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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Meet the Vendée Globe skippers: Charlie Dalin

by Vendee Globe 30 Oct 2020 01:52 PDT
Charlie Dalin on Apivia finishes second in the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne Race © Eloi Stichelbaut - polaRYSE / IMOCA

With his Verdier designed new generation Apivia Charlie Dalin was second in the Vendee Arctic Les Sables d'Olonne and won the Transat Jacques Vabre with Yann Elies. His programme is managed by Vendee Globe winner Francois Gabart's Mer Concept.

By all accounts he is one of the favourites, looking to follow in Gabart's wake and win the solo round the world race at the first time of asking.

So finally Charlie here we are you are about to start the Vendée Globe for the first time, how are you feeling?

"Good! It's going to be the longest race I've ever done. It's a race that we've been preparing for a long time with the team. What's also a bit special is the time to prepare and build up is so much longer. On a Transat the start would be tomorrow usually after some 10 days in the start port. That said even if there is lots of time it all goes in quickly. I still have time to read and study the weather charts, my routing suggestions, my sail selection charts are all good, everything I take in terms of my weather roadbook. Everything is on board and super tidy, everything in its place. That leaves time to prepare everything well.

Do you actually run the course in your head, mentally rehearse?

I am sure I know the descent of the Atlantic now. But I don't know the depressions in the southern oceans. Just last night I was making routings in the southern oceans to familiarize myself with the weather patterns.

Did you take advice from experienced skippers about these areas?

Yes, I talked a lot with Pascal Bidégorry. Even though he hasn't done the Vendée Globe, he has been round the world several times, in the Volvo Ocean Race and on maxi trimarans. I also spoke a lot with François Gabart, with Michel Desjoyeaux and Yann Eliès too, all good sailors who know the southern oceans.

What advice did they give you?

Lots of things... Especially about the pace to set, on how to manage your race in the South, sleep... I'm really happy to have been able to talk with them, it helps me feel ready and confident.

Did that help you come to terms with things a bit?

Yes it demystify things a little, to be able to mentally prepare yourself better too. And it allowed for a bit of a vicarious enjoyment in their company while waiting for me to create my own.

Your project is well sorted, you are a talented successful skipper. Which label do you prefer, favourite or outsider?

The Apivia project is an ambitious project. The boat was designed and built specifically for the Vendée Globe, with a four-year program. My team is carefully selected and very experienced they were extremely involved in the development of the boat. The objective of the project was to position itself as a potential winner of this Vendée Globe. Beyond that, what will happen in the race will happen. But I'm going with that as the sporting objective anyway.

Do you have any last technical choices to make before you go?

No, everything is set. All lights are green. We were able to do a check of all the onboard systems, everything works. It was good to get out to sea the other day to unroll a few sails, to remember how it all feels before the confinement period which will soon begin.

How will you deal with this the compulsory confinement? Do you think it will disturb you?

Yes, of course it's a bit special, but once the start gun goes it is a yacht race, it will not change anything compared to the other races. The period before the start is affected, there are fewer transactions with sponsors, less interaction with the public. I also had to say 'goodbyes' to my family last weekend because I won't be able to see them the week I leave. I will not be able to dine with them as I usually do 24 or 48 hours before the start. Obviously, things are a little different.

Regarding clothing can you tell us what you put in your bag?

It was a big question because once again I have never done such a long race. I have never spent so much time in such cold climates racing. So I did some research. I'm taking several pairs of foul weather gear, a few fleeces, quite a few base layers, hats, a balaclava. I also bring a little lighter clothes for the descent and the ascent of the Atlantic. In the end there is a lot there even if I'm careful with the weight. Afterwards, I'm lucky to have a very protected boat, I don't need to put on my foulies to go to trim a sail. Even for some maneuvers like a tack or a jibe, I don't need to get out of the cockpit. It allows me to be more reactive and get wet less often.

Do you have personal body protection?

In the Vendée-Arctic I took only one helmet, a rugby helmet that I put on to do the stacking when I move my bags of sails to one side or the other or from front to back. I also have a hard helmet, I will try to wear it as much as possible when the boat starts to go fast.

Does loneliness concern you?

To be honest I'm more of a loner, I like to do solo physical activities like cycling, running, swimming in the sea... At sea, I don't think I worry about loneliness. I'm not going to bring podcasts for example just to have a background presence. I don't feel like I lack social interaction. I think that's one of my strengths on this Vendée Globe.

Do you bring books, music?

Books no, music yes always, I am a big consumer of music. In the end, it's quite rare the times when I can listen to it but I always have it with me.

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