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Armel Tripon: "The big unknown is how the boat will hold up long term"

by Vendee Globe 28 Oct 2020 23:46 PDT
L'Occitane en Provence © Pierre Bouras / L'Occitane en Provence

The skipper of L'Occitane en Provence seems relatively relaxed and ready to go on what will be his first Vendée Globe. He is taking advantage of every moment of this pre-start period, though he and his team are being super careful on the pontoon and around the race village.

Tripon, who won the Multi50 class in the last Route du Rhum has already planned his race, breaking it into bite sized chunks and already knows the rhythm he wants to achieve on his radical scow bowed foiler.

How has this pre-start period been for you at your first Vendée Globe start as a skipper?

It's quite stressful. We have a sword of Damocles sword above our heads. We have to be so careful with people we meet and our gestures. We stay as isolated as possible, but we still have a lot to do on the boat yet. I still have to be present here but stay very careful. The whole team has been tested, briefed and everyone is working hard to keep each other safe.

That said, do you still enjoy the atmosphere, the people who come to see the boats? Do you still feel some excitement?

For sure it is all a bit less intense that usual. All the teams are each on their boat, no one sees each other in the evening. The party atmosphere is not the same, but there were still a large number of people. The people have responded and joined us here. It still feels a bit unreal for me to be able to be at the start of the Vendée Globe.

When are you going to confine yourself and where?

I will confine myself here in Les Sables d'Olonne this weekend. I won't be far from the boat, I will still be on the phone to the team. And I will be at the computer and will continue working on the weather. But, yes, it's going to be a little weird.

Where are you with your supplies and spare equipment?

It's almost done. In terms of spare equipment, everything is almost finalized too. We still have two days of work on the boat and then we will load everything in race configuration!

How many days of food do you take on board? What is your treat?

I have 75 days of food and my favourite treat is chocolate, I have two bars per week.

How many miles have you done with your boat?

In total 7,000 miles. That's two Transats actually. It's kind of what we were aiming for at the start of the season's planning. I sailed in quite varied conditions, I have been able to push the boat hard, that was what I wanted. Now the big unknown is how it holds up long term. It will be up to me to take that into account and look after the boat.

What are the strengths of your boat compared to an APIVIA or a Charal?

I don't know their strengths exactly, but we made the choice of a "scow". It's a boat with a very large bow which makes it easier to deal with the waves and the sea. We know for one thing that the boat behaves better, it is less stressful and more comfortable for the skipper, which is a good thing. And for the equipment too, there are fewer sudden stops, fewer brakes. Then we also made the choice of different foils that we can also completely take out and I think that in heavy weather it is not bad to be able to ease off. When I talk to the guys from Banque Populaire, they tell me that on the last race sometimes the boat would literally go too fast even though it had only small foils.

How do you think about dealing with the loneliness?

I kind of programme myself to think of it lasting 70 days and the last 10 days you feel like you are on the way home. You pass the Horn, you only have 10-15 days left so it'll go in pretty quickly! If you break the route into sections, it's the doldrums in seven days, the Indian in 10 days and so finally there is a think it will be rhythmic and not that long. That's the idea I have in my head.

How are you going to approach the start of the race, do you already have your strategy in mind?

Yes of course, this is a question that I have been asking myself for a long time, which has evolved. I have a strategy yes, but I can't reveal it now!

You sleep well?

Yes, very good! I asked my sponsor what, as a successful businessman, his secret was. He told me that the secret for him is to sleep well. I have between 8 and 9 hours each night plus afternoon naps. I have worked a lot on sleep and today we know that leaving with full batteries or more, it allows you to push the machine harder and to have something in reserve.

You look very serene. Did you work on the mental aspect?

Yes a lot. It is an essential part of this competition. This has been an area of interest to me for several years. There is a lot in breathing, it should be taught in school! Deep breathing from the belly is really calming. It is very effective for those who know how to use it. I use it a lot!

Do you have many L'Occitane products on board?

Yes, of course, the boat is loaded with L'Occitane products! I mainly use the shea butter hand cream which is L'Occitane's flagship product. After I have the shower gel, a few small products like that.

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