Sébastien Simon really represents the new generation of younger skippers who are aiming for the Vendée Globe 2020 with an intense level of professionalism yet very open minded free thinking, he is a breath of fresh air and is tipped to follow in the wake of Francois Gabart.
Simon, the winner of the 2018 Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, has a new Arkea Paprec IMOCA 60 due to be launched in mid-July. Simon has just won the Bermudes 1000 Race, a maiden triumph in his first single-handed race in 60-foot IMOCA. That is a remarkable debut for the 29-year-old sailor from the Vendée region of France.
The race left Douarnenez on May 9. The Bermudes 1000 Race was the first 2019 event of the Imoca Globe Serie, the only solo event this year. Of the 17 starters, six had never raced solo on the IMOCA 'Vendée Globe' monohull.
However, the rookies, the "bizuths" as they are known in France, proved thier undoubted talent as four of them finished in the top 10. Top of the pile was Sebastien Simon who delivered a win after 7 days and 17 hours of racing. We spoke to him just a few hours after his win....
So your first solo race in IMOCA and a first victory: what could be better?
"Yes, I'm really happy. I did not expect to win, or win in this way, to be leading at the Fastnet after 40 hours of racing - well I am almost surprised. But when I go on the water is always competition that drives me. And I am satisfied with the way I sailed. Although I did not completely rule the boat, I still managed to get the best from myself to make a nice race with some nice course options."
What did you learn from this race, about you, about this type of boat?
"I know this type of course and this format from my past in Figaro but in terms of the physical requirement that does not come close. The IMOCA is hard! The littlest msitake or poorly executed maneuver and you are penalised hard, a chink of time or even the loss of a sail. I had my lot on my plate, a lot to worry about. But i did not hold back. I gave 100% of myself. It was my first solo race on this boat and psychologically it's very different from being two handed, or training solo. You have to take complete, full time responsibility. If it goes wrong, you have to know how to sort it out and look after yourself. But in the end, I think this is the the way I best express myself, on my own, and when I feel most comfortable....when I'm alone and there is no one to watch me!"
The two Transatlantics one with Vincent, the other 'fake solo' were they good learning?
" For sure. Definitely. There is no better training to get used to life on board. When the boat slams you are thrown around. Eating, sleeping, changing, it's complicated. The noise inside the boat is deafening. Spending longer periods at sea to try to get used to it all, it's always more effective than day sails. As for Vincent, he quickly left me my to do it myself. As soon as we arrived in Cádiz - starting the first record-crossing attempt - he let me prepare the boat alone with the team. From the very outset I'm gaining the right experience, I'm adapting, I'm locked into the rhythm that the team imposes on me and today, now that I spent time on the project and sailing, I can also give my opinion on a lot of points to carry forward to the new boat, making it fit my needs and what it is I want. For example, the cockpit, it's me who designed it."
Where are you with your new boat? When is the launch planned, and then how does the program go on from there?
"The assembly is almost finished. We are already painting. The scheduled launch date is around July 12th. I'm confident with our timing, it all moves super fast. We have a team of 34 people working on it and they do an amazing job ( they were all at the finish to welcome Sebastien when he arrived in Brest). For now, we are confident in producing an incredible boat, we are confident in the design choices and in the quality of construction is exceptional. Then, the goal is to line up for the Rolex Fastnet Race (departure from Cowes on August 3rd). We will have 15 days to launch, to test everything and then be at the start. It's a little tough, but we have worked a lot like that from the beginning! And now this first victory has really been a boost for everyone. Working all together we are able to do great things. "
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