In Fort de France
Armel, what feeling prevails after this victory, your first in the Transat Jacques Vabre?
It’s already a great satisfaction to win with this boat. This is the first major victory for Banque Populaire XI. Two years ago, we were there for the first race here in Martinique and this year we are reaping the fruits of our work after months of optimization and reliability. We demonstrated during the race that we had the right speed and even at times the very good speed to go for victory. We are obviously super happy and the 14 days went by very quickly.
Sébastien, what was going through your head as you crossed the finish line?
Sébastien Josse: It’s the satisfaction of the work accomplished because we’ve been working on this boat for two years. There was a lot of training and we had to go for this victory. We had tough conditions leaving the Channel, the crossing of the Bay of Biscay was very complex with a return from SVR Lazartigue... We are satisfied and happy with this work. This bodes well for the races to come.
And you finished very quickly with a last day averaging more than thirty knots...
Armel Le Cléach: Yes, finally we had fairly established trade winds so we finished quickly. We managed to achieve good averages of over 35.9 knots at the end. It was fast but the whole race was fast, apart from at Madeira where we had little wind. But otherwise, throughout the race, we flew with our boat. We had all the conditions possible, it was incredible! There was something for everyone over fourteen days of racing and almost 10,000 covered in the end, or a third of a trip around the world. With these boats, everything goes very quickly. In addition, the trimaran is in great condition. We could leave and cross the Atlantic to return to Lorient tomorrow.
You have finally been able to exploit the true potential of this trimaran...
Armel Le Cléach: It was great! It is a boat that has reached maturity with a lot of work from the team. We were able to use it 100% from the start in Le Havre which was daunting. I haven't started in such conditions for a long time. There were 35 knots and even 45 in front of Cherbourg. We were in the match from the start.
Were these two weeks of racing a complete pleasure?
Armel Le Cléach: We had a lot of fun during the fourteen days. We already had a good laugh with Sébastien (laughs) It was really a great atmosphere on board. We got along perfectly, even when François (Gabart, editor's note) and Tom (Laperche, editor's note) passed in front of us at Ascension Island.
Is it great joy or moderate joy?
Armel Le Cléach: It’s a great joy! Because we have been looking for a big victory with Banque Populaire for a long time. We had a difficult Route du rhum a year ago (finished in 7th place, editor’s note). We turned around to repair things in Lorient... This year, we worked in the shadows but we came back stronger and showed it on the water. We will have to continue in a few weeks from Brest...
The choice of Sébastien Josse to accompany you was ultimately the right one...
Armel Le Cléach: Without a doubt (laughs)! Sébastien has enormous experience in Ultim and in all areas. There is no photo, he is one of the best French sailors and in offshore racing. He had already won the Transat Jacques Vabre while I was not so lucky. I'm happy to share this victory with him today. I already told him on arrival: “In two years, we’ll go back together if you want!”
Sébastien, what flavor does this second victory have, after the one acquired in 2013 in Mod70?
Sébastien Josse: It is different because the first time it was another category. In Ultim, it's something else... They're boats that fly and there was a real match with François. And then, there were two years of preparation. The difference was made in small details. There is a real symbiosis with Armel and despite the tough starting conditions, we were both immediately in sync. And all this with good humor, without any slackness.
Armel, did you find what you came looking for in this race?
Armel Le Cléach: We clearly said at the start that it was not just a preparation race for the 2024 world tour from Brest. We pushed hard until the end and we didn't save the boat even when the conditions were difficult. Obviously we didn't do anything either.
You signed a big deal in Madeira, was it a thoughtful or daring move?
Armel Le Cléach: It was tricky to step out of the game a little and distance yourself from the others. We had a great router who gave us a magnificent trajectory and I would like to thank him. He's the third man on the boat. We lost some ground at the start by moving away but we had to accept it and be patient. And finally, the next day, when we started to accelerate and we saw that it was paying off, we were super happy. It was one of the key moments of the race because that's where we took the lead and where we escaped.
But it was four days old, you lost control again, did you have any doubts at that time?
Armel Le Cléach: SVR Lazartigue was a little faster than us, they made better tacks. We ran into a few clouds which didn't help us. This made us lose our lead which was almost 100 miles. We were still in the match thirty thousand behind after going around the island. With such boats, it's really nothing, especially since there were five days at sea left. We had no doubts but seeing them come back like that put a little pressure on us.