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Miranda Merron: "The South? I tell you what it is just not a place for mankind"

by Vendee Globe 21 Oct 2020 06:39 PDT
Miranda Merron, skipper of Campagne de France © Bernard Gergaud / Campagne de France

Since she raced the two handed Transat Jacques Vabre in 1999 with Emma Richards on the yellow Open 50 chartered from Pete Goss, English skipper Miranda Merron has sailed most of the major ocean races, solo and two handed, as well as competing on Trophée Jules Verne and Volvo Ocean Race programmes. So Merron, skipper of Campagne de France, very much knows what she is letting herself in for, but she has always said this is the right time in her life for her to do the Vendée Globe.

How have your final days been and the delivery here for example, are you in good shape?

Well, now, yes, but we had a problem, a mechanical failure with the engine on the way down and it nearly went on fire which was a pain but as Halvard (Miranda's partner and project manager) says 'better to have it now then than during the race' We were quite worried we would have to replace the whole engine which would have been a major expense.

Is there any regret niggling in your brain before you set off?

I suppose my one regret is that we did not have more money, to be able to have someone on our team helping from Day 1. And if we had had the money and the time we would like to have shortened the rig by 90cms but with the Covid we did not have the time in the end. But really we have put everything into the sails with All Purpose and so I do have some really nice sails. For example adding a second fractional halyard means I can run with the fractional gennaker (ndlr on the sprit) and have a sail I call the Mule on the bow having both in the air at the same time, I can and furl and unfurl between them. I feel that will be a useful combination when it is 'crunchy' in the South.

You have said before you look forwards to disconnecting from the outside world......

Well I don't really have (streaming) internet, we don't have the budget really, so that means I won't be able to monitor the fleet round about me. That is one thing. I have someone will send me the positions by email and news. That was how it was on the Vendée Arctique and I can't complain. It is quite nice to think about three months being switched off, no gmail, no internet, no COVID news. Halvard and I will use WhatsApp when we need to, and we have been clear that it is not just for 'this is not working or that is not working. But also for 'everything is OK'. But I like the idea of life being reduced to boat, sea, sky.

How, usually, do you deal with the crises that happen on board?

I like to think I am quite emotionally stable generally. That comes with age and I just deal with it. What else can you do? You can't call a taxi! It is easy to have big highs and lows but I am quite even. I think some of that comes from the 2014 Route du Rhum where I enjoyed myself.

What has the interest been like in your project, you have quite a following?

Yes, we have had a fair bit of media, ESPN In the USA, a few in the UK which is nice, a lot of people are just writing about the project. A lot of schools have asked to get involved, lots of media especially in Normandy. We have so much support but it is frustrating not to have the time to acknowledge it and reply to people. And Campagne de France have been amazing, they have been behind us since 2011 and so I am so pleased to be here, offering them the Vendée Globe now, obviously I want to do it, but as a thank you to them for all these years.

You may be a Vendée Globe rookie but have experience of the south....

I have been down in the south Jules Verne and the Volvo and what do I know about down there? I tell you what it is just not a place for mankind. And the Vendée Globe is not a race around Quiberon Bay. It is a major commitment to want to take yourself and your boat down there. I think people forget that. That is why the Vendée Arctique was good for that. It is good to be reminded that quite often it is like that. It is very different to stand in a bar and say 'I am going to do the Vendée Globe' it is quite another matter to be bouncing around in 30 plus knots upwind in really nasty weather. If you can be there and then say you still want to do it, then you clearly do.

Do you actually enjoy the bad bits?

Well as my friend Sam Davies says, 'if you haven't had a good kicking you don't deserve your beer at the end of the race' But I don't like putting myself in dangerous situations. And the danger is always the sea not the wind. Does anyone? But then I can count on one hand the number of times the sea has been very frightening. And it is not cruel. The questions are always how long it is it going to last, should you be going there and should you be getting out of it? The real key is not to be caught out.

With all the races and ocean miles you have done have you done a lot of meteo preparation?

I would hope that by now I know enough. But the problem is that I would love to have had the time to be doing fitness, talking to the media and studying weather with someone else dealing with the boat. My reality is that Halvard and I are the only full time people on the project and we pretty much cover all the bases. But hey in the last week I will have time. I have not done the weather course for the Vendée Globe for example. But in saying that I have not been in the south for a long time and so I have asked Adrienne Cahalan to help me out and she did, so there we are back to the sisterhood from Royal SunAlliance (Tracy Edwards' 1998 Trophee Jules Verne attempt).

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