Published on 29/05/2019
On Sunday, Michel Desjoyeaux will start his 13th Solitaire URGO Le Figaro alongside the strongest fleet of solo skippers ever assembled for the French multi-stage offshore classic. It is an event he knows well having already won it three times. But, with the introduction of the new foil assisted Figaro Bénéteau 3, and 46 fiercely competitive and experienced rivals, the two-times winner of the Vendée Globe knows he will have a fight on his hands. With four days to go until the first start gun, Desjoyeaux, who will be racing Lumibird, is happy to be in Nantes and impatient to get started on Sunday in Saint-Nazaire.
After a fairly basic preparation, he finished 35th in the Solo Maître Coq and abandoned the Solo Concarneau, but the skipper of Lumibird is well acquainted with the three weeks of intense racing which lie ahead.
He has to get to grips with the new Figaro Beneteau 3 and contend with 46 other skippers in the fleet if the double winner of the Vendée Globe is to make a good result. What might that result be? It is impossible to predict, given the level of the field and the depth of experience of Desjoyeaux. After a six year break since he finsihed seventh in 2013, he is delighted to be in the race and intends to do all he can to be in the match. Just before the start he speaks with humility and sincerely, he talks about the level, the boat, the drained, empty feeling at the finish and the advantages which come with age.
What are your takeaways, your learnings from the pre-season period?
“Well I am telling myself just how hard this Solitaire is going to be… very hard! (laughs) There are so many very good sailors. I have to get back into it and make up for lost time. I’m still discovering things I did not know! “
What did not you already know?
“There are certain maneuvers that I have not yet mastered in these small boats. And then also the use of on board computing I am not a fan even if I get into it more and more. But finally, by asking myself lots of questions, I start to find some answers. That being the case, I’m still not comfortable with the basics of making this boat go fast all the time. I feel that it is less intuitive than its predecessor. Before, there were things that fell to me readily now this is a more difficult thing to take to. “
What is your view of the boat?
“The Figaro Bénéteau 3 has a narrow groove because it has a small keel and rudders. So it is unforgiving. There are going to be things we are not used to. With this boat, when you lose out, you lose a lot more than before. Especially since the level is very even and very high. Before a silly mistake might cost you three places ... here in this field with this boat that same mistake costs you ten ... That means that after four little errors you’re out the back. But I have done the prep well, I worked with my team on the boat, I have done all I can. “
What are your memories of La Solitaire?
” Nothing really stands out. I often say it that most of all it is the faces, those seemingly empty shells which arrive at the finish. We will all arrive totally exhausted and burnt, but we will all still be so animated. We will express things differently with our words, with our passion. And that is extremely stimulating! “
What is your state of mind, how do you feel?
“I am quite impatient. I just have to get into my routine. For example, today, I did not take a nap. But tomorrow, I will do so. These special breaks are are a must for a settled, serene Sunday. I have always done this for all my solo races. That said ... The advantage of being older is that you need less sleep. I sleep less on land and I sleep less at sea. But I’ll still get tired (laughs). How will I be on Sunday? Wound up like a clock! “