The 2012 Vendee Globe will commence in just over five days and with his project Votre Nom autour du Monde, Bertrand de Broc will take thousands of people with him across the oceans. For his third participation in the Vendée Globe, this great man, with authentic values, tells us more about his project.
Bertrand de Broc
Bertrand, how are you feeling, a few days away from the start?
I’m good. Last preparations are almost over, I’m relaxing. I am starting to get into the weather analysis and everything that has to do with the race. We still have some more work to do on the boat but we will be ready on time. I’m quite relieved now.
When we think about the Vendée Globe, one image always comes back on people’s minds: Bertrand de Broc and his tongue. How do you live with this?
It’s complicated to get rid of it. It’s one of the Vendée Globe legends, it is still in many people’s mind. I can deal with it. I can even say it has helped me approach many companies. A lot of people know me because of this. Somehow, it’s my business card. I hope it will be replaced with something else after this Vendée Globe.
What are you best seas memories?
My first Figaro race is one of my best memories. I was almost nineteen and had almost no sailing experience. Making it to the Concarneau port was a fantastic moment. Cape Horn is also an unforgettable moment. Even bad moments like capsizing sixteen years ago being rescued remain a nice moment for me.
You are going for your third Vendée, after two withdrawals in 1992 and 1996. What do you expect from this year’s edition?
Just like the others skippers I think: finishing the race, and finishing in a good position. It’s impossible to predict anything with this race, it’s so uncertain. We’ve tried to make the best boat possible, to make sure nothing bad happens. But on the water, you just cannot prevent some things from happening. Athletes who run 100-meter races can see the finish line. But we have three capes to round, a 40,000-kilometre race, a boat and a man to manage.
What means did you give yourself for this Vendée Globe?
When we started the project in January, the goal was to find a good and reliable boat, one that had proved herself. We were focused on this boat, the former Brit Air, and we told ourselves that if it hadn’t been this one, it would have been complicated for me. We were very lucky to have her. We launched the boat very late, on June 25. This means she has only been operational in early July. I only had three and an half months to learn how to helm her. Anyway, the boat was ready when we bought her. She had just finished second of the Route du Rhum. We just made her a little more reliable. I’ve sailed solo twenty days with her. I don’t know her well yet. You need a hundred days to know a boat properly. I’ve had twenty, so at the end of the Vendée I’ll know her.
Can you tell us more about the Votre Nom autour du Monde project?
It’s something we already did back in 1996 and it worked. In January, we couldn’t find any major sponsor so we decided to do it again. We met René Camart, EDM chairman, who helped us with the boat purchase. Then we found some more companies and together, we’ve made the project possible.
Have you been afraid to fail at any point?
It was the risk. When we started the project in January, there was so much work to do that one month later, we didn’t know if the project was reasonable. But then we gradually started to feel a great enthusiasm around the project. When we bought the boat with EDM, we knew that the hardest part was over. Then we were looking for more money to buy new sails, even though the boat was already good to go. We have pretty much everything we wanted.
Through this project you are going to take thousands of people around the world. Are you aware you are making people dream?
It’s what the Vendée Globe is all about. This race could not work without people getting enthusiastic and involved, just like in any other sport. Many people from all around the world are going to follow the Vendée. It’s a big competition and I think it’s going to start very strongly.
You have worked with your family on this project, is it important for you?
My wife was in charge of the whole communication program and of the boat’s visual design. My sister and my brother work here too. Many people stop before the boat, they take pictures, they are curious... It’s great to see them.
Can you describe the race in your own words?
It’s a special race. You need to be both a good sailor and a good manager. This race is also played out in your head. It is full of surprises; it’s more than a Sunday afternoon navigation. You need to be focused all the time, even months before the departure.
Have you trained with specialists?
We did very simple, like for the rest of the project. We mostly focused on looking for sponsors. A lab in La Rochelle helped me with some medicine to make up for lack of time. I’ve sailed solo for twenty days. I tried to play a little bit with the boat. The physique came back, the manoeuvres also. I still have some more details to fix. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to start very strongly, I need to keep my energy for the rest of the race. The finish line is not the Cape of Good Hope or the Equator. It’s Les Sables d’Olonne!
Where did you get this passion for sailing?
I started to sail when I was very young. I’ve always lived next to the sea. It has come very naturally. I had some opportunities. I didn’t have to force my destiny. My first Figaro was offered to me. It worked very well, I finished seventh and I was not even nineteen years old. My first Vendée Globe was offered to me too, and everything went the same after that.
Why did you wait sixteen years to come back on the Vendée Globe?
This question keeps coming back. It’s just a series of opportunities on other races. In 2008, I signed a three-year contract with Intermarché to race in Figaro. This year, I knew I was still able to pull on ropes. We set our sights on this boat and we were able to buy it. Just as if it had been written. We put a star on the hull... I keep wondering: 'why not before, why now?'. I am looking forward. We’ve already managed to bring the boat to Les Sables d’Olonne while very few people believed in it. But enough people did, and they made it happen. We have very skilled people working with us. Taking risk might have motivated the sponsors but with a race like the Vendée Globe, the risks are not too high. The race is followed by thousands of people during three months. The visibility and returns on investment is huge.
What do you think of this year’s skippers?
It’s going to be a great race. There are twenty boats, it’s already a success, even though there could have been more. Same thing for the sponsors. We would need more foreign sailors.
A 76-day race, what do you think of that?
For me it’s a bit too fast, I want to enjoy it. My boat has done it in 89 days last time. There are only four people who made it in less than 90 days. The 76 days limit is not important to me, it’s too much. What would be great is to have everyone in good health on the finish line.
You’re obviously happy and proud of your project...
Yes, I am, because we made it. Now I have to do my part...
Vendee Globe website