Dockside - Ten days to the start of the Vendee Globe
Only ten days left before the start of the Vendée Globe. The skippers are turning up one by one in the harbour in Vendée, while the shore teams are busy from first light, before the crowds, who certainly do not seem to have been put off by the rain, invade the pontoons. For these assistants, the major jobs have all been done and now it is time for a few final touches.
This morning (Thursday) on Groupe Bel, it was the rigger, who was hard at it: 'I'm putting a sheath on the halyards, where they leave the mast. They are starting to become a little fluffy, and we want to be doubly sure, as they have to last for three months.'
As for Delta Dore, which saw the return today of Jérémie Beyou, the atmosphere was fairly quiet: apart from the food, everything has now been stowed. There will be one final sea trip next week to see how the green and white monohull behaves now that she is loaded.
It is similarly calm on the deck of Paprec-Virbac 2 where they are now sticking on labels, while Jean Pierre Dick is bent over the computer screens. 'A little nit-picking, a little bit of fiddling, as there are always possible improvements, but in fact, the boat has been fully ready since late July,' said Julien Penven. The men on Maisonneuve came up with a similar argument: 'A boat is like a house. It's never really finished. Basically, Maisonneuve could more or less set sail tomorrow. But we'll keep finding jobs to keep us busy and we'll be checking things over and over again.' On Roxy, the instruction manuals and procedures are being written down for Sam Davies and one final climb to inspect the mast is planned. In the cockpit of Cheminées Poujoulat, while Bernard Stamm, who has returned, is busy at a meeting, they are taking apart the winches.
These final days spent preparing the boats are also an opportunity to take care of a few little surprises on board, by stowing away or hiding presents that the skippers will dig out at Christmas. Thus, Erwan Steff has already taken care of the Christmas meals and presents for his skipper, Yann Eliès.
The toil continues and gradually the pace is building. Most of the skippers will be back in Les Sables d’Olonne this weekend and will be preparing to go through the whirlwind of activity during the final countdown to the start.
Down on the pontons…
Jean Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2), inside his Farr designed boat: 'I'm in the middle of re-reading the race instructions, going through all the problems that may arise over the course. I have just come back from a few days in Corsica and inland from Nice. I'm feeling calm, yet being kept busy all the time, and I'm very pleased to be back with my team.'
Karen Leibovici, who took part in the last Vendée Globe: 'No, I'm not feeling nostalgic about the race. I don't have any regrets when I see all the boats lined up here. I no longer think about what it was like four years ago. I've got other things to take care of. I've been working with Yannick Bestaven (Aquarelle.com) since last May. I started out as an assistant preparing the boat. Now, I'm looking after the logistics. I'm just getting ready to deal with getting the supplies on board the boat.'
Joff Brown, Dee Caffari's project leader (Aviva): 'We are pretty much there at the moment. I think we maybe have five things left to do on the jobs list and that will be it, all wrapped up tomorrow. Because next week it is all sponsors and media, so it is busy on the boat. Dee will be back and so it will be trying to help build confidence in her. Really we set ourselves the target of having the boat race ready before we got here and there are usually just a few little jobs that slip through.'
Arnaud Boissières (Akéna Vérandas): 'Since Sunday, we've noticed a distinct change in the weather. Time to get something warm on our heads and meanwhile the stress is gradually building. The boat is ready, and now we have to take advantage of these final ten days, particularly with the sponsors. This evening, the boat will be open to the employees of Akena and their families for two and a half hours.'
Graham ‘Gringo’ Tourrell, Jonny Malbon's boat captain (Artemis): 'These last ten days are just about making sure the boat is spick and span, because there will be sponsors coming out and Jonny will be needing to spend some quiet time on the boat, down below looking at the weather files and the start and routing, and so our job then is just basically making him as relaxed as possible, and looking after the sponsors then, and so the last week should not really involve any jobs of any significance at all.'