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Vendée Globe and Route du Rhum sailor, Fabrice Amedeo: "I fall, I get up again"

by Vendee Globe 4 Mar 02:41 PST
Fabrice Amedeo and his new boat © Jean-Marie Liot

Even though Fabrice Amedeo's career over the past two years has been marked by a number of unfortunate events, with his retirement from the last Vendée Globe and a shipwreck in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, the sailor still shows a mental toughness. One month after seeing his IMOCA sink, he acquired another boat to compete in the 2024 Vendée Globe. Through his journey and his ability to bounce back, he gives us a great lesson of resilience.

Immersed in sailing since childhood, Fabrice Amedeo started racing in his teens. At the same time, he led what he describes as a "classic" life on land: he studied philosophy and then began a career as a journalist at the Figaro newspaper. The year he turned thirty, he took the plunge: he competed in La Solitaire du Figaro. "I took a big beating, but I loved it," the skipper said with amusement. Then he started sailing in Class40 while continuing his career in Le Figaro. In 2012, he finished 9th (out of 45 boats) in the Route du Rhum, a very good result. On his arrival in Guadeloupe, he decided to enter the IMOCA class, with the Vendée Globe 2016 as his goal. His career as a journalist comes to an end: he becomes a professional skipper.

The Vendée Globe: ups and downs

This first solo, non-stop, unassisted round-the-world race in 2016 was a huge success. "In 2020, my second Vendée Globe is the opposite. " Suffering from hook problems, he returned to the dock four hours after the start. Forced to stay in shore for two and a half days to repair, he made a new start, but the weather scenario was totally against him: "the door was totally closed." When, after several days of racing, electronic problems occurred on board, it was almost a relief. He decided to abandon the race.

In 2021, the project was relaunched. He competed in the Transat Jacques Vabre with Loïs Berrehar, and rediscovered his enthusiasm. Then in the winter of 2022, driven by this great dynamic, he decided to add large foils to his IMOCA. At the start of the 2022 season, the results were not there. The boat was totally revolutionised by these new appendices and the learning process of this new boat is difficult. He then spent a lot of time on the water, coached by Vincent Riou, former winner of the Vendée Globe. Confidence returned. On the Route du Rhum, the sailor was in a very positive state: "On the third day of the race, I was 15th, I felt like I was in my place, exactly where I should be. I've set the right cursor, strategically I'm in it, I feel good at sea."

And then everything turned upside down. His IMOCA caught fire and then sank in front of him, while he was in his life raft, nearly 700 miles from the coast. "If the beginning of the season had affected me a lot, this was not the case with the sinking. I felt very peaceful on the raft, it's very hard to describe. I had the feeling that I had done very well." Picked up by a cargo ship in heavy seas and 30 knots of wind, he was dropped off in the Azores. "After this episode, I didn't feel the slightest apprehension. I even had the feeling that I came out of it stronger. I fall, I get up again. The urge never left," confided the sailor.

Since he abandoned the Vendée Globe 2020, Fabrice admits that he has been receiving support on the mental aspect: "It's really important, it helps to get through all the trials. Those linked to the boat and those linked to life, which sometimes accumulate. At 40, you are halfway through your life and you start to question yourself. My main trigger was to find my 'reason for being'. For me, it is to be on the water, to tell stories, whether they are related to offshore adventure or to raising awareness of environmental issues."

A rebound, backwards?

Just after his shipwreck, the sponsors confirm that they all want to support him to bounce back. A new boat had to be found. One month after the accident, he bought the IMOCA on which Rodolphe Sepho raced in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, formerly La Mie Câline - Artisans Artipôle owned by Arnaud Boissières in the last Vendée Globe. An old boat, close to the one on which Fabrice competed in his first Vendée Globe. From a sporting point of view, it's a step backwards. He has to digest this choice and concentrate on the most important thing: rebuilding a great project, writing a beautiful story in this Vendée Globe 2024. What's next? The sailor dreams of launching the construction of a new foiling IMOCA for 2028 and racing his last Vendée Globe, the year he turns 50.

For the moment, he is excited about the challenge of transforming his old boat: "On the transatlantic races, it will be really difficult, I know that. But there is a shot to be taken in the Vendée Globe, because the new boats are really tough in the southern seas. With a light, simple and reliable boat that can go into heavy weather with tight trajectories, there is a chance to do something!" The launch is scheduled for June. Don't talk to him about the ranking of daggerboard boats: "In the Vendée Globe, there will be 40 IMOCA, a single start line and a single finish line. There is no ranking in the ranking."

Sailing for science

Since 2019, Fabrice has been integrating science on board. On this boat, as on the previous one, he will take on board a sensor measuring the level of CO2, salinity and sea temperature, as well as a microplastic sensor. The various data collected will be used by the University of Bordeaux and Ifremer. But it goes even further: "Thanks to these links with the scientific community, my partner Nexans, which manufactures cables for offshore wind turbines, is now working with scientists to measure the impact of the materials they use on the marine environment as part of a process of improvement," says the skipper, who is convinced that it is through this kind of approach that things will improve. Moreover, sailing for science also provides a mental support: "If things don't go well on the water, if I'm not where I want to be in the fleet, I think about it and it helps me!" A plus on a psychological level, which is so important.

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