Guillemot - Sardines and pate for Vendée Globe

Saffran - Vendee Globe 2008-2009

With the official opening of the Vendée Globe village by Philippe de Villiers at ten on Saturday, the Vendée Globe is well and truly in the starting blocks. All of the solo yachtsmen were present for the official photograph and the welcome briefing, while the crowds have turned up to discover the stands and educational displays around the pontoons.

Between today (Saturday 18th October) and the start on 9th November, hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected in the race village in Port Olona. On the 'Place du Vendée Globe', right next to the race pontoon, which is completely open to the public, the village simply had to reflect the exceptional character of this edition of the Vendée Globe. The village is spread over more than 15,000 m2 including a covered area of 9000 m2.

Guillemot - the sea bird

At the age of 49, the Breton has covered miles and miles on all the world´s oceans and on every type of sailing boat imaginable. With three weeks to go to the start of his first Vendée Globe, Marc Guillemot talks about his state of mind before the starting gun is fired and how he will feed himself for almost three months.

What was your state of mind, as you arrived in Les Sables d’Olonne, with three weeks to go before the start of the Vendée Globe?
'You get into it in stages. You set up the project, get it underway; you design the monohull, she takes shape; the boat is built, comes to life; she is launched and you go sailing… With each stage you find yourself more and more involved in the Vendée Globe, a long time before the start. Since the month of June, there´s not a single day, a single night when I haven´t been in the race. It´s fascinating, but rather worrying at the same time! I believe it´s the same for all the other solo yachtsmen: there is the deep fear of forgetting something you cannot do without for three months. It may even be something silly like a T-shirt, a spare part… It really takes over your mind! Now I´m in Les Sables d’Olonne, it´s a bit different: we know that we won´t be back here until February.'

What do you intend to do for three weeks?
'We need to be there for the public, for our friends, for the media, for the partners, but also for the checks, for the official receptions and to get into the atmosphere. Something struck me as I passed into the harbour on Friday evening: there were already a lot of spectators waiting! Even if it was light years away from what we can expect for the start and finish, it does give an impression of the power of this race… It´s as if we had already set sail.'

What are the jobs to be done by the members of the Safran shore team?
'Firstly, we need to rinse down the boat. Clean her up from top to bottom. Organise visits, which are of course, closely monitored. On Monday, we have all the spares to stow away, as you don´t realise it, but there are a lot of them! Then the food has to go aboard… In any case, even if the boat can set sail tomorrow, there is always something to do, final details to sort out… '

How much food are you in fact going to take on board and how much does it weigh? ,/i>
'150 kilos. That´s a bit more than some racers are taking on board, as they only use freeze-dried products. We´re talking about ready-prepared meals, because food is very important at sea and everything I eat must be good. Some fresh produce for the first days, with some apples from the local market in La Trinité/mer! Cheese, yoghurt, fruit… I´ve stopped taking oysters to sea: much too dangerous to open (Marc chopped through his finger on one delivery trip, editor) but I´ll have some the day before we leave! I´m counting on 85 days of sailing, but at least thirty days more, if there is serious damage. Then, each week, two tins of sardines and two tins of Hénaff paté! It´s a tradition in Brittany!'

How much water do you take on board?
'We all have desalination units, but I´m taking 50 litres of bottled water on board nevertheless. If I ever break down, that will offer me thirty to forty days of self-sufficiency. Then, I have a system to recuperate rainwater. I drink around three litres a day, less when it´s cold, more at the Equator… '

For a long time you raced multihulls. What difference is there now you are racing in a monohull?
'Before I had this boat designed for the Vendée Globe, I had multihulls on my mind all the time. I ate and slept trimarans. Now I only think of monohulls! I really enjoy myself on Safran: what do you look for when you sail and what did I find in multihulls? Fun, excitement, stress… And that is something I find on Imoca boats!'