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Zhik 2024 February Outlet - LEADERBOARD

L'Occitane en Provence sets sail for the Retour à La Base

by L'Occitane Sailing Team 30 Nov 2023 09:46 PST
L'Occitane Sailing Team © PKC Media / L'Occitane Sailing Team

And they're off again! The starting gun for the Retour à La Base has just been fired! At 12:00 today (local time), 17:00 French time, the IMOCA fleet set off for the final race of the year, taking more than 30 IMOCA skippers to Lorient, this time sailing solo. If Clarisse aims to compete in the Vendée Globe 2024, this solo qualification stage is crucial.

Early this morning, Clarisse was already geared up and more determined than ever. After just a few days of rest between the finish of the Transat Jacques Vabre and this new start, the skipper had no difficulty switching back into 'race mode,' as she calls it. "I never feel as strong as when I'm alone. I don't know why, there's something that happens in my head that drives me to go further. And it's a feeling that boosts self-confidence, even though there are inevitably tough moments. It's also in solo sailing that I discovered yacht racing; I think it structured me, and that's why solo sailing is truly where I'm the best at" she confided this morning while grabbing her bag.

The challenge ahead of her is considerable: a winter crossing of one of the planet's five oceans. After a season mainly devoted to double-handed sailing, she will be on her own for the return to the old continent, a real test run before the Vendée next year. For the sailor aboard the IMOCA L'Occitane en Provence, beyond her qualification, this race signifies a return to the roots of solo sailing after her non-stop round-the-world voyage in 2020, where she clinched the women's speed world record, beating Ellen McArthur previous record.

As the boat sails away from the Martinique coast, the team remains on alert, closely monitoring the vessel during its crossing. Once at sea, even though communication means are operational, Clarisse will be on her own. For the initial days on the Atlantic, conditions are expected to be relatively calm, with gentle winds and favorable weather. "The route for this race is quite straightforward. The aim will be to head north as quickly as possible to pass an anticyclone. Skippers will likely have two options: either head straight north to catch a wind shift, which will take the boats into rough seas with strong winds, or they could veer slightly less northward, staying in lighter winds and smaller swells, with the advantage of preserving the boat" explains Alan Roberts, her co-skipper on the Transat Jacques Vabre, who intends to closely monitor the skipper's strategy on her new boat.

"For now, our focus is on the first part, the initial 4 days, then the weather files can still change, with the jet stream, so Clarisse's strategy will evolve according to the forecasted conditions" he adds. One thing is certain, the weather is expected to turn colder, and the swell will intensify approaching Europe, encountering wintry conditions that will make this race excellent training for the Vendée Globe.

Even in 'race mode,' Clarisse's priority will remain safety. The goal is clear: preserving and conserving the boat at all costs to secure her qualification for the Vendée Globe. Finishing this race with a boat in good condition will inevitably outweigh her performance objectives, although our dear skipper maintains her competitive spirit.

To follow Clarisse throughout her crossing see retouralabase.geovoile.com/2023/tracker/?lg=en

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