Passionate sailing since his early childhood, Armel Le Cléac’h developed a taste for competition later, when he won the Solitaire du Figaro in 2003. Fifteen years later, in January 2017, after 74 days of non-stop sailing without assistance, the Breton won the grail: the Vendée Globe. Meeting with a sea adventurer.
By Ombeline de Louvigny
How do we keep the head on the shoulders, when one is considered as a superman or a superhero?
I neither, even if I am perfectly aware that I have achieved things that the general public can describe as out of the ordinary. I know that where I come from, and the people around me allow me to stay in some something stable. At the beginning of the year, I won a significant victory and very symbolic, but everything was not always so simple. So I try to to learn not to get carried away with the media madness, not to forget my difficulties of the past and to think about the future. When everything works, it is important to take advantage of it, but never forget that we don’t know what to do with it. what the future is made of.
What is your training for a race such as the Vendée Globe?
We are not experts in any particular field. You have to learn to do everything, because in the Vendée Globe, we are alone on the boat. Living alone is the first thing you have to learn. Preparing for a solo race around the world takes more than two years of work: training on the water to master the boat perfectly, but also on land to prepare the body and sleep. On a solo race, the nights do not last eight hours; sleep is cut off every hour.
You have traveled 45,000 alone at sea and left your family for 74 days. What is your relationship to loneliness?
I I am transcended by the idea of taking up such a challenge. I like the stories of quest, like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. I immerse myself in a universe of a character going on an adventure. On the boat, my goal is to arrive to the end, and to win. So finally, the solitude does not weigh me down. I know where I’m going, I’m prepared. And I also know that it is important to me, for my balance, to find myself alone in front of this natural element that is the sea. Nevertheless, beyond this loneliness, it is especially the distance with my family that is difficult to live with. Loneliness is a state, but my family is a lack.
Your relationship to the sea?
It is vital. I find it very difficult to live away from the sea for long. Navigate represents for me an authentic feeling of freedom. I am more comfortable on the bridge than on the land. Besides, I easily find the way to take on the sea, while in the city, I am not really at comfortable.
Have you ever fallen for of a race?
It I have experienced moments of doubt. During the Vendée Globe, this winter, I had problems with a sail. I believed, for several hours, that everything was going to stop. In 2014, it was a hand injury that made me forced to withdraw from the Route du Rhum, for which I was the favorite. Psychologically, it was not easy.
Do you instill in your children of the rules of life that your experience of solo racing will help you to understand. learn?
I try to not to make a parallel between my life as a sailor and my private life. But a one thing is certain, however: single-handed racing confronts us with situations that allow us to take a step back from the reality of our lives. things. On a boat, you have to go to the essential. And this is a point that I try to teach my children.
Do you pass on your passion?
Yes, but without forcing it. Sailing must be a pleasure, which for them means cruising or optimist sailing in the summer at the sailing school. I’m not the kind of father who pushes them to compete all the time, and besides, it’s not their favorite sport.
In 2019, you will to sail around the world in a multihull. What are the challenges of such a crossing?
It is boat is very different from a monohull. It is twice as big: 32 meters long, 23 meters wide. It goes much faster. The navigation is therefore fundamentally different and, therefore, the preparation as well. To the experience is similar: it is a world tour, which should last two short months. It’s always a challenge! By the Afterwards, I think of doing other world tours, but with a crew…
Would you like to live elsewhere than in Brittany ?
Sometimes, yes, but in periods… In an ideal life, I would like to live three or four months of the year in a sunny region. But with the constraints of the daily life, it is not possible (laughs).
Did a trip particularly marked?
A three weeks trip to the Marquesas Islands. I discovered a magical place and all these islands fascinated me. My stay was mainly punctuated by meetings and reunions, like the one with my great uncle who lived there.
Your next trip?
It will be a family affair. My wife and I want to take our children to Asia. I travel a lot by boat but I don’t know this part of the world. And I heard a lot of good things…