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Racing for a good cause - When skippers give real meaning to their performance

by IMOCA Globe Series 17 Oct 2020 22:27 PDT
IMOCA skippers © Martin Viezzer

Road to the Vendée Globe #6 - Many of the skippers in the IMOCA class are men and women who when competing in the various events in the circuit and in particular in the forthcoming Vendée Globe (which starts on 8th November), are committed to adding that extra something to their project by conveying messages around a range of subjects.

The environment is the most popular good cause, but there is also the subject of health, the integration of people with a handicap, the fight against economic vulnerability and the struggle for greater social diversity... For these sailors and their partners who follow them enthusiastically in these campaigns or even encourage them to take up arms, giving their performance a real meaning is a key feature. We take a look today at some of the most interesting campaigns.

Curing and improving the lives of the sick

It is probably the campaign that is best known by the general public. In 2017, Sam Davies took over the batten from Tanguy de Lamotte in backing the Initiatives-cœur project, which supports the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque heart surgery charity. This charity enables children suffering from heart defects to be operated on in France when they cannot receive this treatment in their own country. Once again, there is a lot of support for this good cause with more than 640,000 people liking the Initiatives-cœur Facebook page. For each like, the partners to the Initiatives-Cœur project, K-Line and Vinci Energies, will offer one Euro to the charity. 211 children have been saved in this way since the start of the adventure.

Since he first began to compete in ocean races, Maxime Sorel has been committed to offering support to the Vaincre la Mucoviscidose charity (which fights to overcome cystic fibrosis) and for which he is a patron. A huge dragon has been drawn on the sails of his IMOCA, V and B-Mayenne symbolising strength, courage and breathing. "Sharing some exceptional times with patients is a real motivating force for me," explained Maxime. "I shall continue to do what I can in this partnership with 'Vaincre la Mucoviscidose' to pass on this message from patients and the French charity and together we are offering a breath of fresh air to help overcome this illness."

Staying in the area of health, we can also mention Charlie Dalin who is supporting the Petits Princes charity, which helps sick children and teenagers see their dreams come true. That is why he invited a child to the naming ceremony for his IMOCA, APIVIA, and enabled them to experience the thrills of sailing off Concarneau.

Encouraging the integration of the economically vulnerable and the handicapped

Thomas Ruyant has for a long time showed us how committed he is. "I previously experienced a big adventure with Le Souffle du Nord and the Imagine Project in the last Vendée Globe," he reminded us. "I'm very pleased to be able to continue with my team to do my bit for society."Advens, the headline partner for the sailor from the North of France, decided to offer the name of the boat and display space to LinkedOut, whose goal is to give vulnerable people who live on the edges of society the possibility of finding work and their place in society. "LinkedOut has a very clear policy, which is easy to understand. They have already shown how efficient they are by reintegrating vulnerable people into work, thanks to simply sharing CVs,"" As for Alexandre Fayeulle, president and founder of Advens, he explained, "I am very pleased to offer this very high performance boat, one of the fastest monohulls in the world, to those who have nothing and who have been neglected by society. This is a choice we made in the winter with five million French people already in isolation. The crisis has underlined the gravity of the situation and has given us the opportunity of making a real change to build a kinder and more supportive society in which business must play a major role."

Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X) chose the Lazare association, which responds to the isolation and exclusion of homeless people by allowing them to find a home. On a similar subject, the Italian Giancarlo Pedote defends, with his partner Prysmian (expert in cables), Électriciens sans Frontières, which provides electricity to isolated populations in the world, in zones of conflict or extreme climatic crises.

The first disabled skipper to compete in the Vendée Globe, Damien Seguin, who was born with no left hand,has for a long time been campaigning on behalf of the disabled. In particular, he set up the Des Pieds et des Mains charity in order to develop access to sea sports for disabled people. With the work done by the charity, he hopes to encourage diversity in sailing clubs. More generally, Damien has taken on the role of ambassador with his top level sporting success setting an example to others. His partner, Groupe APICIL confirms his commitment to supporting and integrating people with a handicap, and this is one of the core themes of his campaign.

Working to improve diversity

Isabelle Joschke is one of the six women competing in the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe (a record number of entrants). In 2012, she set up the Horizon Mixité charity, whose ambition is to promote greater diversity in sport, but also in every other area of society. "It also involves eliminating prejudices," explained the sailor. "There are still not enough women sailors, particularly in the world of ocean racing and while female crews are becoming more common, there are still too few. For some sailors and teams, it is just unbearable to think of that, so we need to continue to talk about this matter and do what we can to change how people think." Isabelle is sponsored by the MACSF mutual insurance company (Mutuelle d'Assurances du Corps de Santé Français) which has made the question of diversity one of its key concerns. For example, sticking with the world of sailing, two all-women crews competed in the Spi Ouest-France regatta on two Grand Surprise boats in the colours of the MACSF and Horizon Mixité.

