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Nicolas Troussel teams up with Jean Le Cam in the Transat Jacques Vabre

by Julia Huvé 6 Apr 11:07 PDT
Nicolas Troussel teams up with Jean Le Cam in the Transat Jacques Vabre © Pierre Bouras / CORUM L’Épargne

Is the "Bande à Le Cam" (Le Cam's Gang) growing or is the CORUM L'Épargne family welcoming a new member? A bit of both in reality. This year, during construction of the boat aboard which he will compete in his first singlehanded round the world race in late 2020, Nicolas Troussel will sail, sail and sail some more.

In order to feed as much as possible on the culture of the Vendée Globe, to learn the ropes of this extreme life and rub up against fellow competitors in a booming IMOCA class, the skipper has called upon Jean Le Cam, a master of his craft. The two sailors, who have been neighbours for all time, had never sailed together. On 27 October 2019, they'll take the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre (Le Havre-Brazil), double-handed, aboard Hubert, Jean Le Cam's boat, which will set sail flying the flag of CORUM L'Épargne.

When he arrives at Finistère Mer Vent's HQ, Anne and Jean Le Cam's company, Nicolas is already part of the famous 'gang'. Modestly and with great kindness, it's straight talking here and you work without counting the hours and with passion. Nicknamed 'Roi Jean' (King Jean), Jean doesn't overburden himself needlessly. He is the king of authenticity. For Nicolas, Jean is above all a genuine open book on the adventure that awaits him.

"I have a massive amount of respect for Jean, who is a great sailor," admits the skipper, who belongs to the generation of racers who, back in the noughties, followed the path opened up a little earlier by Le Cam, Desjoyeaux and Jourdain. "The decision to compete in the Transat Jacques Vabre is entirely in keeping with my strategy for preparing for the Vendée Globe. In 2020, I'm going to have to set a course for the remotest regions in the world, which I'm unfamiliar with. I'm going to listen very carefully to Jean's tales and rack up as much of his precious knowledge as I can."

Boasting five round the worlds, including a second place in the Vendée Globe 2004-05, then a victory in the double-handed Barcelona World Race, three victories in the Solitaire du Figaro and at least four Transat Jacques Vabres, Jean Le Cam has carved out a rare volume of experience, which began alongside Éric Tabarly and was then moulded to the rhythm of the technological evolution in boats over the past twenty-five years. During the last Vendée Globe, aboard a monohull which was nearly ten years old and with an operating budget that was a far cry from the big racing stables, the sailor completed the course in sixth position after 80 days at sea. He finished less than three hours behind fifth-placed Yann Eliès and just five hours after fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick.

"Personally, I wouldn't give him anything that way, but Nicolas will take what he wants," jokes Jean with his famous turn of phrase. "I do have a certain experience of life-related matters on these boats, which I hope will be useful to him in his round the world," he continues. "Nicolas has a distinctive characteristic, which I've always appreciated. When he takes an option at sea, he goes for it 100%. I like that attitude. That denotes a strong character and to do the Vendée Globe, you need to have character."

The Transat Jacques Vabre is a major classic of double-handed races. Created in 1993, the 'coffee route' is organised every two years, in the autumn, and alternates between the Vendée Globe and the Route du Rhum years in the sailors' calendar. The crews set sail from Le Havre bound for a destination which has evolved over time, starting off with Cartagena (Colombia) then Salvador de Bahia (Brazil), Puerto Limon (Costa Rica) and Itajaí (Brazil), before returning to Salvador de Bahia in 2017.

"It's the perfect transatlantic race to prepare for the Vendée Globe, as it finishes in the southern hemisphere," confirms Jean Le Cam. "We cross the equator and we traverse all the associated weather transitions, exactly as you do in the first section of the round the world, because you even pass fairly close to the Brazilian coast on the route down to the Deep South and the Cape of Good Hope."

For Frédéric Puzin, President of CORUM L'Épargne, this transatlantic represents the first important milestone in the four-year sponsorship cycle: "We're approaching this Transat Jacques Vabre with a great deal of humility and the conviction that it's a very fine choice both for the project and for the CORUM L'Épargne brand, which will be exposed to the general public over a powerful leg, one year ahead of the Vendée Globe. In sporting terms, the competition is the best possible preparation for Nicolas and the handing down of experience from a sailor of Jean Le Cam's richness is a great asset."

Over the next four months, Jean Le Cam is doing a tour of Europe with his partners. A trip from Genoa to Saint Petersburg, it will enable Nicolas to get in some training aboard Hubert (a 2007 Farr-design, ex-Foncia, Mapfre, Maître CoQ, MARE, Cheminées Poujoulat).

"Before Jean's boat is dedicated full time to the Transat Jacques Vabre with CORUM L'Épargne in early September, Jean and I are going to share a few delivery trips, starting this week with a sail from Port-La-Forêt (Baie de Concarneau) to Genoa, which will involve ten or so very interesting days from every point of view."

In early autumn, the two men will compete in the Défi Azimut in Lorient (18-22 September), their first official race. There they will battle it out with their future rivals in the Transat Jacques Vabre with one month to go till the start in Le Havre (27 October).

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