Transat Jacques Vabre – Safran crosses the finish line

Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
© Jean-Marie Liot
Transat Jacques Vabre - Safran skipper Marc Guillemot and co-skipper Yann Eliès arrived at Puerto Limon in Costa Rica this morning, Saturday 19th November, crossing the finishing line in sixth place at 09h 27mins and 52 secs GMT (1027 CET). Their race time was 16 days, 19 hours, 27 minutes and 52 seconds. Average speed on the theoretical route was 11.72 knots. Marc Guillemot and Yann Eliès judge this result.

Marc, how do you feel after finishing in sixth place?
'First of all, we’re pleased to have finished after a race in which we really had to fight hard from the start to the finish. This may not be where we were hoping to end up in the rankings when we set off, but that is true for everyone who was aiming to win. We end up in sixth place and are pleased to have given it our all. We made some little mistakes, had a few small technical problems to deal with and there was the pit stop we planned, but cancelled at the last moment.'

In the end, not stopping in the Dominican Republic was the right decision…
'If we had stopped, it would have meant setting off again with a boat in the best of shape, but we’d have been in last place. By continuing with the boat that was rather handicapped, we knew that we could catch up a few boats and we even thought it might have been possible to grab fifth place. This was more pleasing than seeing everyone cross the finishing line ahead of us, so on that score, we don’t have any regrets. I think we sailed well, in spite of making the mistake of heading south at the start of the race.'

Positive points? Negative points?
'The most positive aspect is that we have completed the race and did not have to retire. Safran is one of the only boats to have finished all her races. The other thing is that we remained determined right up to the finish, even if we were way behind the leaders after the high-pressure area. In the end, the only negative point is that we played it safe and decided to take care of the boat when the second front went over. But after the first low moved past us, there was a lot of damage and I told myself that the boat had already been put through a lot. The seas were nasty and the boats slamming violently. We preferred to play it safe and finish the race, rather than fight for a place in the rankings. We lost out there, because of this fear, which isn’t something we usually do, and it was our decision. If you want to win, you have to know how to apply the right amount of risk, and maybe we didn’t accept enough.'

'I learnt a lot again'

A word about the winners, Jean-Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou?
'They got it just right heading for the low via the north. Jean-Pierre and Jérémie were the boldest and most prepared to go on the attack. They are rightful winners. It’s funny, because this win is exactly like ours from two years ago with Safran. More or less the same time with the same lead over those chasing after them.'

We are less than twelve months away from the Vendée Globe. Are you happy with the boat’s performance?
'I’m very happy with it. Firstly, because of everything that happened, we were able to see that the boat sails well under autopilot, which is a vital factor in the Vendée. The second positive point is that we had to use sails like the gennaker, while others were under spinnaker and we didn’t come off too badly. It was an enriching experience. There are always things to learn about the boat and I learnt a lot again. I’m sure that this race has given me a huge benefit for the Vendée Globe in a year from now.'

What was life with Yann like?
'He’s right here with me, so I have to be careful what I say (laughs). Seriously, it all went well between us. I don’t think we’re going to be in a huff with each other after we step off the boat…'

What next?
'A few days of rest in Costa Rica would do us good. Then, I’ll be setting off solo on 5th December in the Transat B to B from St. Barts to Lorient. This is a qualifying race for the Vendée Globe… Safran is already qualified, but I’m keen on doing it, as it’s excellent training for the Vendée Globe.'

Yann Eliès: 'Marc has a boat that can win the Vendée Globe'

Yann, how did things work out with Marc?
'Firstly we’re pleased, as we saw that you couldn’t take getting to the other side for granted. With Marc, there was a sort of osmosis when we took decisions, and the way in which we worked, the rhythm on board and the intensity we experienced. All of that was very positive, even if sixth place is a bit below what we were hoping for. The decision we came to off the Azores was not bold enough… but at the same time it can be praised, as we decided to put the boat first and not head too far north in the low-pressure area.'

And on a personal level?
'I have had a lot of experience of double-handed sailing, and it’s always gone more or less well… but today, if there is someone that I would choose to sail with again, it would really be with Marc. I’d even go as far as to say I can see myself taking part in a double-handed race around the world with him, which is something I’d never really thought of doing before.'

Your projects?
'I too still hope to set off in the Vendée Globe. If it doesn’t work out, maybe I’ll go back to the Figaro circuit.'

A word about the boat, Safran: what do you think of her after this experience in the transatlantic race?
'She’s a great boat. If I had to choose one to sail around the world, it would be this one. She offers the best ratio of power to ease of handling and is well suited to solo sailing, while offering good performance. I think that Marc has a boat here that could win the Vendée Globe.'

Safran Sailing Team website