Projects for the environment

We should begin by reminding everyone that UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the IMOCA class signed a new partnership last January. In this partnership, it is planned that skippers from the class will take measuring devices aboard to collect data concerning the ocean and the atmosphere. These instruments are taken care of by JCOMMOPS experts. The Vendée Globe fully supports this environmental campaign, with in particular a big exhibition in the Race Village in Les Sables-d'Olonne, aimed at making the general public more aware of the problem.

What this means in practice is that during the round the world race, ten skippers will be taking weather buoys aboard (Météo France). These will be dropped at various GPS points along the race course in order to provide information to the GOOS global ocean observing system network. Three sailors will be taking Argo floats aboard, which are able to pick up data down to a depth of 2000 metres, before sending back the information by satellite that has been obtained from the column of water (salinity, CO2, temperature).

It is only natural that so many sailors have placed the protection of the oceans at the heart of their project. That is certainly the case for Stéphane Le Diraison who is sailing on an IMOCA named Time For Oceans. Stéphane is convinced that firms, individual citizens and institutions must come together and adopt a common strategy to change how they do things and to find solutions to the current problems. The Time For Oceans project aims to unite all those interested in change in order to give impetus to a global movement. Like some other skippers, Didac Costa will be taking part in the study concerning the temperature and salinity of the water on the surface of the ocean. He will be taking a new sensor aboard his boat to take various measurements and the data that is obtained will be sent back by satellite. In addition to that and in partnership with the Plankton Planet association, Didac will be using his IMOCA as a platform on all the oceans he crosses to pick up samples of plankton, those tiny organisms that live on the surface of the ocean.

Alexia Barrier also wants to inform schoolchildren about how to protect the Ocean. The sailor was one of the precursors in this field, as she set up her 4myplanet charity back in 2009. Alexia is involved in this project carrying out environmental and educational campaigns.

Boris Herrmann is another sailor convinced of the need to defend the environment. You may remember that he took Greta Thunberg aboard his IMOCA to cross the Atlantic to New York. In 2016, Boris set up Team Malizia, whose goal is to make everyone aware of what is at stake with the environment while inspiring future generations with his speeches and campaigns. He is sailing on a zero emissions IMOCA thanks to the use of wind, sun and hydraulic energy. The boat has been christened Seaexplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco. Boris is one of the sailors taking measuring devices aboard to detect the level of CO2, the PH value and salinity of the water. The German skipper is supported by Kuehne+Nagel, a global transport and logistics provider, who wishes to contribute to saving populations and the environment using innovative and sustainable commercial solutions.

Some skippers, like Fabrice Amedeo, want to lend a helping hand to the world of science. He will be measuring the presence of microplastics in the ocean using an oceanographic detector. "The work required to measure microplastics is among the most time-consuming and uncomfortable in the scientific programme we have launched, but the problem caused by plastics polluting the oceans is such an urgent one that I had no hesitation whatsoever, even if it means I have to sacrifice a little in terms of performance. I am very pleased that my boat can be useful to science," stressed Fabrice, who has signed a partnership with Ifremer (The French Ocean Science Institute).

Regarding plastic pollution, L'Occitane en Provence, partner of skipper Armel Tripon, is also the partner of the Plastic Odyssey expedition which will also benefit from the Vendée Globe exhibition.

As for Kevin Escoffier he has agreed to work alongside the WWF. The famous panda which symbolises the charity, can be seen on the bow of his PRB. "Our sport which is so close to nature, can have a huge impact and needs to change to be more in phase with the environmental concerns we face today," declared Kevin. "We skippers have a real role to play and I believe that most of us are committed to this idea." Kevin is continuing with the campaign launched in 2018 by Vincent Riou, the former skipper of PRB, in close collaboration with Isabelle Autissier, president of WWF France.

Benjamin Dutreux is supporting the Water Family charity, whose aim is to educate people about the importance of protecting water, health and the planet. "We are signed up with Water Family to help sport serve the environment. Our goal is to educate children about the importance of water for our environment and our health. We want to teach them how to protect water by encouraging its natural cycle and applying environmentally friendly behaviour."

Educational program

To finish, during the Vendée Globe, many IMOCA skippers, including Sam Davies, Charlie Dalin, Louis Burton, Fabrice Amedeo among others, will be offering educational kits about how to protect the oceans.

More about the Educational program here.

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