by Soazig Guého
The Vendee Globe is set to get underway in just over 21 days and after a far from comfortable delivery trip, which nevertheless went without hitch, Safran arrived in Les Sables d’Olonne on Thursday evening at 2030hrs local time (1830hrs GMT). Marc Guillemot and his team moored her up on the Vendée Globe pontoon in the Port Olona harbour. Three weeks from now, it will be time for the start of the non-stop solo round the world race without outside assistance...
Arrival of Marc Guillemot(FRA) / Safran in Les Sables d’Olonne
The twenty solo sailors, who will be attempting to sail non-stop around the world have now arrived with their boats in the port of Les Sables d'Olonne, as stipulated in the race rules. Just like Safran, many left the trip until rather late timing their arrival to come after the gales from the previous day and fitting in with the tides. The weather meant they had to enter the harbour before 2130hrs local time, as otherwise they would have had to spend the night outside the port at sea.
That is now all behind Safran, who took around ten hours to sail the 90 miles from La Trinité-sur-Mer to the port in Vendée. Marc Guillemot was accompanied by Loïc Lingois and Alexandre Marmorat from the Safran Sailing Team as well as the artist-sailor, Gildas Flahaut and Philippe Mouiller, Scientific Director at the Nantes Gene Therapy Unit, one of the partner laboratories involved with the AFM-Téléthon charity, which Safran is committed to help. The sailor and the scientist get on well together: 'It was only natural that I invite Philippe on this delivery trip, as he is someone I appreciate and it was nice to have him on board,' explained Marc Guillemot.
The sailing conditions were rather uncomfortable until they reached the island of Yeu: 'The wind wasn’t hard to deal with, blowing at around 18 knots towards us out at sea, but the seas were nasty,' confirmed Marc Guillemot. 'After that, the wind dropped off between the island of Yeu and les Sables d'Olonne, so we sailed half of the way with the engine running to ensure we would reach les Sables with a margin of one hour before the tide.' The crew took advantage to 'carry out checks and checks and more checks,' joked Marc, who knows that his boat is ready. 'The team has done a great job over the past four years.' Apart from loading the supplies on board, which is due to be done in the final days leading up to the start on 10th November, everything is fine.
In Les Sables, the crew met up with Thierry Brault and Erwan Conan, so practically the whole team is present. 'There’s just Patricia (Brault) and Juju (Patrick Julien), who will be turning up later. The team will be looking after the boat, ' explained Marc, 'We’ve got a few little details to sort out such as putting down some mats and cleaning everything up to allow visitors to come aboard and to make it easier for the safety checks, which are scheduled to take place on Monday and will take two or three hours.'
The work that chiefly lays ahead for Marc Guillemot in les Sables will be to deal with all the media present, and that already began this morning and the official engagements with the organizers (press conferences, briefings, etc.) From Tuesday onwards, the skipper of Safran will be battening down the hatches 'to get away from it all for a week', in order to forget all that and focus even more on the race itself. 'I shall return 10 days before the start,' he added, in order to attend the final briefings and above all to get to work on the weather he can expect at the start.
How does he feel with the clock ticking? The skipper of Safran is clear about that: 'It is simply a symbolic moment arriving here in les Sables d'Olonne. It’s something I enjoy, as it means I get to see the other sailors and the lads in the other teams. I know quite a few of them and enjoy seeing them. But I don’t feel any extra pressure. I know that the start will be taking place in three weeks from now and that a month later I shall be in the Southern Ocean and a month after that, I shall be leaving that behind me… and that in just over three months from now, I’ll be back here again in les Sables!' So you see, the Vendée Globe is quite simple really...
Vendee Globe website