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Interview with Offshore Team Germany's Benjamin Dutreux after winning The Ocean Race Europe

by Vendée Globe 25 Jun 23:16 PDT
Genova Coastal Race. The Ocean Race Europe, June 2021 © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race

Offshore Team Germany have won the first edition of The Ocean Race Europe, clinching the overall victory by no more than four meters on the very last race, beating 11th Hour Racing and LinkedOut to second and third steps on the podium.

Offshore Team Germany's crew was skippered by former German Star sailor and world champion Robert Stanjek and includes Britain's match racer turned Team SCA round the world racer Annie Lush as well as home favourite Vendéen Vendée Globe skipper Ben Dutreux who, of course finished ninth on his first Vendée Globe. Dutreaux raced the Vendée Globe on a non-foiling Farr design which was previously Kojiro Shiraishi's Spirit of Yukoh. And so he is well versed in making older generation boats go well, such as Offshore Team Germany's Owen Clarke design which started life as Bubi Sanso's Acciona.

We caught up with Benjamin Dutreux, ambassador to The Water Family, who clearly has had a great first half of 2021, ninth on his first Vendée Globe aboard a 2007 Farr design and now on the winning crew of The Ocean Race Europe aboard a 2011 boat which had no foils.

Benjamin, you are a champion around Europe!

Benjamin Dutreux: "This victory is great, it is the icing on the cake! We weren't expecting it, but it added to an exciting human experience. I was in an international crew, made up of German and English sailors, with very different cultures, and what a nice mix. This mix went well as soon as we started our month of training that we shared at Les Sables-d'Olonne. And this race is a crazy thing, with new people to meet, cities to discover, all in all a sporting atmosphere.

What was the winning recipe that worked, pulling together all these ingredients?

B. D.: The invitation that I sent them to come and train at Les Sables was part of it. We got to know each other, in a context that was favorable to us because we had no sporting pressure. We were able to learn from each other, to push each other. But above all, it was the line up that Robert Stanjek set up that was correct: humanly, it worked, while it is not easy to live together for several days in such a small space. And then there were lots of different sets of skills. I learned from them; I hope they have learned a little from me.

From the Vendée Globe to this very strategic race, we have discovered that there are many sides to Benjamin Dutreux

B. D.: Thank you that is nice. I had a lot of nice feedback, even from great sailors, who told me that my routings were smart had an identity. That meant a lot.

Did you think this Ocean Race Europe was a success racing from Lorient to Genoa in three offshore races and two coastal races?

B. D.: I think so, yes, and the regatta was good because we stayed in contact with each other: everything was decided at the very, very end, on a finish line by us just being four meters ahead of LinkedOut at the line. That was crazy. There were also sailors from all walks of life: the open ocean racing offshore racing, the Olympics... It made for a very high level race.

Yoann Richomme, winner in the VO65 class with Mirpuri Foundation, said that this race deserves to be run every year.

B. D.: We talked about it, and I tend to agree with him. Well, every year might be complicated, but this race deserves to grow even in bigger mode with stages in northern Europe. It was great, the Mediterranean public got to see our boats and the conditions offer lots of twists and turns. Given the summer time period it won't always be the newest, fastest boat that wins, but hey, that might not be the most important thing after all.

Did your team members encourage you to tell about your Vendée Globe?

B.D: They questioned me about everything! But it is a bit beyond their comprehension. Sailing solo on these boats, I don't think it makes them dream at all, they don't have the drive and skills for it. Suddenly, they want to know why it attracts us, how we organize ourselves. It's interesting to talk to them about these topics. We have really different cultures, in terms of life on board. Annie Lush (Volvo Ocean Race expert, editor's note) wanted to do all the maneuvers quickly... while I was asking us to delay and slow it up. We confronted our ways of doing things. This is one of the things that intrigued them, about the way I sail. Together we struggled to move the sails, at each maneuver, four people And it amazes them that we manage to tack solo.

In your opinion, Offshore Team Germany is not set up for or interested in a Vendée Globe?

B. D.: It's The Ocean Race that attracts them. The skipper, Robert Stanjek, is discovering the open oceans and he loves it, but not solo. I invited them to think about lining up at the start of the Transat Jacques-Vabre, because the boat is nice and it goes fast. And then their goal is to continue to develop the culture of Ocean Racing in Germany. Boris (Herrmann) was instrumental in inspiring German sailors to have a taste of the ocean.

After this victory, you should have a permanent invitation on board, especially if, next year, the boat takes the start of The Ocean Race...

B. D.: I have the invitation in my pocket! (he's laughs). It's nice, but I would rather be at the start of that race with my own boat.

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