourself be influenced by others. You begin to trust in your speed, in your ability to make decisions. Aside from a few exceptional characters, something you learn is this power to decide… Now, I have yet to taste the pleasure of victory, even though I’ve come close two or three times.'

It’s the same scenario for Gildas Morvan, the skipper of Cercle Vert: 'good preparation, a Transat AG2R in the company of Jean Le Cam, good confidence in my speed… All these ingredients mean that I’ve come onto the circuit with a new motivation. I’d certainly love to get another sniff at victory again…' Fred Duthil, skipper of Distinxion Automobile, has a similar philosophy when it comes to discussing his progress: 'Everything doesn’t just suddenly fall into place so that you take victory one day. In the early days when I came onto the circuit I was capable of pulling off some blinders, but I lacked regularity. My main focus has been on working on erasing my weak points and limiting the moments where I lose concentration. From then on, little by little, you get closer and closer to the podium places until the day where you win! After that, it’s true that once you’ve had a taste of that, you tend to want more. And the fact that you know you’ve already won enables you to be more prepared to hang on in there in the difficult times.' Finally, victory is simple then: you work, you gain confidence, you work more, you get results. Have the sailors on the Figaro circuit rediscovered the recipe for the virtuous circle?

Quotes from the pontoons of the 'European Capital of Culture – Cap Istanbul'

Jeanne Grégoire, Banque Populaire:
'It’s not necessarily going to be very simple. We’ve come here at the close of the season, after a very long stretch between the Transat AG2R and the Solitaire du Figaro. We’re torn between the desire to experience a great adventure and enjoy ourselves, without forgetting that it’s a proper race where the stakes are high.'

Isabelle Joschke, Synergie: 'I still consider myself to be in the learning phase, added to which I’m still rather an offshore girl. I don’t know how I’m going to do in this race. The objective remains the same: to reap the benefits from this race so I can make progress. I’m modest, I have no other aim than to learn as much as I can.'

Christophe Bouvet: 'This is the first race where I’m sailing as a professional sailor. All of a sudden I’ve come here feeling more liberated than I usually do… I still have an enormous amount of respect for all the guys who come here as amateurs and will be doing battle with the top names: they haven’t been able to train, don’t have the same means but they’re here nonetheless. Hats off to them because it may well be that some of the future stars of the series can be found amongst them.'

Nicolas Troussel, Financo: 'My primary aim is to sail a fine race. Holding onto my French Championship title will be hard, particularly as I don’t know the course. I’m going to try to sail cleanly and to do credit to my standing…'

Cap Istanbul: (site in French, English and Turkish !!!)